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The Beiyang Navy Chapter was approved by the government of the Qing Dynasty on October 7, 1888, symbolizing the official establishment of the Beiyang Navy. Its Beiyang Fleet was then deemed to be the strongest naval force in Asia. However, such a modernized fleet was annihilated by Japan six years later.

The Opium War led many Chinese people to realize the importance of a navy. Some also felt the need for a better knowledge of the outside world.