China's defeat in the Sino-Japanese War of 1894–95 not only revealed to the world the weakness of the Celestial Empire, but also raised a number of critical problems for the Imperial government, none more complicated than that of protecting foreign missionaries. The missionary problem had already become a diplomatic headache in the latter part of the nineteenth century, after the Treaty Powers had forced the Chinese government to recognize the right of Christian missionaries to establish missions far in the interior of China where they were exposed to attacks by hostile Chinese. As greater numbers of missionaries penetrated the interior, antimissionary outrages occurred with disturbing and increasing frequency, bringing forth bitter complaints from the foreign community in China about the inability of the Powers to force the Imperial government to provide protection. The customary demand of the Powers when outrages occurred had been for protection of their nationals, reparations for lives lost and property destroyed, and punishment of provincial officials who had been unable or unwilling to prevent outrages. Frequently there had been a resort to “gunboat diplomacy,” when the Powers rushed naval vessels to cities where riots threatened or occurred to protect foreigners and overawe local officials.

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