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Unformatted text preview: almost a logical necessity for Japan,
having become civilized and enlightened, to assume the responsibility for
spreading the fruits of modernity to the still backward-thinking peoples
elsewhere in East Asia.
One somber result of the Sino-Japanese War was China’s further decline as a source of higher culture in Japanese eyes. Although the Meiji
Restoration had rather abruptly shifted Japan’s attention from China to
the West as its chief foreign mentor, China’s traditional prestige was still
very high in Japan in the early 1890s, especially among many members
of the conservative “national essence” movement. But the rhetoric of wartime propaganda, combined with growing contempt for Chinese ineffectuality in the field of battle, led most Japanese intellectuals and leaders
to give less and less consideration to their millennia-old cultural ties to
China. In the years following the war, some Japanese even conceived of
a modern Japan benignly repaying its cultural debt to a decrepit China by
aiding Chinese reformists and revolutionaries in their struggle against the
alien and antiquated Manchu dynasty.
At the same time, the almost joyful unanimity of attitude with which
the Japanese had entered the war with China was shattered in its aftermath. The “triple intervention” in 1896 of Russia, France, and Germany,
forcing Japan to retrocede to China one of its main territorial booties
from the recent fighting, the Liaotung Peninsula,2 incensed many Japanese and made them more aggressively nationalistic than before. Other
Japanese, appalled by the ugly spectacle of concession grabbing that soon
ensued in China, recanted their previous endorsement of war as a valid
tool for civilizing and enlightening and became in varying degrees pacifistic. Observing, in addition, the factory layoffs and other economic dislocations and hardships that followed in the wake of the war, some of the
latter also came to reject the capitalistic system of economic modernization that was evolving in Japan and espoused the doctrines of som.
It was thus in the period following the war with China that Japan was
first truly exposed to those harsh ideological divisions of viewpoint that
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- Spring '13