Poor relations with Japan started as far back as 1840, when Japan joined the British, French and Americans during the Opium Wars to gain concessions to sell opium legally to the Chinese.
In 1843, under the agreement of the Nanjing Treaty, Shanghai became one of five treaty ports to be turned into a colonial city that would be under control of foreign countries—Great Britain, France, America and Japan.
Until 1871, most Japanese never had much contact with the Chinese. Then, getting to know the Chinese led to a Japanese opinion that the Chinese were ethnically inferior since they were different from the Japanese and most Japanese haven’t changed their minds to this day. It didn’t matter that China had been more powerful and technologically advanced for about 1,500 years up to the 15th century.
In 1884, Japanese and Chinese troops faced off in Korea, which ended in a lopsided stalemate in Japan’s favor.
In 1894, Japan and China fought their first war over Korea. Like Tibet, Korea had been a tributary state of China for centuries.
China was defeated in 1895 losing Korea as a tributary and a large portion of Eastern Manchuria.
Then in 1870, Japan annexed the islands of the Ryukyu Kingdom, which had also been a tributary to China.
A Ryukyuan envoy even begged England for help, but the British ruled that the islands should belong to Japan instead of China.
On July 7, 1937, Japan launched a war to conquer China. Over the next 8 years, Japan would occupy most of China.
Japan has never apologized for The Rape of Nanking and other atrocities that happened during World War II that resulted in millions of Chinese deaths. The Chinese estimate that they lost about 15-20 million in World War II and most of those deaths were civilians. An additional 2.2 million deaths were Chinese troops.
U.S. News & World Report says, “The Chinese have resented the Japanese ever since Japan conquered and occupied China in the 1930s and 40s. The Japanese prime minister’s yearly visits to a Tokyo shrine for war veterans has always played in China as a reminder of Japan’s wartime brutality and continued lack of remorse.”
The argument between China and Japan over a group of uninhabited islands that both nations claim is a continuation of this history of poor relations.
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