Since the Meiji Restoration in 1868, Japan had rapidly modernized, while at the end of the 19th century China was trapped in its glorious past and already agonizing. When both powers fought the first Sino-Japanese war in 1894/95, mostly about Korea, then a Chinese tributary state, the outcome was predictable from the beginning.
After its humiliating defeat, by signing the Treaty of Shimonoseki (Maguan in Mandarin) on the 17th of April 1895, China was forced not only to recognize Korean independence, but also to concede Taiwan and the Pescadores Islands, located to the West of Formosa and nowadays better known as Penghu, to Japan in perpetuity. Peking also had to pay to Tokyo, over a period of seven years, the equivalent of almost eight million kilograms of silver, at the time a very significant indemnity. This disaster can be considered the first nail in the coffin of Imperial China, which vanished into history in October 1911.
On the other hand, an overwhelming victory against a far bigger neighbor clearly cemented Japan’s place as a new empire and a power in the Far East to be reckoned with. Its more aggressive stance in foreign policy and territorial expansion would lead to the Russian-Japanese War in 1904/05, which ended with another brilliant victory for Nippon and hastened the downfall of weak Czarist Russia, continuing until Japan’s unconditional surrender to the United States at the end of World War II in 1945.
In Taiwan, officials loyal to the languishing Qing-Dynasty and elements of the local gentry declared a Republic of Formosa on the 23rd of May 1895. Without international recognition, also due to the fact that its adherents continued to recognize Chinese suzerainty, it collapsed on October 21st when invading forces occupied the capital Tainan.
In the following 50 years of colonial rule, the island was transformed into a model colony with a modern infrastructure. Industrial rice farming was introduced. Railways, harbors, dams, hospitals and public schools were built. When the Japanese evacuated Taiwan in 1945, 70% of all children were receiving basic education. Step by step Formosa was integrated into Imperial Japan and in consequence 200,000 Taiwanese had to fight for the Tenno in the Pacific Theater. About 30,000 never returned home.
In contrast with other parts of Asia, Nippon is most popular in Taiwan. The Japanese masters are remembered as being strict and even harsh, but also efficient and incorruptible. Their legacy helped transform the country into the modern nation that it is today.
P.D.: The provisions of the treaty transferring Taiwan to Japan were reversed by the Instrument of Surrender of Japan, signed on the 2nd of September 1945. An additional agreement, the Treaty of Taipei, was penned on the 28th of April 1952 by Japan and the Nationalist government that had retreated from China. It officially nullified all treaties made between China and Japan before the 9th of December 1941, the day the Hawaiian naval base of Pearl Harbor was bombed by the Japanese.