Japan's Success

Home

7. Chapter 7



From the Chino-Japanese War to the Russo-Japanese War

The Treaty of Shimonoseki was immediately followed by an incident, the circumstances surrounding which are still diplomatic secrets. In February 1895 Russia had circularized the European Powers and the U.S.A. on the question of the terms which Japan should be allowed to impose on China. In March the Japanese received a friendly warning from the German government that Russia and France would intervene if Japan acquired any portion of Manchuria. From the language in which the warning was couched the Japanese did not gather that Germany had any intention of helping Russia and France. The German warning was hardly needed. Russia and France were firm allies. Both had reason to take umbrage at the rise of Japan. Russia and France - French investors had advanced much of the money for the building of the TransSiberian Railway - hoped to acquire some Manchiifian or Corean port free from ice all the year round as the terminus of the line. Headed off Turkey by the Teutonic .Powers, and off Persia and India by Great Britain, it was natural for Russia to wish to expand into Manchuria and Corea, As for France, the French possessions in Tonking and Annam made her hostile to the growth of a progressive and militant Asiatic Power, who, for aught she could tell, might intrigue with her Oriental subjects.

Japan was prepared, therefore, to find Russia and France in her path. But since Great Britain, at that date on bad terms with both, had given before the war unmistakable proof that she was not in secret alliance with China, there was the possibility of securing her help against the northern and the southern of Japan's European neighbours.

Scarcely, however, had the Treaty of ShimonoseH been signed than Germany, which had no territorial interests in the Far East, suddenly took up a hostile attitude. The step was unexpected because, just before the war began, Germany had shown that she would not permit Corea to be converted into a Russian Protectorate ; also the Japanese Foreign Minister, Count Mutsu, on the conclusion of peace had received a congratulatory telegram from the German Minister at Tolyo, Baron von Gutschmid. The surprise of Count Mutsu and his subordinate, the diplomat Hayashi, may well be imagined when on April 23, 1895, after the Russian and French ambassadors had delivered to Hayashi a Note advising Japan to ' renounce the definite possession of the Liao-tung peninsula ', Baron von Gutschmid called on Hayashi and handed him another and harsher Note, written in bad Japanese. This Note pointed out to Japan that she had no chance of victory in a war with Russia, Germany, and France, and that she should for her own sake give up the Liao-tung peninsula. Hayashi induced the Baron to declare that the translation of the German Note did not express the meaning of the original. It was withdravm and another Note, identical with the comparatively polite Russian and French Note, was substituted for it.

Whatever the significance of Germany's appearance by the side of France and Russia - probably it was a plot to embroil Russia with Japan - it was hopeless after Germany's action for Japan to expect help from Great Britain. Lord Rosebery, then British Premier, had, indeed, refused to join in the coercive measure taken by the three European Powers, but it was incredible that Great Britain, with her traditional friendship for Prussia, would quarrel with Germany as well as with Russia and France. Japan, as in 1853, recognized her material inferiority, and on May 6 abandoned her claims to Port Arthur, to Ta-lien-wan, and to the rest of the ceded continental territory. She accepted from China an additional indemnity of £4,906,250, the payment of which was secured by a loan to China guaranteed by Russia. As recompense for the services of Russia, France, and Germany, China granted to Russia the right to construct a branch of the Trans-Siberian Railway in Northern Manchuria, to France she made concessions in Yunnan and along the Yangtse, and she ceded to Germany a portion of the city of Tientsin. With the French moving up into the central regions of China, with Germans at the gates of Peking, and with the Russians descending into Manchuria and Corea, it seemed that the partition of China for the benefit of the three Powers was at hand.

That German hands had pulledthe strings in these proceedings may be regarded as certain. Kaiser Wilhelm II had by 1895 commenced his propaganda for a German navy. In the January of that year he had lectured members of the Reichstag on the pressing need for a strong fleet, and had illustrated his contentions with arguments drawn from the Chino-Japanese War. The spectre of a Yellow Peril was being raised by him. It was subsequently to be visualized in the quaint cartoon presented to the Tsar Nicholas II, in which the peaceful and placid figure of Buddha, seated on a sombre cloud, threatened the cities and cathedrals of Europe, while the German Michael called the attention of figures representing the various European States to the dangers which they were supposed to be running.

