Saturday, June 9, 2012

The Canadian Methodist Missionary Interpretation of the First Sino-Japanese War, 1895

The Japanese victory over China in the 1895 Sino-Japanese war has been attributed to modernization under the Meiji restoration.  Westerners assumed that the Chinese navy's ironclads and presumably extensive army would handily crush the Japanese.  This was not the case, and the shift in power in the region from China to Japan, caused consternation among some in the Western world.
Battle of Weihaiwei.  Woodblock by Ogata Gekko. 1895?
The Canadian Methodist Missionary Society, had established missionaries to Japan in 1873, and were quick to attribute the victory to the very concept of civilization which they were promoting overseas.  By the 1890s, over twenty missions were established in Japan, with over two thousand members of the church tallied.   As the Society's 1895-96 general report noted,
Of late our foreign work has been subjected to disturbing forces of an unusual kind, which at first seemed to threaten the progress, if not the existence, of the cause; but the outcome has confirmed our faith and put to flight our fears.  Japan has emerged from the conflict victorious.  Destiny has decided in favor of the minority.  This is doubtless due to that higher plane of intelligence and efficiency up to which the people, as a whole, have been raised in the last few years.  Christianity is now being recognized by the most 'advanced minds' as the important factor in the up-lifting of the nation, and is likely to receive a greater and more sympathetic attention than heretofore. (CMMS 72nd annual report, p. xi)

How the 2137 members of the Canadian Methodist Church's missions could have any actual influence on the war remains to be seen.

The war was fought over control of Korea, whose independence was accepted at the 17 April 1895 Treaty of Shimonoseki.  China also gave up Port Arthur and Taiwan, the former being swiftly snatched up by Russia, backed by its Triple Intervention allies, France and Germany.  There were clearly several overlapping layers of active colonialism surrounding the conflict.

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