some basic historical knowledge, the subject I am dealing with would not be
Europe, people had heard about China. In the
autumn of 1298, Marco Polo told marvelous tales about an amazing country he
called Cathay. Columbus, an intelligent and
intrepid sailor, was aware of the Greeks’ knowledge about the roundness of the
Earth.His own observations led him to
coincide with those theories.He came up
with the plan of reaching the Far East sailing
westward from Europe. But, he calculated the
distance with far too much optimism, for it was several times greater.
Unexpectedly, between the Atlantic and the PacificOceans, this continent loomed up on his
route. Magellan would make the journey conceived by him, even though he died
before reaching Europe. Still, the voyage was
paid with the value of the spices gathered, and the trip begun with several
vessels, out of which only one returned, was a prelude of future colossal profits.
those days, the world began to change at an accelerated pace. Old forms of
exploitation were repeated again, from slavery to feudal serfdom; ancient and
new religious beliefs spread over the planet.
that fusion of cultures and events, accompanied by technical advances and
scientific discoveries, today’s world was born, and it could not be understood
without a minimum of real precedents.
trade, with its advantages and disadvantages, was imposed by the colonial
powers, such as Spain,
and the other European powers. These, especially England,
soon began to control southwest, south and southeast Asia, and Indonesia, Australia
and New Zealand,
forcibly expanding its rule everywhere.The colonizers were not able to impose their authority over the gigantic
country of China,
which had an ancient culture and fabulous natural and human resources.
trade between Europe and China began in
the sixteenth century, after the Portuguese established the commercial enclave
at Goa in India and at Macao in southern China.
control in the Philippines
facilitated an accelerated exchange with the great Asian country. The Qing
dynasty, which ruled China,
tried to limit this kind of unfavorable commercial operation with foreign countries
as much as possible. It was allowed only through the port of Canton,
today called Guangzhou.
had great deficits because of the low demand of the enormous Asiatic country,
related to English goods manufactured in the metropolis, or Spanish products
coming from the New World which were not
essential to China.Both of them had begun to sell opium.
opium trade was at first dominated by the Dutch through Jakarta, Indonesia.
The English observed the profits that were close to 400 percent. Their opium
exports which, in 1730, were 15 tons, grew to 75 in 1773, shipped in crates
weighing 70 kilograms
each; with this they bought porcelain, silks, spices and Chinese tea.Opium, not gold, was the currency Europe used to acquire Chinese goods.
the spring of 1830, faced with the unbridled abuse of the opium trade in China, Emperor
Daoguang ordered Lin Hse Tsu, an Imperial official, to fight the plague; he
ordered the destruction of 20 thousand crates of opium. Lin Hse Tsu sent a
letter to Queen Victoria
asking for respect of international standards and that she forbid the trade
with toxic drugs.
Opium Wars were the English response.The first of them lasted three years, from 1839 to 1842. The second,
joining in, lasted four years, from 1856 to 1860. They are also known as the
to sign unfair treaties committing this country to opening up several ports to
foreign trade and handing over Hong Kong.
Several countries, following England’s
lead, imposed unequal terms of exchange.
humiliation contributed to the Taiping Rebellion of 1850 to 1864, the Boxer
Rebellion of 1899 to 1901 and, finally, the fall of the Qing Dynasty in 1911
that, for various reasons –including their weakness in the face of foreign
powers– had become highly unpopular in China.
happened with Japan?
country with its ancient culture and very hard-working ethic, like others in
the region, resisted “western civilization” and for more than 200 years –among
other causes because of a chaotic domestic administration– it remained
hermetically sealed to foreign trade.
1854, after an earlier exploratory voyage with four gunboats, a U.S. naval
expedition commanded by Commodore Matthew Perry, threatening to bomb a Japanese
town – defenseless before the modern technology of those vessels– obliged the
shoguns to sign, on behalf of the Emperor, the Treaty of Kanagawa on March 31, 1854. Thus, the
insertion of capitalist trade and western technology was begun in Japan. At the
time, Europeans were unaware of the Japanese capacity to develop in that field.
the heels of the Yankees, representatives of the Russian Empire arrived from
the Far East, fearful that the U.S., to whom
they later sold Alaska
on October 18, 1867,
would get a head-start on them in the trade activities with Japan. Great Britain
and the other European colonizing nations arrived quickly in the country, with
the same intentions.
