Key point: China is learning how to fight its future wars by studying its failures.
Even as Western strategists spill gobs of ink recalling the Great War that convulsed Europe a century ago, Chinese military thinkers are actually fixated on another anniversary. 120 years ago, Japan shocked the world with a lightning campaign that not only reduced the faltering Qing dynasty to its knees in a matter of months, but more to the point: put the pride of China’s then ascendant fleet on the bottom of the Yellow Sea.
The war was primarily fought over the Korean Peninsula and featured two sizable naval engagements: the first near the Yalu and the second near the tip of the Shandong Peninsula at Weihai, where an enormous Chinese museum has quite recently been completed to commemorate the war. The conflict ended with Japan’s conquest of the Liaodong Peninsula, but this was not permitted by the jealous European Powers, which intervened collectively in the so-called “Triple Intervention.” Tokyo had to be satisfied with China’s recognition of an independent Korea, the not insignificant prize of Taiwan, a huge indemnity paid in silver, the right to navigate the Yangtze, as well as the opening of more treaty ports to Japanese merchants. This edition of Dragon Eye will not dwell on recent China-Japan tensions, which are presently experiencing a thaw albeit a tepid one. Instead, this brief analysis endeavors to sample a few of the innumerable Chinese military writings published during 2014 on the subject of that pivotal conflict.
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