The events just described naturally caused a profound sensation in Japan. The Mikado's statesmen and soldiers had attentively studied the history and habits of the Teutonic new-comers, now knocking at the door of China. Prussianized Germany on the surface resembled Japan ; in spirit it was the farthest removed of all the European Powers from her. With the high sense of honour derived from the samurai, the Japanese could not but detest the methods of Frederick the Great and Bismarck. The seizure of Silesia in 1740, the collapse of Prussia and of the rest of Germany before Napoleon, her cringeing and treacherous conduct when she emancipated herself in 1812-13, the absence of good faith exhibited by Bismarck towards Denmark, Austria, France, and Russia, were episodes calculated to disgust the islanders. ' Napoleon I ', had written a Japanese historian a few years before Commodore Perry arrived, ' was, perhaps, the greatest hero ever known in the Western countries ; but, if you compare him with the heroes in our own history, their deeds and morals are as wide apart as the pig and the lion.' If Napoleon appeared to the Japanese to be a pig, what were their innermost reflections on Frederick 11 and on Bismarck, who in 1892 had unblushingly revealed his diplomatic card-sharping with the Ems telegram ?

With Baron von Gutschmid's visit to Hayashi on April 23, 1895, a new era in Japanese diplomacy opened. Hayashi himself and other enlightened patriots perceived that the safety of their country would depend on their establishing alliances with European Powers other than Germany. The choice lay between Russia and France on the one hand and Great Britain on the other. A party headed by Ito favoured Russia and France, a party headed by Katsura, Komura, and Kato was Anglophil. Hayashi lent his powerful support to the idea of an AngloJapanese Alliance. That Katsura, Komura, Kato, and Hayashi, with the support of the Mikado, carried the day was due to several causes.

Having expelled China from Corea, Japan at once discovered that the Russians intended to take China's place in the Hermit Kingdom. Under a Convention, signed at Seoul on May 13, 1896, the Russians secured the right to maintain a Legation Guard at Seoul of the same strength (800 men) as the Japanese. In 1897, without notifying the Mikado's government, Russian military advisers and a financial adviser, M. Alexeieff, who ousted the British adviser, Mr. McLeavy Browne, were attached to the Corean court. As a counterbalance, Japan obtained the right to guard the telegraph line from Fusan to Seoul, the property of Japanese capitalists, and at the end of 1897 to make a railway between the two cities. In April 1898 a Convention (the Nishi-Rosen Convention) was signed at Tokyo, under which Russia and Japan recognized the independence of Corea and promised not to send military and financial advisers to Corea except by mutual consent.

Meanwhile, Germany was again on the prowl. In the autumn of the same year (1897) two German missionaries had been murdered in Shantung. Taking advantage of these crimes, which may or may not have been incited by German agents, Germany on November 14 seized the shores round the Bay of Kiao-Chau in Shantung, south of Wei-hai-wei, and Prince Henry of Prussia, with a strong squadron, was dispatched to the Far East. He was bidden by his brother, Wilhelm II, if need were, to strike with the ' mailed fist '.

The shores of Kiao-Chau Bay are some seventy miles from those of Lai-Chow Bay, on the northern coast of Shantung. The object of the Germans was to work north from Kiao-Chau, and ultimately cut off the peninsula, at whose north-eastern end is Wei-hai-wei, the port guarding the entrance to the Gulf of Pechili. As the Chinese had not paid up the final instalment of the war indemnity, Wei-hai-wei was still in the possession of Japan.

