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  • Dec 25, 2014
  • Updated: 5:47pm

Sino-Japanese relations

The relationship between the two largest economies in Asia has been marred throughout the 20th century due to territorial and political disputes including Taiwanese sovereignty; the invasion of China by Japan in the second world war and Japan’s subsequent refusal to acknowledge the extent of its war crimes; territorial disputes surrounding the Diaoyu/Senkaku Islands and associated fishing rights and energy resources; and Japanese-American security co-operation.   

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HISTORY

Blame Qing dynasty, not Chinese fleet, for 1895 defeat to Japan, senior PLA figures say

Senior PLA officers back exoneration of sailors of the northern fleet blamed since 1895 for Qing dynasty losing the first Sino-Japanese war

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 11 May, 2014, 5:25am
UPDATED : Sunday, 11 May, 2014, 5:25am
 

As China prepares to mark the 120th anniversary of the first Sino-Japanese war this year, there has been a groundswell of support in the highest echelons of the military to reassess the role of the Qing dynasty's northern fleet in China's humiliating loss to the Japanese.

Generals from various branches of the People's Liberation Army, including the navy and air force, have recently urged a reassessment of the verdict - a move that may see the tide of history shift in favour of the maligned Chinese fleet, which for 120 years was held responsible for allowing its Japanese adversary, the Meiji navy, to prevail.

It is the Qing government that should be blamed for the fleet's defeat in the first Sino-Japanese war, which lasted from August 1894 to April 1895, according to Deputy Admiral Ding Yiping , deputy commander-in-chief of the PLA Navy.

Ding's comments accompany an online compendium, including articles and illustrations, that compare the development of the northern fleet with the Meiji navy, which has appears on the website of the Global Times.

The party's leading propaganda outlets, including The PLA Daily, Xinhua and The People's Daily, have started running reviews of the period in contemporary Chinese history that some rank as its most shameful.

Earlier last month, PLA Air Force General Liu Yazhou, political commissar at the People's Liberation Army National Defence University, told the PLA Daily and Xinhua that China's defeat in the war was neither caused by the actions of the Qing navy nor its land forces, but by the antiquated dynastic political system and traditional modes of thinking.

In March, Major General Jin Yinan, a director of the strategic teaching and research department at the National Defence University, also wrote a commentary carried by Xinhua offshoot Reference News, saying the northern fleet (in Chinese, Beiyang) was a victim of a power struggle between political factions in the Qing government.

A day after Jin's commentary appeared, Reference News ran an editorial by Ding, the deputy admiral, arguing that the development of the fleet stopped after it was established on December 17, 1888, with top Qing officials failing to fund it.

Japan's Meiji government studied the naval forces of Western countries. The Meiji navy developed a comprehensive strategic plan before launching the invasion of China, Ding wrote, adding that Qing officials were unprepared for the outbreak of war.

"The defeat of the northern fleet was inevitable ... but who should take [the greatest responsibility]?" asked the deputy admiral.

Military experts note that it is rare for top PLA brass to take such a public stand on a matter such as the northern fleet.

The commentaries share a cautionary theme and are "aimed at preventing the PLA from following the same fate" as the Qing, Shanghai-based military expert Professor Ni Lexiong said, referring to the simmering territorial dispute in the East China Sea over the Diaoyu Islands, or Senkakus as they are known in Japan.

"The PLA, especially the air and naval forces, are facing great pressure," said Ni. "Many military leaders realise that now is a good time to give a fair evaluation of the Beiyang."

Although the fleets were roughly the same size, the balance of power tilted in Japan's favour when it came to firepower. According to Ni, the Chinese fleet had a tenth of Japan's firepower on the eve of war.

Ni, who has researched the first Sino-Japanese war for decades, has long called for the rehabilitation of the northern fleet.

The Chinese fleet was soundly defeated by the Meiji navy in January 1895 - a loss that resulted in the signing of the Treaty of Shimonoseki, or Maguan in Chinese, between the Qing and Japan's Meiji governments. China was forced to cede Taiwan and its affiliated islands, including the Diaoyus, to Japan and pay a war indemnity of 23 billion taels of silver.

