- <Koakai hokoku>, Issue 20 (1881, September 20)
From <Xunhuan Ribao> - Wang Tao (1828-1897) on Sino-Japanese relationship (pp. 5-8):
‘Before Japan started trade relationship with various Western countries, it lay in the remote corner of the Eastern Sea, had its doors closed and did not send envoys. (…) Then, after America inquired on the [Japanese] harbours and other [Western] countries followed the suit
one after another (…), they could not be expelled from [Japan’s] gates. Suddenly, righteous gentlemen in the capital became indignant, and ignorant people in the provinces started to rebel. Once shogun understood his inability [to improve the situation], the government was returned to the state, and more than three hundred feudal lords renounced their domains in the state’s favour. Local feudal domains were re-fashioned into prefectures: the change without a precedent in Japan’s millennial history! Precious sword in hand, [Japan’s] king started to personally supervise the matters of government in the court, with urgent attention paid to the utilitarian affairs. Admiring Western studies, they were copying Western methods, and changed even the basics with much zeal, down to the minute details. Looking at these radical changes, the Westerners were pleased as never before, and lauded it. Consequently, those who criticised and laughed at it, scorned it as never before. But [Japanese] were not aware of this, and continued with adapting Western attire, speaking Western languages, and residing in Western-style dwellings. They did not know that it was as false and artificial as You Meng’s acting on the stage [in the times of Chou Dynasty, in Chu Kingdom] (explanation of the expression), and just continued to receive scolds from the neighbours in all four directions.
I interpret it as the lack of brightness, and the ignorance in great and loft things on the part of the Japanese. When they start friendships, at first they look like gentlemen full of sincerity and lofty indignation. But then, once the interests start to conflict, they completely change their original attitudes, and in the evening already keep at a distance those to whom they made promises in the morning. Once the profits are at stake, they do not hesitate to break confidence and trust (…), and promptly start believing the words of others.
Alas! They want to ape the West in every matter! But why cannot they penetrate into the essence of the question just basing their judgment on the issue of confidence? Although the Western states feign the humanness and righteousness in the manner of the Five Hegemons [of the Chou Period], they usually stick to their initial promises and do not change them, even if promises were given in the midst of great hurry. That is what Japan is still unable to do. Japanese fear the Western states as tigers, hiding their fear on the surface, but being full of doubts and sycophantic emotions in their hearts. Luxurious banquets, exquisite etiquette, and willingness to conduct exchanges and build up friendship – all this is caused by fear [of Westerners], in fact!
As to their attitude towards China, their contempt for it is indeed great. Among their other intentions, they are going to humiliate China in the same way Westerners have been doing it, securing from China everything they wished. They want to follow this policy to have the same results. After having their laws changed, they consider themselves being next to the Western states, and follow the same arrogant and violent line towards China. Every time China found itself in troubles, they used the moment to either invade Taiwan or annex Ryukyu Islands. But let us look at the relationship between Japan and its close neighbour, Russia. Do they dare to do the same things [to Russians]? They gave up Sakhalin in order to take Kuril Islands, fixed the borders, and populated the region with settlers. The orders were followed without gratuitous words; concessions were made without unnecessary disputes. From this, we can see how they fear Russia! Is not it lamentable? Alas, Russia is issue of concern for China much more than for Japan, but the Japanese ignore the threat Russia represents for China, and only are concerned with the anxieties Russia causes to Japan itself, without forgetting the [Russian] issue even for one single day. (…)
Now, Japan and Russia share common border and conduct exchanges. But, if the situation will become pressing and conflict will arise, the military confrontation will surely happen. Moreover, Russian attention in the Eastern Seas is not concentrated on Japan only. [Russians] are greatly interested in annexing Korea, and do not dare to approach it only out of fear of China and Britain. As they are concerned about Britain, they could not yet become the hegemon in the affairs of the Eastern part of Asia. Only if their army will be strong enough, they will dare to openly challenge [Britain]. All it means that the Asians should defend themselves from Russia.
Japan is a small state with poor populace, strong on the surface, but as fragile as dried wood inside. As Russians have understood Japan’s hidden [realities] long before, they are just waiting for the moment when China and Japan will lose peace and start war. Then, they will be in a position of a proverbial fisher who was able to get a good catch just quietly sitting and waiting. They will easily annex Korea before we will be able to clap a hand. That is why Japan and China should keep peace, and should not go to war, should be on good terms, and should not be estranged. Japan should unite its heart and efforts with China in order to defend itself from the Russians. That is how Japan can preserve itself!
The Russians are not weaklings. Their land spreads on three continents, and they command million-strong army. They call themselves a military power for more than a century, and had many talented and brave monarchs during that time. They always look with longing at the regions outside their borders, and cherish annexation plans, and there are already so many lands and cities that they have captured. They could not realize their intentions in relation to China yet, but will certainly not hesitate about fulfilling their wishes in connection with Korea and Japan. Now they are preparing their forces, waiting for a moment. If Japan will eventually make peace and build friendship with China, stop using the name “Okinawa” and restore the ancestral sacrifices of Ryukyu’s [ruling house], if both sides will unite their efforts in self-strengthening for the single purpose, if they will improve their administration inside and strengthen the army outside, protecting Korea together – only in this case can Japan preserve its independence. However strong can Russians be, they will not dare to act recklessly in this situation. Both China and Japan have the common task of defending themselves from Russia, but they also should be on friendly terms and exchange envoys with Russia, so that to restrain it by treaties and promises. And if the British, in accordance with the intimate Chinese wishes, will be of help, Russia may cause us no worry during several decades onward. But, if, in the opposite case, China and Japan will go to war, it is senseless even to discuss who will win and who will be defeated. I am afraid that any result will be detrimental to the both countries.
Alas! The situation is as clear as daylight! But why cannot Japanese understand it properly?