Whether this, the first encroachment by Europeans on the mainland of China, was encouraged by Russia is uncertain. Count Muravieff, the Russian Foreign Minister, in answer to a question of Hayashi (then at St. Petersburg), denied it. On March 6, 1898, China granted to Germany a lease for ninety-nine years of the Kiao-Chau territory, and the Kaiser, according to a statement of Prince Henry, invited the Tsar to take Port Arthur and Ta-lien-wan. The Russians fell into the trap ; they procured from China a lease of Port Arthur and Ta-lien-wan for twenty-five years. The extremity of the Liao-tung peninsula was occupied by them on March 28. France, about the same time, secured (April 10) a lease of Kwang-chow-wan, between Tonking and Canton, and Great Britain, with the cordial approval of Japan, procured a lease for ninety-nine years of territory on the mainland adjacent to Hong-Kong and a lease of Wei-hai-wei, terminable only when the Russians evacuated Port Arthur and its vicinity. The Japanese thereupon handed over Wei-hai-wei to Great Britain.

After events have revealed the secret objects of the Kaiser and the German diplomatists. So long as the Russian Army was intact and undefeated, there was little chance that Germany and Austria-Hungary would be able to conquer Europe and the world. If, however, the Russians could be tempted into a disastrous Asiatic enterprise which would lower their prestige, disorganize their army and finances, and produce internal disturbances in European Russia, Germany and her ally might be able to crush France. From the German standpoint, neither a RussoTurkish nor an AngloRussian war promised such excellent results as a Russo-Japanese one. The German government, through Meckel and other officers employed in Japan, was well aware of the great strength of the Japanese army. It knew that the Russian navy, then honeycombed with corruption, would stand little chance in a war with the Japanese. If Russia acquired Port Arthur and extended the Trans-Siberian line through Manchuria into the Liaotung peninsula, a Russo-Japanese war was almost inevitable. The absorption of Manchuria and the peninsula by Russia must, sooner or later, mean that Corea would become a Russian dependency, and Corea was to Japan what Belgium and Holland are to ourselves.

In the spring of 1899 the Russians began to connect with Port Arthur the Trans-Siberian Railway which, apart from the section round Lake Baikal, was to be completed by the end of the year. The Manchurian Railway (Chinese Eastern Railway Company) had enabled the Russian engineers to avoid the long detour to Vladivostok by the banks of the Amur.1 From Harbin on the Manchurian Railway, a railway through Mukden and Liao-yang to Port Arthur had been designed. This was now put in hand and rapidly built. At the same time, Port Arthur was refortified, and a magnificent modern city at lavish expense laid out at Dalny on the southern promontory of the Bay of Ta-lien. Such encroachments on China were calculated to make the Chinese and Coreans consider that the ultimate victory of Russia over any competitor in the Far East was a foregone conclusion. But for the moment Corea was neglected by the Tsar's advisers.



1 In 1896 China had entered into a contract with the Russo-Chinese Bank for the construction of this railway, which was virtually part of the Trans-Siberian Railway.



While these events were occurring in Manchuria and the Liao-tung peninsula, the Sudan had been conquered by Kitchener, and the military prestige of British arms, lowered by the reverse at Majuba and by our failure in 1884 to save ' Chinese ' Gordon, revived. Immediately afterwards, at the end of 1899, we were involved in the South African War, a war entered on by the Boers largely because they had been promised German support. The defeats suffered by us at the opening of the campaign again lowered our prestige, but the victories of Roberts and Kitchener in the first half of 1900 once more raised it.

Simultaneously with the South African War, an antiChristian movement in China, known as the ' Boxer rising ', broke out. The movement had started in Shantung where, it will be remembered, the Germans had planted themselves in Kiao-Chau. The Governor of the province had not looked askance at the Boxers, but had enrolled them as militia. To canalize the fanaticism of Shantung and direct it against the 'foreign devils ' seemed to him and his superiors to be a statesmanlike proceeding. That the Boxer movement was favoured by the court at Peking is unquestionable.

