War pro­vides lessons for both sides

China Daily (Canada) - - SHANGHAI - By LI YANG in Shang­hai liyang@chi­nadaily.com.cn

Chi­nese com­mem­o­rate the war of re­sis­tance against Ja­pan (1937-1945) largely to help for­get­ful Ja­panese politi­cians re­view his­tory. But China’s re­flec­tions of the Sino-Ja­panese War (1894-1895) on its 120th an­niver­sary last week­end are mostly to delve into the causes of China’s ut­ter de­feat. And some of the causes still bear rel­e­vance to China and its in­ter­ac­tion with Ja­pan to­day.

The Qing Dy­nasty (1644-1911) launched its West­ern­iza­tion Move­ment (1861-94), and bought the most pow­er­ful bat­tle­ships from the United King­dom and Ger­many to form the Beiyang Fleet, the strong­est navy in Asia af­ter the sec­ond Opium War (1856-1860).

To the man­darins’ hor­ror and shame, the Beiyang Fleet was routed in a four-hour naval bat­tle with the Ja­panese navy be­cause of poor train­ing, or­ga­ni­za­tion, lo­gis­tics and tac­tics. Ex­cept for sev­eral heroic cap­tains and oth­ers who went down with their ships while try­ing to ram their foes, the war left plenty of rea­sons why Chi­nese should avoid go­ing down the same dis­as­trous road again.

“Do not at­tribute China’s de­feat to Ja­pan’s cun­ning schemes and in­tel­li­gence. The cor­rup­tion in the army doomed the war,” Luo Yuan, vicechair­man of the Bei­jing-based China Strate­gic Cul­ture Pro­mo­tion As­so­ci­a­tion, told the Shang­hai-based Wen­hui Daily in a re­cent in­ter­view.

“The Qing Dy­nasty rulers’ con­trol over the army be­came loose af­ter they con­quered China. That the armies in dif­fer­ent prov­inces were al­lowed to do busi­ness to earn their own pay and pro­vi­sions made the graft in the mil­i­tary sys­tem even worse.”

Luo’s re­marks make more sense af­ter sev­eral se­nior officials, in­clud­ing Xu Cai­hou, the for­mer vice-chair­man of the Cen­tral Mil­i­tary Com­mis­sion, were sacked re­cently on charges of power abuse and graft in China’s mil­i­tary.

Luo pointed out that the mil­i­tary sys­tem seems se­cluded from other walks of life and im­mune from all civil prob­lems, but its depth of cor­rup­tion may be even worse and will threaten the se­cu­rity of the whole na­tion. “The army must main­tain its morale and dis­ci­pline and al­ways be ready to fight,” he said.

The guid­ing prin­ci­ple for the Beiyang Fleet was to de­fend Bei­jing, the cap­i­tal, in the small Bo­hai Bay. This went against the na­ture of a navy. Some an­a­lysts be­lieve the wrong mis­sion also bound the fleet’s devel­op­ment.

Jin Yi’nan, a pro­fes­sor of na­tional se­cu­rity stud­ies with the Na­tional De­fence Univer­sity of the Peo­ple’s Lib­er­a­tion Army of China, ar­gues that power and re­solve are the pre­req­ui­sites for rights and in­ter­ests, and China should take con­crete ac­tion to let the world know about its re­solve and will to safe­guard and strive for its own rights and in­ter­ests on the sea.

“The war 120 year ago in­di­cates that in in­ter­na­tional re­la­tions, the rights and in­ter­ests of one coun­try can only be re­al­ized through its own en­deav­or­ing. Jus­tice is an ally with the pow­er­ful, but a foe with the weak. If China does not fight for its own rights and in­ter­ests in the South China Sea and East China Sea, it will lose them by only reit­er­at­ing it de­serves the rights and in­ter­ests there,” Jin noted.

“Peace does not equate with se­cu­rity, es­pe­cially low-qual­ity peace, which is ac­tu­ally a com­pro­mise af­ter sac­ri­fic­ing se­cu­rity,’’ he said. “Se­cu­rity should be a more fun­da­men­tal pur­suit for all na­tions than peace. All coun­tries love peace. But a coun­try must al­ways de­fend se­cu­rity through pre­par­ing for war. China should pay more at­ten­tion to en­sur­ing its se­cu­rity rather than peace. With­out se­cu­rity as foun­da­tion, peace is non­sense.”

That re­flec­tion on the war goes far be­yond mil­i­tary ac­tion. War is a turn­ing point for both sides. It is ac­tu­ally a fight be­tween back­ward feu­dal­ism and ad­vanced cap­i­tal­ism, some an­a­lysts main­tain.

