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Monday, December 9, 2013

A Historical Look At Japan - China Battles - Part II

This is the second part (of two) where we look at the history of relations between China and Japan.

China and Japan's relationship over the Southern Islands can be found HERE.

The first part of my look at Chinese and Japanese battles - HERE - looked from the first recorded battle involving China and Japan in 663AD through to the 1850s.

We'll pick up from there, glossing over things like Japan being forced to re-think it's isolationist policy when U.S. Commodore Perry dropped by with gifts aboard a few heavily-armed warships.

I have written at great length on the history of the opening of Japan utilizing newspapers of the era - tens of thousands of words... enough to fill a small book. You can find some of those articles HERE, where you can see and read all 18 of them, if you wish.

So… … when US Commodore Perry forced Japan to open up its doors to economic trade (or get its ass blown away by western arms superiority) in the 1850s, Japan need not look any further than China to decide how it wanted to evolve.

The China of the 1850s was a weak country that was devastated by the first Opium War (an Anglo-China War) of 1839-1842... and a second Opium War between 1856-1860.

Although opium had been known in China since the 7th century, it was only used as a medicine. Thanks to the European influence in the 17th century, they learned how to mic it with tobacco and smoke it.

Opium soon became a valuable trading item for the British with the Chinese, who loved the senses-dulling opiate.

Anyhow... thanks to the British trading opium in China, lots of Chinese coin left the country, and left behind a large addicted population.

Japan was afraid that the Europeans and Americans would attempt something similar with their country now that its isolationist policy had gone by the wayside.

After the Shimazu and Mori families helped overthrown the Shogun and restored the lineage of the Emperor back on the Japanese throne, the so-called Meiji-jidai (Meiji era) - also known as the Meji Restoration - began in earnest which involved Japan catching up to modern Europe and the Americas.

This included modernization (of basically everything), militarization (now with more deadly force) and imperialism.

Imperialism… that's when Japan felt it could better run other countries than those to whom it belonged to… countries like it's old frienemies China and Korea.

First up was China, who verbally sparred with Japan over the Ryukyu Islands from 1870 on… mostly because Japan was controlling them.

Then there was Japan's annexation of Taiwan in 1895 - but that was because China and Japan had gone to war: the first Sino-Japanese War (1894-1895) (see the very top image of Japanese soldiers repelling the Chinese cavalry in 1894.) China lost and was forced to cede Taiwan to Japan. Poor Taiwan… just a pawn in everybody's game.  

Actually, Japan was trying to get China to cede even more land - this time in Manchuria - but Russia stepped in and made nasty faces to stop that from happening. Oh, those Russians!  Russia and China as allies?

With the Boxer Rebellion of 1899-1901, China attempted to revolt against imperialism and Christian missions - basically, it was an anti-foreigner movement.

In 1900, Japan (and other European nations) sent troops to stop the Chinese rebellion. Japan sent troops to the battles known as the Seymour Expedition, Battle of Tientsin, the Gasalee Expedition, the Battle of Beitang, and the Battle of Beicang.

When it was all over, Japan wanted a huge slice of the Chinese pie, but the US actually helped prevent Japan and the western European nations from making them colonies. What? The US helping China?

And… just so you know, China was forced to make reparations payments to the eight countries who fought against the Chinese rebellion… making payments over a 39-year period… which, after all that time, (1940), China actually paid off some US $61-billion in 2010 dollars.

Not everyone was greedy, though, as the United States diverted its payments to help pay for education of Chinese students at American universities. Great Britain also did something similar.

Anyhow, in October of 1900, because Russia was occupying the Manchuria area of China because it wanted a warm-weather port. Apparently Japan said it would recognize Russia's "dominance" in Manchuria, if only Russia would accept that Korea was under Japan's sphere of influence. WTF?!

That's what Russia said, and chose not to accept Japan's terms, in deference to poor Korea.
Greater Manchuria. Russian (outer) Manchuria is the lighter red region to the upper right.
This ticked off Japan… and between 1904-1905, Russia and Japan went to war. While Chinese people fought on both sides, the ruling Chinese Qing were supporters of Japan. What? China wanting to help Japan defeat another country occupying its lands?

