Treaty of Shimonoseki

From New World Encyclopedia

The Shunpanrō Hotel, in the city of Shimonoseki, on Japan's south island of Kyūshū, where the Treaty of Shimonoseki was signed.

The Treaty of Shimonoseki (Japanese: 下関条約, "Shimonoseki Jōyaku"), known as the Treaty of Maguan (Traditional Chinese: 馬關條約; Simplified Chinese: 马关条约; pinyin: Mǎguān tiáoyuē) in China, was signed at the Shunpanrō Hotel on April 17, 1895, between the Empire of Japan and Qing Empire of China, ending the First Sino-Japanese War, after a peace conference held from March 20 to April 17, 1895. The treaty solidified Japan's status as the victor of the war, as China was forced to concede much in the way of territory, including Korea and Taiwan, as well as large sums of silver and currency.

This victory cemented Japan's place as an empire and a power to be reckoned with. The Meiji government's radical reforms and industrialization were transforming Japan, and the First Sino-Japanese War was seen as proof of the nation's expanding sphere of influence. It was the start of Japan's pursuit of a more aggressive stance in foreign policy and territorial expansion, which continued until World War II.

At the same time, the signing of the treaty was the first nail in the coffin of imperial China. A short time later, further weakened by the death of Empress Dowager Cixi in 1908, and with no adult heir available to assume the throne, it was only a matter of time before the dynasty lost its influence and Sun Yat-sen and his supporters took the first victorious steps toward establishing the new Republic of China in 1911.

The Treaty of Shimonoseki marked an important turning point and shift in power that shaped the history of Asia, and indeed the world.


The Treaty of Shimonoseki ended the First Sino-Japanese War of 1894-1895, in which Japan had won a clear victory. The war was fought between Qing Dynasty China and Meiji Japan, primarily over control of Joseon Korea. China had held suzerainty, over Korea for centuries, exercising a measure of control over the court officials in Korea's Joseon Dynasty, offering protection to Korea, and in return, receiving payments of tribute from Korea. The treaty ended all of that, recognizing the independence of Korea and forcing China to renounce any claim to that country.

China also ceded the Liaodong peninsula, Taiwan, and the Pescadores Islands to Japan. In addition, China paid Japan a war indemnity. A commercial treaty, similar to ones previously signed by China with various Western powers after the Opium Wars, was also signed, confirming the opening of various ports and rivers in China to Japanese trade.

The treaty, signed on April 17, 1895, after four weeks of negotiations, took effect on May 8, 1895, and provided a wealth of new economic opportunities for Japan; Japanese merchants were even given the right to open up factories, rent warehouses and transport goods without the payment of any taxes to the Chinese government.[1] What started for China as a Korean rebellion ended in ruin, but for Japan it was the beginning of an Asian Empire.

Value of the indemnity

Reconstructed Shunpanro Hotel interior

According to the terms of the treaty, China had to pay an indemnity of 200 million silver kuping taels to Japan, over a period of seven years. One kuping (treasury) tael is about 37.3 grams (1.32 oz) in weight. The 200 million kuping taels is about 7.45 million kg of silver. Later, when Japan was forced to recede the Liaodong peninsula to Russia (for Port Arthur), Japan asked for additional indemnity—30 million kuping (1.12 million kg) of silver—from China; the total amount then became over eight million kg of silver, an amount estimated at more than four times Japan's total revenue at the time.[2]

Signatories and diplomats

The treaty was drafted with John W. Foster, former American Secretary of State, advising the Qing Dynasty. It was signed by Count Ito Hirobumi and Viscount Mutsu Munemitsu for the Emperor of Japan and Li Hongzhang and Li Jingfang on behalf of the Emperor of China. Before the treaty was signed, Li Hongzhang was attacked by a right-wing Japanese extremist on March 24: He was fired upon and wounded on his way back to his lodgings at Injoji temple. The public outcry aroused by the assassination attempt caused the Japanese to temper their demands and agree to a temporary armistice. The conference was temporarily adjourned and resumed on April 10.

The full text of the treaty may be found at this link.

Aftermath of the treaty

Entry of the Western powers

Japan's Imperial expansion began with the end of the Sino-Japanese war and the Treaty of Shimonoseki (1895). Further territory was added after the Russo-Japanese War of 1904-1905, and Japan continued to add territory until the Empire's defeat in 1945 in World War II. (Click on map to enlarge)

The conditions imposed by Japan on China led to the Triple Intervention of Russia, France, and Germany, Western powers all active in China, with established enclaves and ports, just three days after its signing. The European powers demanded that Japan withdraw its claim on the Liaodong peninsula, concerned that Lüshun, then called Port Arthur by Westerners, would fall under Japanese control. Tsar Nicholas II of Russia (an ally of France) and his imperial advisers, including his cousin, friend, and rival, Kaiser Wilhelm II of Germany, had been trying to acquire possession of Port Arthur for some time, to serve as Russia's long sought-after "ice-free" port, essential to the success of Russia's Imperial Navy.

Yielding to the threat of war from three Western political powers, in November 1895, Japan—a weaker emerging nation not yet perceived as even a regional power—ceded control of the territory and withdrew its claim on the Liaotung peninsula in return for an increased war indemnity from China (as noted above). At that time, the European powers were not concerned with any of the other conditions, or the free hand Japan had been granted in Korea under the other terms of the Treaty of Shimonoseki, and this would prove to be a diplomatically short sighted error.