The Treaty of Shi­monoseki signed af­ter the war in 1895 ruled that the Qing Em­pire cede Tai­wan and Liaon­ing penin­sula to Ja­pan and paid the win­ner of the war about three times Qing govern­ment’s an­nual rev­enue as an in­dem­nity. The shame brought by the treaty — por­trayed as “hu­mil­i­at­ing the coun­try and for­feit­ing sovereignty” — awak­ened many Chi­nese, and turned them from grad­ual re­formists to rad­i­cal na­tion­al­ists, in­clud­ing Sun Yat-sen, found­ing fa­ther of the Repub­lic of China in 1911 af­ter the Qing Dy­nasty ended.

Yet, in the 30 years af­ter the 1894 war, China re­mained largely split by wars among war­lord. Most Chi­nese peo­ple had no con­scious­ness of a uni­fied na­tional iden­tity at the time. It was Ja­pan’s sec­ond in­va­sion of China in the 1930s that united the whole na­tion and shaped na­tional iden­ti­fi­ca­tion.

The Qing Dy­nasty fo­cused on im­port­ing equip­ment and tech­nol­ogy from the West. But the Meiji Restora­tion in Ja­pan, which hap­pened roughly at the same time as the West­ern­iza­tion Move­ment in the Qing Dy­nasty, paid more at­ten­tion to the trans­plant­ing of the West’s con­sti­tu­tional gov­er­nance, mar­ket econ­omy, en­trepreneur­ship and ed­u­ca­tion sys­tem, which put Ja­pan on the right track of mod­ern­iza­tion.

To some ex­tent, China’s trans­for­ma­tion from a coun­try ruled by the elite few to a rule-by-law coun­try had not yet been ac­com­plished un­til now.

Jin said Chi­nese peo­ple to­day should con­sol­i­date their be­lief in the rule of law with con­fi­dence that the Com­mu­nist Party of China has the re­solve and abil­ity to op­er­ate by law.

Ja­pan’s to­tal de­feat in World War II led to its paci­fist con­sti­tu­tion, which rep­re­sents the Ja­panese peo­ple’s uni­ver­sal ex­pec­ta­tion of aban­don­ing wars, said Karatani Kōjin, a Ja­panese philoso­pher.

“That Prime Min­is­ter Shinzo Abe takes on a war cri­sis as an ex­cuse to re­vise the con­sti­tu­tion will make the paci­fist con­sti­tu­tion val­ue­less,” he said.

Karatani Kōjin thinks that only when Ja­pan moves in the di­rec­tion of the paci­fist con­sti­tu­tion will it win uni­ver­sal recog­ni­tion in the in­ter­na­tional com­mu­nity and walk out from the shadow of wars that has been cast over the na­tion since 120 year ago.

He hinted that if Ja­panese politi­cians abol­ish the con­sti­tu­tion and al­ways in­tend to trig­ger a for­eign cri­sis with China as a scape­goat, the his­tory that Ja­panese feel shame­ful about will be re­peated.

But the shadow is not that easy for Ja­pan to rid, be­cause the sit­u­a­tion to­day is sim­i­lar to that of 120 years ago in many key as­pects.

On one hand, the regimes of both Ito Hirobumi, Ja­pan’s first prime min­is­ter, and Abe at­tach im­por­tance to loy­alty to Ja­pan’s em­peror and mil­i­tary power.

Wang Shaopu, a re­searcher of Ja­panese stud­ies with Shang­hai Jiao­tong Univer­sity, said: “Ito Hirobumi’s call for loy­alty to the em­peror is progress from the Bakuhan sys­tem it re­placed, while Abe’s right-wing pro­posal to make use of the em­peror is a set­back in to­day’s con­text.”

On the other hand, the East Asia’s power bal­ance was changed with Ja­pan’s rise in late 1800s, and is now be­ing re­shaped with China’s rise, though more peace­ful and in­clu­sive.

“Ito Hirobumi and Shinzo Abe share strik­ing sim­i­lar­ity in that both of them in­tended to take na­tion­al­is­tic ap­proaches to seek Ja­pan’s hege­mony when the in­ter­na­tional order of the Asian and Pa­cific re­gion is chang­ing along with the changes of power bal­ances,” said Wang.

Abe ad­vo­cates that Ja­pan, the US, In­dia and Aus­tralia form a strate­gic al­liance to con­tain China for peace, order and pros­per­ity.

A fam­ily can choose its neigh­bors by mov­ing to a new place. But a coun­try can­not. The 120th an­niver­sary of the war be­tween two neigh­bors and the his­tory af­ter that war should re­mind China how to be a bet­ter coun­try with a stronger sense of se­cu­rity, and teach Ja­pan the im­por­tance of “Do not to oth­ers what you do not wish them to do to you”, a core value of Con­fu­cian­ism, that Ja­pan has claimed to have learned by heart for 2000 years.

Sailors line up on a new mis­sile de­stroyer Kun­ming on March 21 in Shang­hai.

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