Origins of the Sino-Japanese War 1894-95
1. Opening up of Korea
a) Korea was a very important tributary state to China. Equally, the Koreans were happy with
their tributary status and since the mid-17 . Century had closed themselves off to countries
other than China. The situation changed in the mid-nineteenth century because the west
had a growing presence in China and because Japan, as it began its process of
modernization, wanted to increase its influence in Korea.
b) In 1868 Japan sent 3 missions to Korea to try to develop relations but these were rejected
by Korea. This caused much anger in Japan (which for a time seriously contemplated
invading Korea). In 1875 a Japanese surveying team was attacked in Kanghwa Bay in Korea
and returned fire.
c) At this point the Tsungli Yamen basically said it was up to Korea to determine its own foreign
relations. Japan now increased the pressure to open up Korea, resulting in 1876 in the
Treaty of Kanghwa which:
i. Recognized Korea as an independent state similar to Japan
ii. Established diplomatic relations
iii. Opened up 3 Korean Ports
China made no protest at this treaty.
d) Following its action in Korea, in 1879 Japan annexed the Ryuku Islands. The Chinese were
now becoming worried by Japan’s policy. Li was put in charge of Korean affairs.
e) The strategy followed by the Chinese in the next few years was to encourage Korea to open
up to the West. The West would counter balance Japanese influence.
f) In 1882 Korea signed a Treaty with the USA, which was followed by Korea signing treaties
with the other western powers. In the treaty with the USA, the USA recognized Korea’s
independence. But the Koreans themselves then put out a statement reaffirming that they
were a tributary nation of China
2. Division in Korea/ Growing Sino-Japanese Rivalry
a) Internally, the Korean Government was divided between those who wanted to stay close to
China and those who wanted to follow the more rapidly modernizing Japanese. This
culminated in a violent clash in 1882, in the course of which the Japanese legation was
burned down and some Japanese were killed.
b) Subsequently, Korea agreed to pay compensation to Japan, to apologize and to allow Japan
to station troops at its legation. c) After 1882, Li’s strategy was to increase China’s influence in Korea. A commercial treaty
was signed between the two. Even more importantly a young Chinese officer, Yuan Shikai,
was appointed to train the Korean Army. China also sent troops to Korea.