Within months after Japan ceded the Liaodong peninsula, Russia began to take control of the region. To assuage protests from China, Russia agreed to offer a diplomatic solution (the Kwantung Leased Territory) to the Chinese Empire, agreeing to pay a token lease fee to China for use of the region, instead of annexing Manchuria outright, thus allowing China to save face, while still giving Russia full control of the area. Within two years, Germany, France, and Great Britain had similarly taken advantage of the economic and political opportunities in the weak Chinese Empire, each taking control of significant local regions. Japan also took note of how the international community allowed the great powers to treat weaker nation states, and continued its remarkable measures to transform itself into a modern industrial state and military power, with great success as it would demonstrate in the Russo-Japanese War less than a decade later.

In Taiwan, pro-Qing officials and elements of the local gentry declared a Republic of Formosa in 1895, but failed to win international recognition.

In China, the Treaty of Shimonoseki was considered a national humiliation by the bureaucracy and greatly weakened support for the Qing Dynasty. The previous decades of the Self-Strengthening Movement were considered to be a failure, and support grew for more radical changes in China's political and social systems, which led to a Hundred Days Reform and the abolition of the bureaucratic examinations followed by the fall of the Qing Dynasty itself in 1911.

The Triple Intervention is regarded by many Japanese historians as being a crucial historic turning point in Japanese foreign affairs—from this point on, the nationalist, expansionist, and militant elements began to join ranks and steer Japan from a foreign policy based mainly on economic hegemony toward outright imperialism—a case of the coerced turning increasingly to coercion.

Both the Republic of China on Taiwan and the communist People's Republic of China consider that the provisions of the treaty transferring Taiwan to Japan to have been reversed by the Instrument of Surrender of Japan, signed September 2, 1945, to confirm Japan's defeat in World War II. An additional agreement, the Treaty of Taipei, was signed on April 28, 1952, by Japan and the Republic of China on Taiwan, which officially nullified all treaties made between China and Japan before December 9, 1941. However, the People's Republic of China does not recognize this treaty.

Russo-Japanese War

The Shunpanrō Hotel, reconstructed after being destroyed by fire during World War II, as it appeared in 2004.

Russia wasted little time after the Triple Intervention in moving men and materials down into the Liaodong to start building a railroad from both ends—Port Arthur and Harbin, as it already had railway construction in progress across northern Inner Manchuria to shorten the rail route to Russia's sole Pacific Ocean naval base at Sakhalin Island, a port closed by ice four months of each year. Russia also improved the port facilities at Port Arthur and founded the commercial port town at Dalny (Dalian), before inking the Lease of the territory.

When the de facto governance of Port Arthur and the Liaodong peninsula was granted to Russia by China, along with an increase in other rights she had obtained in Manchuria (especially those in Jilin and Heilongjiang provinces), the construction of the 550 mile southern spurline of the Manchurian Railway was redoubled. Russia finally seemed to have gotten what the Russian Empire had been wanting in its quest to become a global power since the reign of Peter the Great. This ice-free natural harbor of Port Arthur/Lüshun would serve to make Russia a great sea power, on top of the strength they already wielded as the largest land power. Russia needed this ice-free port to achieve world power status, as it was tired of being blocked by the Balance of Power politics in Europe (The Ottoman Empire and its allies had repeatedly frustrated Russian power fruition).

However, the omission of geopolitical reality in ignoring the free hand Japan had been granted by the Treaty of Shimonoseki regarding Korea and Japan was short-sighted of Russia with respect to its strategic goals; to get to and maintain a strong point in Port Arthur, Russia would have to dominate and control many additional hundreds of miles of eastern Manchuria (the Fengtian province of Imperial China, modern Jilin and Heilongjiang) up to Harbin. Japan had long considered the lands paralleling the whole Korean border as part of its strategic sphere of influence. By leasing Liaodong and railway concessions, Russia crashed its sphere of influence squarely into Japan's.

This acted as a further goad to emerging Japanese anger at their disrespectful treatment by the West. In the immediate fallout of the Triple Intervention, Japanese popular resentment at Russia's deviousness and the perceived weakness of its own government caving in to foreign pressure led to riots in Tokyo. The disturbance almost brought down the government, as well as precipitating a strengthening of imperial and expansionist factions within Japan. The Russian spear into the sphere also contributed to the ensuing struggle with Russia for dominance in Korea and Manchuria. These events eventually led to the Russo-Japanese War of 1904-1905 by a renewed and modernized Japanese military, and victory in that war gave Japan the boost it needed to expand further into Asia, unstoppable until its defeat in World War II.

See also


  1. Lee Taylor, Treaty of Shimonoseki Finalizes Japan’s Triumphant Victory Retrieved August 22, 2008.
  2. Jin Xide, Japanese Wartime Aggressors 'Savage and Cruel': Why and How, translated by Yuan Fang and Wind Gu, July 28, 2005. China Internet Information Center. Retrieved August 22, 2008.

ISBN links support NWE through referral fees

  • Chamberlin, William Henry. Japan Over Asia. Boston: Little, Brown and Co., 1939. OCLC: 3676567
  • Cheng, Pei-Kai, and Michael Lestz (eds.). The Search for Modern China: A Documentary Collection. New York: W. W. Norton & Company, 1999. ISBN 9780393973723
  • Colliers (ed). The Russo-Japanese War: A Photographic and Descriptive Review of the Great Conflict in the Far East. New York: P.F. Collier & Son, 1904.
  • Sedwick, F.R. The Russo-Japanese War: A Sketch: First Period, the Concentration. Special campaign series, no. 10. OCLC: 4799803
  • Warner, Denis Ashton, and Peggy Warner. The Tide at Sunrise: A History of the Russo-Japanese War: 1904-1905. New York: Charterhouse, 1974. ISBN 9780883270318

External links

All links retrieved May 2, 2023.


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