BEIJING (Reuters) - The Chinese military’s official newspaper issued a warning on Friday that a country riven with corruption will only face national humiliation, as it marked the 120th anniversary of a treaty that handed over control of Taiwan to Japan.
The embarrassment of the Sino-Japan War and the subsequent Treaty of Shimonoseki still resonates in China and the government has used its anniversary to remind people that graft-ridden nations do not win wars.
President Xi Jinping has made weeding out corruption in the armed forces a top goal and several senior officers have been felled, including one of China’s most senior former military officers, Xu Caihou. Xu died of cancer last month.
State media has focused on how corruption was a key reason for China’s defeat to Japan in the waning years of the Qing dynasty. The People’s Liberation Army Daily returned to that theme in a lengthy article marking the anniversary.
“The shame of the treaty had nothing to do with negotiating skills, but because of the corrupt system of the Qing government,” the paper wrote.
“Although vast sums were spent on steadfast ships and sharp weapons, and developing heavy industry closely connected with military activities, the rot in the system went down to the bone,” it said.
The lessons from that painful period had to be learned so that “we can take history as a mirror for this national humiliation”, the paper said.
China stepped up a crackdown on corruption in the military in the late 1990s, banning the People’s Liberation Army from engaging in business.
However, analysts have said the military has been involved in commercial dealings in recent years due to a lack of checks and balances.
The buying and selling of senior jobs in the military, an open secret, has worried reformers who say it leads to those with talent being cast aside and damages morale.
Xi’s graft crackdown has coincided with increased efforts to modernize forces that are projecting power across the disputed waters of the East and South China Seas, although it has not fought a war in decades.
Ties with Tokyo in particular, long strained over Japan’s occupation of parts of China before and during World War Two, have worsened because of an increasingly ugly spat over the ownership of uninhabited islets in the East China Sea.
Coastguard ships and fighter aircraft from both sides routinely face off around the islands, fuelling fears that an accident could spark a clash.
Reporting by Ben Blanchard; Editing by Paul Tait