The First Sino-Japanese War broke out in 1894. The Meiji Restoration began in 1868 and Japan developed rapidly particularly in economic and military power. Japan was eager to expand into Korea as a stepping stone towards invading China. During the Korean Peasant Revolt of 1894 both China and Japan provided military support to suppress the rebels, but Japan never withdrew its troops. Instead, in July 1894, Japanese forces sank a Chinese military supply vessel and launched an attack on Chinese troops stationed in Asan, igniting a war between China and Japan.
The First Sino-Japanese War was not only a military conflict between two East Asian countries but also a showcase for their modernization efforts. On land, Japan’s army forced the Chinese to retreat after winning the Battle of Pyongyang, then pushed towards the Liaodong Peninsula (遼東半島) across the Yalu River (鴨綠江), capturing Dalian (大連) and Lushun (旅順), landed in Shandong (山東). Meanwhile, after its defeat in the Battle of the Yellow Sea, China’s Beiyang Fleet retreated to the port of Weihaiwei (威海衛) where they were annihilated by Japanese naval forces.
Following these devastating losses, Li Hongzhang (李鴻章), representing the Qing court, travelled to Japan in the spring of 1895 and signed the Treaty of Shimonoseki, ceding Taiwan (台灣) and the islands of Penghu (澎湖), in addition to paying war reparations and allowing wider access for Japanese businesses to trade and set up factories in China.
The defeat of the “Great Kingdom of China” by the small, island country of Japan came as a complete shock and provoked a country-wide movement under Kang Youwei (康有為) calling for resistance as a prelude to the Hundred Days’ Reform. In Taiwan, fighting erupted as people refused to give up the island but failed; a revolution led by Sun Yat-sen (孫中山) began to take shape in China as a patriotic movement to overthrow the Qing dynasty.
The First Sino-Japanese War had a profound impact on the development of modern China.