Foreign Threats During Self-Strengthening
1. Japanese occupation of Taiwan 1874
a) The status of Ryukyu had been ambiguous for some time. It had
long been a tributary state of China. However for over two centuries
it had also secretly paid tribute to Japan. In 1871 54 shipwrecked
Ryukyuan sailors were killed by aborigenes on Taiwan. In 1873 the
Japanese Foreign Minister raised this issue with China, claiming the
right to speak on behalf of Ryukyuans. The initial Chinese response
was that Ryukyu was a Chinese tributary state and Taiwan part of
China – therefore this incident had nothing to do with Japan.
The Japanese rejected this argument and in 1874 a Japanese army
landed on Taiwan.
b) Chinese response: The director of the Fuzhou dockyard was ordered
to defend the island. However, he then discovered that the guns
made in the arsenals could only fire salutes.
c) Negotiations then took place, with British mediation. China paid an
indemnity of half million taels and agreed not to condemn Japan’s
2. Russian Occupation of Ili 1871-81
a) The Ili valley was in the northwest of China and bordered Russian
Turkestan. The valley was economically valuable and strategically
important. Russia had been gradually expanding in central Asia.
However, in 1862 the Tungan rebellion against the Chinese
government began and by 1864 the Qing government had lost control
over parts of the area. The rebellion was finally suppressed by 1873.
But whilst it was still going on, in 1871, Russia occupied the Ili valley.
The Russians said they would return it once China had restored control
in the region. By 1877 this had b