If a Qing strategist saw the outline map of China as it now stood, what would be his impressions?
He would first notice that Outer Mongolia had been cut-off. He would guess this was Russia’s doing (correctly), and that Outer Mongolia was most likely a Russian province (incorrect) under the Czar (also incorrect).
He would be struck that the ‘lost’ lands of Taiwan and Korea were as they had been in 1911, assume both were still controlled by Japan (incorrect) and that this remarkable stability of frontiers had meant that somehow Japan and China had avoided more wars (also incorrect).
He might ask if it was significant there was no areas carved out for foreign concessions or colonies — if we honestly answered ‘none are shown because there are none,’ he would assume that China must have prioritized defense of the coast over the territorial integrity of the interior (correct). Thinking of the stable Japanese frontier, he would assume that Japan had acted as an offshore balancer (incorrect).
For Japan to have acted to balance Russia against Europe, the 100 years after 1911 must have been catastrophic for Europe (correct), gloriously stable for Japan (incorrect), and successful for Russia (incorrect).
If he had inquired where the capital was, and we replied “Beijing,” he would have been absolutely correct: “Capitals only change when a frontier needs to be controlled. If one Emperor both lost Mongolia and moved the capital to Beijing, then he must have belived Russia to be our greatest threat.”
This might make him reconsider the nature of the eastern frontier, and if the evaporation of the colonies but the permanance of the loss of Korea nad Taiwan meant Japan had been partitioned by Russia and another, stronger power…