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4 - The military challenge: the north-west and the coast

By the early 1870s, the Ch'ing forces undoubtedly had acquired the capacity to suppress rebellion in most areas of China proper. However, it remained questionable as to whether they could stand up to foreign invaders on the coast or even deal with rebels in the difficult terrain of the North-West or Central Asia. Before imperial China's forces could get to Sinkiang, they had first to overcome the Chinese Muslims in Shensi and Kansu. The Sino-French War of 1884-5 was the first external test of China's new military and naval programmes of the past two decades. From beginning to end, the Sino-Japanese War had been an unmitigated disaster. In the peace negotiations, China's most effective bargaining point was not the remaining strength of her military and naval forces, but rather Japanese guilt over the wounding of Li Hung-chang by a Japanese fanatic.
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