intervention in 1847, Perry occupied different parts of Mexico. At the
end of the war, the country lost more than 50 percent of its territory,
precisely those areas where the greatest oil and gas reserves were to be found,
even though at that time, gold and land to expand into, not fuel, were the main
goals of the conquerors.
first China-Japan War was officially declared on August 1, 1894.At the time Japan
a tributary state subordinated to China. With more developed weaponry
and technology, it defeated Chinese forces in several battles near the cities
of Seoul and Pyongyang. Later military
victories opened their way towards Chinese territory.
the month of November in that year, they took Port Arthur, today Lüshun. In the River Yalu
estuary and at the Weihaiwei Naval Base, surprised by a land attack from the LiaodongPeninsula, heavy Japanese artillery
destroyed the fleet of the attacked nation.
dynasty had to ask for peace. The Treaty of Shimonoseki, which put an end to
the war, was signed in April of 1895. China was forced to cede Taiwan, the LiaodongPeninsula and the archipelago of the PescadoresIslands to Japan “in perpetuity”; China also had
to pay a war indemnity of 200 million taels of silver and open up four ports to
the exterior.Russia, France and Germany,
defending their individual interests, obliged Japan to return the LiaodongPeninsula, paying in exchange another 30
million taels of silver.
mentioning the second China-Japan War, I should include another armed episode
with a double historical importance; it took place between 1904 and 1905 and it
cannot be omitted.
being inserted into armed civilization and wars for the partitioning of the
world as imposed by the West, Japan, which had already waged the first war
against China as mentioned above, developed its naval power to such a degree
that it was able to deal a harsh blow to the Russian Empire which was at the
point of prematurely inciting the revolution programmed by Lenin when he
created in Minsk, ten years prior, the Party which would later unleash the
August 10, 1904,
with no advance warning, Japan
attacked and destroyed the Russian Pacific Fleet at Shandong.Czar Nicholas II of Russia,
upset by the attack, ordered the Baltic Fleet to be mobilized and to set sail
for the Far East. Convoys of colliers were
contracted to bring in the shipments needed by the fleet while it was sailing
towards its distant destination. One of the operations to transfer coal had to
be carried out on the high seas due to diplomatic pressures.
Russians, upon entering south China,
sailed towards Vladivostok,
the only available port for the fleet’s operations. In order to arrive at that
point, there were three routes: the best choice was the Tsushima
route; the other two required navigation to the east of Japan and
increased the risks and the enormous wear and tear on the vessels and
crews.The Japanese admiral had the same
thought: for this option he prepared his plan and located his ships so that the
Japanese Fleet, after making a U-turn, would have all its vessels, mainly
cruisers, passing about 6 thousand meters away from the adversary’s ships, a
large number of battleships. These would be at the reach of the Japanese
cruisers, outfitted with personnel that were rigorously trained in the use of
their cannon. As a result of the lengthy route, the Russian battleships were
navigating at a speed of only 8 knots as compared with the 16 knot speed of the
military action is known by the name of Battle of Tsushima. It took place on
May 27th and 28th of 1905.
the side of the Russian Empire, 11 battleships and 8 cruisers took part.
Admiral of the Russian Fleet was wounded by a shell fragment that hit him in
the side of the Japanese Empire, 4 battleships and 27 cruisers took part.
of the Fleet:Heichachiro Togo
Losses:117 dead, 583 wounded and 3 torpedo ships
Baltic Fleet was destroyed. Napoleon would have termed it “Austerlitz at sea”. Anyone can imagine the
deep wound caused by the dramatic event to traditional Russian pride and
the battle, Japan
became a much feared naval power, rivaling Great Britain and Germany and
competing with the United
Japan rehabilitated the concept of the battleship as the
principal weapon in the years to come. They embroiled themselves in the task of
empowering the Imperial Japanese Army. They requested and paid a British
shipbuilder to construct a special cruiser, with the intent of later
reproducing it in their Japanese shipbuilding yards. Later, they manufactured
battleships that were much better than those of their contemporaries, both in
amour and power.
was no other nation on the face of the earth that could come close to Japanese
naval engineering in the 1930’s in the design of war ships.
explains the bold action with which, one day, they attacked their master and
rival, the United States
which, through Commodore Perry, started them off on their path of war.