In 1898 the Dowager Empress, Tzu Hsi, who had ceased to be Regent in 1889, had resumed control of the Chinese government. Her nephew, the Emperor Kuang-Hsu, enlightened by the results of the Chino-Japanese War, had vainly attempted in the summer of 1898 to effect in China what Mutsuhito had effected in Japan. He had issued a series of decrees which, if carried out, would have modernized his country. ' If we continue ', he said, in the first of them, ' to drift with our army untrained, our revenues disorganized, our scholars ignorant, and our artisans without technical training, how can we possibly hope to hold our own among the nations and to cross the gulf which divides the weak from the strong ? . . . What we desire to attain is the elimination of useless things and the advancement of learning which, while based on ancient principles, shall yet move in harmony with the times.' The absurd system of examinations for entrance into the public service was abolished, and candidates were henceforth expected to show a knowledge of the history of foreign countries and contemporary politics. The Emperor announced that he and Tzu Hsi would travel to Tientsin by train - a step shocking to orthodox Chinese. A number of lucrative sinecures were abolished. It was even suggested by the Secretary, Wang Chao, that the Emperor and the Dowager Empress should visit Japan and Europe.

Wang Chao's memorial was suppressed by the Board of Rites,*Rid the Emperor, on discovering that the Board had done so, cashiered the high officials of that venerable branch of the bureaucracy. Other Imperial edicts ordered the macadamizing of the streets of Peking, and the enrolment of a national militia. In the last of the important decrees which the Emperor was to issue, he pointed out that Europe was ahead of China in most essential matters, and that, unless the Chinese imitated the Europeans, they must perforce fall a prey to the latter. He commanded that the whole of his reform decrees should be printed on yellow paper and distributed, and that his edict should be exhibited in the front hall of every public office.



1 China under the Empress Dowager, by J. 0. P. Bland and E. Backhoilse (Heinemann), pp. 106-7.



Like Joseph II of Austria in the eighteenth century, the Chinese Emperor had grievously miscalculated the strength of the forces of reaction. He had, it is true, the support of many sensible men, but the vast majority of his subjects - and of* course the eunuchs and other parasites who lived by plundering the people - remained of the opinions expressed in 1873 by the Censor, Wu K'o-tu, in his memorial to Tzu Hsi. The philosopher Mencius, Wu had recalled to the Empress, had asked, ' Why should the Superior Man engage in altercation with birds and beasts ? ' The Europeans were, so the .Censor considered, on the level of dogs, horses, goats, and pigs. ' I have heard and believe ', he said, ' that the rulers of foreign nations are deposed by their subjects for all the world like pawns on a chess board ' ; and that, * in their dispatches and treaties, the puny hobgoblin or petty monsters whom they have the audacity to call " Emperors " are placed on an equality with His Sacred Majesty ! '

The Dowager Empress, or the ' Old Buddha ', as she was styled, had found Wu K'o-tu's memorial ' not lacking in point '. She now, in 1898, placed herself at the head of the reactionaries. The Emperor, attempting to forestall her meditated coup £etat, was betrayed and deposed by Jung Lu, the * Old Buddha's ' favourite. China was not yet to be awakened. ' The ancient system ' of examinations, which the Empress falsely asserted had ' worked most satisfactorily for two centuries ', was restored.

Though the ' Old Buddha ' had cut short her nephew's career as a reformer, she was too wise not to perceive that certain changes must be made, if the ' foreign devils ' were to be excluded from the Celestial Empire. She and Jung Lu hoped, with the aid of the gentry, to create and arm train-bands, so that finally .she would be able to oppose to the intrusive aliens a huge nation in arms. If we can rely on the statements of Jung Lu in a letter written to the Viceroy of Fukien in July 1900, the Boxers, who were fanatics and believed that they were invulnerable, were to be utilized. As a fighting force, said Jung Lu, the Boxers were ' absolutely useless ', but they were ' ready to fight and to face death '. It was, he added, a very gratifying surprise to see any Chinese display courage. The ' Old Buddha ' does not appear to have shared her favourite's scepticism. According to Ching Shan, who was attached to the court, and whose diary has been published, she learned by heart a Boxer incantation, and every time she repeated it aloud, the chief eunuch shouted, ' There goes one more foreign devil ''}

Under the Empress's patronage the movement spread throughout Northern China. At the beginning of 1900 it had assumed alarming proportions. The Imperial troops sent to suppress the revolt fraternized with the Boxers. In June the Chancellor of the Japanese Legation and the German minister. Baron von Ketteler, were murdered and the foreign legations attacked. At the same time a wave of fanaticism spread over Manchuria. Reckless of consequences, the people there rose against the Russians, and the half-completed railway from Harbin to Port Arthur was cut. For the moment troops could not be hurried from Siberia to the rescue of the legations. The * Old Buddha ' openly sided with the Boxers and recognized them as her allies. If Ching Shan is to be believed, on June 21 she distributed largesse to a detachment of them, and said to Prince Tuan, ' The foreigners are like fish in the stew-pan. ... If only the country will stand together, their defeat is certain '.



