China's Story - William Griffis

The Russo-Japanese War: Its Result

While the United States, at the very first possible moment, kept faith and set a good example in withdrawing the American troops, Russia showed unmistakably her policy—as old as Peter the Great—of securing frontage on the sea, with a seaport open in winter. Baffled, after the Russo-Turkish War, in her hereditary march on Constantinople, by the firmness of Great Britain, she now turned her energies into railroad building eastward, and waited for a pretext that should enable her to dominate Manchuria, absorb Korea, humble Japan, and keep China in subservience. So at least the imperialistic Russian newspapers intimated.

When a Chinese general attacked some Cossacks, one of these pretexts was availed of. In revenge, the Russians drove a multitude of Chinese men, women, and children from the city into the Amoor River, slaughtering thousands of them. Another pretext was the state of disorder in Manchuria, to cure which, Russia insisted that it was necessary to occupy large portions of the province with her military forces. She claimed from China, for having assisted so largely in suppressing the Boxer uprising, the right to lease Manchuria, occupy Port Arthur, and, before she had people to occupy it, build Dalny, a great city, with granite piers providing facilities for prospective trade by land and sea. Yet all this time, and until 1904, beside military and railway men, the number of Russian subjects in Manchuria was not over one thousand. Japan, whose interests were equally great, had on the same soil at least ten thousand of her people engaged in legitimate business.

Although Russia promised to evacuate Manchuria by October 8, 1903, yet the only signs she showed were those of remaining. Her building was of the sort that meant permanent occupation. Japan took the alarm and made protest. The American government, considering that Manchuria belonged to China, made a new treaty at Peking, signed October 8, 1903, opening Mukden and An Tung to trade. Russia, however, refused to allow American consuls to enter.

While diplomacy was active between Tokyo and St. Petersburg, the Russians increased their army on land and gathered twenty-six war vessels at Port Arthur. As Japan and Great Britain had made an alliance, the island empire was able to face Russia boldly, especially as her new steel battleships were on their way from England, ready for immediate use. When diplomacy ceased on February 6, 1904, war at once began.

Those who knew the greatness of the Japanese people and what Japan, with foreign help, had been doing during the previous thirty-five years, in educating her people, in renovating the moral and physical condition of the masses, and in training an army and a navy, knew there was scarcely the ghost of a chance of success for the Russians. Bluster would never make up for good gunnery. On sea, it would fare with the Muscovites little better than it did with the Mongols. On land, a public school army would face a mass of brave but ignorant men. It was not a war of religion, of creed, of color, or of race, but a struggle in the interest of truth and justice. The field of battle would be on China's soil and in Chinese waters.

In three days, one third of Russia's navy was damaged or destroyed. Within sixty hours, two divisions of the Mikado's army were in Korea, and in the first battle, on the Yalu River, the Russians were beaten. Then followed victory after victory for the Japanese. Port Arthur, after a long siege, surrendered January 1, 1905. On March 10, after a three weeks' fight, Mukden, the goal of the war, was entered. The second or Baltic Russian fleet was destroyed on May 27. Intelligence, science, the modern spirit, unity of counsel, thorough preparation, first-class generalship, honesty, and valor had prevailed over medieval methods and spirit, division in council, bureaucratic corruption, and poor leadership.

By invitation of the President of the United States, peace plenipotentiaries from the Czar and the Mikado met at Portsmouth, New Hampshire, and agreed upon terms of peace. The treaty was signed September 5, 1905. China was allowed no voice in these deliberations, the results of which so vitally affected her own interests. Southern Manchuria became, for a time at least, virtually a Japanese, and the central and northern part a Russian possession, and Korea was absorbed in the Japanese Empire.