Ding, the deputy admiral, also called for a blanket rehabilitation of the northern fleet's personnel, saying they should be praised as "national heroes" as most of them fought to the bitter end.

Although the Qing had three naval battle groups at its disposal, it was the northern fleet alone that faced off against the well-armed Meiji fleet. Sister fleets the Nanyang and Canton, also set up during the Qing dynasty, were deployed to guard coastal waters in the East and South China seas off Zhejiang , Fujian and Guangdong.

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This article is now closed to comments

Paradox314
It's about time the Chinese considered holding their governments accountable for things that go wrong in the country. Especially massive scale problems like, for example, the Tiananmen massacre and the starvation of millions during the 'Cultural Revolution.'
wailunscmp
Anoterh silly attempt to rewrite history. The Chinese Beiyang Fleet was the largest fleet in Asia at that time and was equipped with state of the art warships from Germany, as well as from Britain. It was one of four Chinese Fleets. The Beiyang Fleet alone was equal or larger than the entire Japanese Imperial Navy but the latter made up military imbalance with better military tactics, training, discipline and dedication. In contrast, the Chinese military and civil government were characterised by Corruption, Self-Interest, Backward Thinking, Poor Naval Training, Low Morale and Outdated Military Tactics, whereby an inferior foe was able to defeat it. Military tactics was a major fault of the destruction of the Beiyang Fleet and this cannot be excused. Nevertheless, the sailors and commanders fought heroicly and deserve the utmost respect. If anything, it is a Failure of Leadership and Corruption of the Chinese government and military top brass. The lessons from the Beiyang's destruction still resonates in today's China despite advances of the past two decades and if the top brass don't learn from it, a similar mistake will be repeated in the future.
chaz_hen
Yes, blame the Qing government. They were manning the guns and ships during the battle, not the sailors who probably jumped overboard once they saw their heroic admirals high tailing it back to shore in their escape vessels to save their own a_s_s_es and overgrown, long yellowed fingernails.
IT's the same reason China can't field a decent world class football team: their men cannot work together towards a common goal...too busy thinking of ways to personally enrich themselves or undercut their teammates!
ejmciii
Did they upset you by challenging the Glorious Communist Party and its flawed policies. So sorry. Go back to the mainland and then you can live in joy and harmony with the Party telling you what to think. Too funny that former and other governments should bear responsibility for reprehensible acts but not the glorious Communist government. You guys never cease to amuse.
M Miyagi
The Chinese should learn from the US. Only two atomic bombs and the Japanese willingly make themselves into American slaves and comfort-men and comfort-women. Japanese loves their conquerors.
M Miyagi
And now the Japanese Shinzo Abe making a lot of shrills about the Chinese Navy becoming strong again. The Japanese like to fight against defenceless peoples do that they can rape, murder, loot without resistance. In such situations the Japanese are very brave indeed coming up with all kinds of twisted evil like the sex-slaves, Rape of Nanking, Manila Massacre etc. But when it comes to their defeat, what happened to their Bushido code on no surrender? For such a dishonourable people there can only be the greatest condemnation.
Jonathan Smith
The Chinese fleet in 1895 was defeated by the Japanese fleet because of superior Japanese political, economic and military system. Basically it was a more advanced system defeating a more backward system. In 1905 in the Battle of Tsushima, the Russian fleet was similarly defeated by the Japanese fleet. Both countries suffered by of being backward. However by 1945, the tables were turned. Despite the loot, slaughter and barbarism, Japan met it's doom. Today the struggle against a recalcitrant, revisionist Japan which have only ill-will towards her neighbours continues. The final defeat of Japan will happen one day when the Japanese will be made to lose all it's ill-will towards her neighbours.
Paradox314
ka-ching! (the sound of another 50 cents falling into your tin can)
chaz_hen
Is this observation hatred towards Chinese? It's merely telling truth.
Thanks for following my each and every comment so closely, though. Nice to know I have a personal troll...
ejmciii
Sorry that you Mainland folks cannot handle challenges to your propaganda. Stick with the People's Daily. This news outlet allows for freedom of speech, Jonathan Smith (or is it Tee Nee Wang).

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