1 China under the Empress Dowager, p. 279.



To save the legations, the Japanese were both ready and willing. With the vvar indemnity exacted from China, Japan had been able enormously to increase the strength of her navy and army. Foreseeing the probability of a war wdth Russia in the near future, her statesmen had been bringing the Japanese forces up to the level of those of a first-class European Power. Hence, in 1900, China was at Japan's mercy. But fearing that independent action on her part might result in another Russo-Franco-German coalition, and realizing that Great Britain, then in the throes of the South African War, was less likely than ever to help her, Japan waited for a European and American mandate to intervene. It was not long in coming. In July 3,000 troops were mobilized for the International Peking Relief Expedition, and the Japanese Fifth Division, wdth additional troops - in all some 22,000 men - was ultimately transported to Taku. Together wdth the European and American contingents, the Japanese speedily relieved the legations and forced the ' Old Buddha ' to fly from the capital.

The conduct of the Japanese troops elicited the admiration of their European colleagues. General Kuropatkin, then Russian Minister of War, in his Memoir states that he formed at the time a high opinion of their fighting qualities. The behaviour of the Japanese towards the defeated Chinese contrasted most favourably with that of the Germans under Count Waldersee, the generalissimo of the international force. On July 27, the Kaiser at Bremerhaven had delivered his ' Hun ' speech, and had cdmmanded his troops embarking for China to emulate the savages, who under Attila had devastated Southern Europe in the fifth century a. d. The Imperial orders had been obeyed, and the hereditary taste of the Germans for murder, outrage, and looting had been powerfully stimulated.

The share of the Japanese in the suppression of the Boxer Rising enhanced Japan's reputation. But the Rising also led to the Russians obtaining a firmer hold on Manchuria. By the autumn of 1900, Russia had collected in Manchuria and for the Peking Expedition an army of roo,ooo men. The Manchurian guerrilla bands were swiftly dispersed and the damage done to the railway between Harbin and Port Arthur repaired. As the Russians showed no serious intention of abandoning Manchuria and the Liao-tung peninsula, and it was to be presumed that they would endeavour to reduce Corea to vassalage, the Japanese had no option but to push on with their naval and military preparations.

It was now that Germany, which had commenced the partition of China and had disgraced Europeans in the Far East, adopted another measure calculated to promote war between Russia and Japan. The latter was not strong enough single-handed to fight both Russia and France. If, however, France could be immobilized, there could be little doubt that the Mikado would throw down the gauntlet to the Tsar. The Kaiser's problem was how to keep France from assisting Russia. If Great Britain could be induced to make an alliance with Japan, the French fleet would have to remain in European waters, and France, still irritated by the Fashoda affair (1898), would be more than ever indignant with her neighbour across the Channel, while Russia might be expected - especially if she were defeated in a Russo-Japanese war - to be estranged permanently from Great Britain.

Accordingly, in the spring of 1901, Baron von Eckardstein, the German Charge d' Affaires in London, a confidant of the Kaiser, suggested to Hayashi, the Japanese Ambassador in London, that an alliance between Japan, Great Britain, and Germany should be concluded for the maintenance of peace in the Far East. The Baron added that many of the British Ministers were favourable to the idea. As long before as March 1898, Mr. Joseph Chamberlain had mentioned to Baron Kato, then Japanese Ambassador in London, that an AngloJapanese Alliance was desirable.

Having obtained permission from his government, Hayashi on April 17 called on Lord Lansdowne and opened negotiations. During the course of them von Eckardstein visited the British Foreign Office and warned Lord Lansdowne that Japan might make an alliance with Russia. As it happened, there was a strong party in Japan, headed by Ito arid Inouye, anxious to arrange matters with the Russians. Ito was in fact preparing to visit St. Petersburg, where he would find in General Kuropatkin and others strong advocates for a peaceable solution.