Long story short: Japan handily defeating the Russkie bear.

Japan now controlled Taiwan and Manchuria.

With Germany pretty much talking on all comers during World War I (then known as The Great War), Japan attacked and occupied the German colony of Qingdao (also known as Tsingtao, but as of 2013, it's a small village of 8.7-million people). Good beer, by the way!

In 1915, with China having already overthrown the weak Qing Dynasty and having established the new Republic of China… Japan thought now would be a good time to expand its position in China…

In an effort to maintain his power as the leader of China, General Yuan Shikai and Japan proposed a set of 21 Demands… that China would agree to, to stop Japan from completely over running the place. Better a puppet emperor than one not at all, I suppose.

These demands were later reduced to 13, and were accepted by the Chinese government (Shikai still had to have it pass - he wasn't an Emperor, like what they had before in China… ). I'll go into further detail on this event soon.

Now… even though China was actually a good guy during WWI, it was still treated poorly by Japan, and the other Allied nations did nothing to stop it. I'm talking about the demands, and China being forced to cede territory in Shandong (that Germany had owned and lost in China during WWI). This lead to the May Fourth Movement of 1919 - a Chinese anti-imperialism movement with ties to Chinese Nationalism. That's an Up with China, Down with Everyone Else trying to tick us off kind of thing.

But… Japan was still flexing its imperialistic muscles… and looked at Manchuria as a ay to gain some much needed resources…

But, because China was pretty unstable after the revolution, and there were many who wanted the Chinese Dynasties to remain in power, Japan played the role of hero to the max. In 1928, after the Chinese warlord Zhang Zuolin was assassinated (he had gained control over China's government by 1926), and the 1931 staged Japanese event known as the Manchurian Incident (I'll write about this shortly), Japan decided it would invade China - specifically Manchuria to establish a 'friendly-state" called Manchukuo.

Anyhow… up to Japan's official involvement in World War II (and the 1941 attack on the US-controlled Pearl Harbor naval base on the US Protectorate of Hawaii), Japan and China would continue to wage war against each other IN China… though to try and downplay and fool it's Allied friends like the US, Japan called it Chinese battles merely 'incidents'.

It's like how the U.S. has never lost a war - especially after it renamed a losing effort to "The Vietnam Conflict". It's funny, because when the conflict was going on, it was called a war by everyone involved. Anyhow… US… the war on drugs… war on poverty… war on illiteracy.

China continued to be bullied by the Allied forces, and forced them to sign certain agreements that were to Japan's benefit:
  • the demilitarisation of Shanghai; 
  • the He–Umezu Agreement, and;
  • the Chin-Doihara Agreement.
China, of course, had its own internal problems, as the Chinese Nationalists were in a civil war against the Chinese Communists. Strangely, the Chinese Nationalists received aid from the USSR and German advisers.

The skirmishes between Japan and China continued until July 1937 when it became big enough to be declared the Second Sino-Japanese War… with China admitting defeat in November 1937.

Now it really sucks to be China, as Japan marched farther into the country to the south and west, committing horrific war crimes along the way against the regular Chinese citizenry - ilk the Rape of Nanking. Basically, it is thought that millions of Chinese civilians (not soldiers) were killed in the 1930s, by Japanese soldiers.

Because of supply-line issues, Japan's march deep into China was doomed. Then, when it officially entered WWII, its position in China became tenuous. When WWII was about to conclude, the USSR invaded Japanese-held Manchuria.

As a kind of karmic payback, The Republic of China administrated Taiwan after Japan's unconditional surrender in 1945, following a decision by the Allied Powers at the Cairo Conference in 1943.

And that's where we stand now, in 2013. China flexing its muscles with boats and planes crossing invisible borderlines of Japanese territories in the Southern Islands… with China saying the islands belong to them.

Uh… no. See my blog HERE for a more detailed account of the southern islands and who seems to have the best 'legal' claim to them.I know I've mentioned it twice... because it bears repeating.

Anyhow… China and Japan are no strangers to each other. Japan certainly owes much of its culture from ancient China, and Japan's behavior towards China in the 19th and early part of the 20th century certainly has created some nasty memories for China.

Cheers,
Andrew Joseph

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