The negotiations dragged on till the end of the year, when, thanks to the efforts of Hayashi, Katsura, and Komura, and to the personal predilections of the Mikado, the advice of Ito and Inouye was rejected. On January 30, 1902, at a date when Kitchener was on the point of concluding the South African War, the Anglo-Japanese Treaty was signed. Biy Articles JI and III it was in effect provided that neither Great Britain nor Japan should, in the event of a Far Eastern War, be obliged to fight single-handed against a combination of Powers. If either Great Britain or Japan were opposed by two or more belligerent Powers, the other of them would come to the aid of the Power attacked.

Germany was notified of the treaty, and very naturally showed no inclination to join the Alliance. Had she done so, Russia would have abandoned her designs on Manchuria and Corea, and concentrated all her available forces in Europe.

The lists were now cleared for the duel between Russia and Japan. On April 8, 1902, Russia indeed made a treaty with China, by which it was agreed that Manchuria (apart from the Russian possessions in the Liao-tung peninsula) should be evacuated, and in October the south-west portion of the Mukden province was restored to the Chinese. From General Kuropatkin's Memoirs one gathers that both he and the Tsar were anxious to avoid a Far Eastern war. In 1900 Kuropatkin had written in a memoir for his sovereign's guidance, ' Our western frontier has never in the whole history of Russia been exposed to such danger in the event of a European War as it is now '.

Nevertheless, Kuropatkin was unable to save Russia from a war with Japan. In 1898 a merchant of the name of Briner had obtained from the Corean government a concession for a timber company to exploit the forest wealth of the Upper Yalu. Four years later he sold his concession to a Russian bureaucrat, Bezobrazoff. The last-named interested various magnates, among them von Plehve, Minister of the Interior, and Admiral Alexeieff, in his scheme. As Bezobrazoff desired that his concessions on the Corean frontiers should be defended by force of arms against the Japanese, he was naturally opposed to the evacuation of Mukden and Southern Manchuria. In the spring of 1903, Kuropatkin himself was sent to Port Arthur and Japan. He returned in the summer and embodied his ideas in a special report to the Tsar. On June 26, when on his way to Nagasaki, he had made a note in his diary to the effect that Russian interests in Corea and Manchuria were vastly less important than the ' maintenance of the territorial integrity of Russia against the Powers of the Triple Alliance '.

Kuropatkin's report was an amplification of these views. But suddenly Admiral Alexeieff was appointed Viceroy of the Far East. Kuropatkin offered his resignation on August 15. It was not accepted. Three days before (August 13) the Japanese Minister at St. Petersburg had presented the draft of a treaty, the gist of which was that Japan was to dominate in Corea, Russia in Manchuria. The counter-proposals of Russia were submitted on October 3. While stipulating that the Japanese should not use any part of Corea for ' strategic purposes ' or erect any military works capable of menacing freedom of navigation in the Corean Straits, also that there should be a neutral zone in Northern Corea, Russia demanded that she should have a free hand in Manchuria.

To these proposals Japan demurred. On December 6, Kuropatkin in a memorandum to the Tsar proposed that Port Arthur and the Kuan-tung peninsiJa should be restored to China, and that Russia should confine her activities in the Far East to Northern Manchuria. The economic interests of Russia in the Far East, he urged, were negligible ; the revolutionary movement in Russia rendered it undesirable for her to engage in a foreign war. Kuropatkin had no illusions as to the character of the Japanese army. In the report submitted after his return from Japan he had stated that the Japanese army was in his opinion ' fullyequal to a European army '. Kuropatkin failed to convince his superiors. On January 13, 1904, Japap proposed that Manchuria should be outside Japan's and Corea outside Russia's sphere of influence. She requested an early reply to her proposal. No answer was received, and on February 6 the Japanese Minister at St. Petersburg asked for his passports. Russia had collided with Japan. The Kaiser's diplomacy had so far been successful.