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Manchuria and the “Far Eastern Question”, 1880‑1910

La Mandchourie et la « Question d’Extrême Orient », 1880‑1910
Michel Vié


Manchuria came into the modern world history during the last third of the nineteenth century. It was an epoch of great colonial expansion. Before then, the aim in expansion had been commercial. With a superior technology in firearms, the United Kingdom, the United States and France had imposed on both China and Japan unequal treaties and open ports. However, limited in power, this superiority did not allow for large scale, conquest type of war. Hong Kong and Shanghai symbolized the success and limitations of this politic. Associated with China, neighbouring with Korea, cut off the Japanese sea by the Russian projection, Manchuria that has no decisive economic attraction, stay out of the pivot. However, in less than a decade, the combination of the new conditions would drag it in the middle of hard conflicts. The irruption of war would be explained by the progress of railways and steam navigation, to which the natural environment of Manchuria was favourable, because of the central plain and the ports open to the south. But the decisive factor for the march to war is revealed in the choice of same and therefore concurrent policies, taken by China, Japan, and Russia, based on the desire to catch up with western military, responsible for a kind of globalization in which survival depended on strength. Hence a colonization for the sake of securitarism, and a peace regime through balance of power and well equipped armies, small reproductions of European militaries from 1871 to 1914. The symbols of this new colonization in Asia are then the Transmanchurian railroad and Port Arthur. Between these two colonialisms, trade or securitarism, interaction is inevitable, given their geographical juxtaposition. But the difference persisted. It is in the two Eastern Asia wars of 1894 and 1904 that we could see the prefiguration of what would be Europe battles of 1914 on.

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Editor’s notes

Original release: Michel Vié, « La Mandchorie et la “Question d’Extrême‑Orient”, 1880‑1910 », Cipango, 18, 2011, 19‑78. Mis en ligne le 16 juin 2013, URL : ; DOI : 10.4000/cipango.1515

Full text

Eastern Question or Far Eastern Question? Construction of the Concepts

  • 1 François Joyaux, La Nouvelle question d’Extrême‑Orient (The New Far Eastern Question), Paris, Payot (...)
  • 2 Pierre Renouvin, La Question d’Extrême‑Orient 1840‑1940 (The Far Eastern Question, 1840‑1940), Pari (...)

1In 1985 François Joyaux, a history professor at the Institut National des Langues et Civilisations Orientales, published a book entitled La Nouvelle Question d’Extrême‑Orient.1 It took up the baton from Pierre Renouvin’s celebrated and unparalleled French‑language work La Question d’Extrême‑Orient,2 published in 1946.

  • 3 For further information on international relations in the Far East see: George M. Beckmann, The Mod (...)

2A genuine continuity bound these two books, in particular their shared focus on political and military relations between the various countries. Their object of study was not the same history retold forty years apart. Each author took a separate look at a specific period in time. Renouvin concluded his presentation in 1940, at the dawn of the Second World War, while Joyaux described the consequences of the war from 1945 onwards. His intentional borrowing of Renouvin’s title and its keywords “Question” and “Far East” underlines the recurrent nature of the same fundamental international problems, despite the change in conditions brought about by the end of World War II. Joyaux’s use of the adjective “new” applies only to a chronological period of historical time.3

3In fact, Renouvin himself intentionally employed an almost provocative process of imitation by modelling the title of his study on the expression “The Eastern Question”, a nineteenth‑century concept used in diplomatic circles in relation to the Eastern Mediterranean. This choice of terminology is not innocent. It suggests both methodological implications in terms of the analysis and, to a certain extent, potential similarities between the Eastern Mediterranean and the Pacific Far East.

4However, this form of localisation does not stem from any scientifically recognised vocabulary of geographical terms. The spaces referred to are vast, impossible to delimit exactly and inevitably heterogeneous.

5The word “Orient” encompasses an undeniably homogeneous set of physical conditions. The Eastern Mediterranean creates a binding link between its three continental borders: European (the Balkans), Asian (Asia Minor, Syria and Palestine) and African (Egypt, Cyrenaica). Also included are two international shipping lanes: the “straits” (the Bosphorus and the Dardanelles) and, beginning in 1870, the Suez Canal and the Red Sea. Throughout the region the climate brings hot summers and an intense aridness that in places stretches to desert conditions. On the other hand, it must not be forgotten that the “Eastern Question” has on occasions encompassed the Northern Balkans, the Black Sea, Mesopotamia and, more astonishingly, the Maghreb to the west.

6In Renouvin’s “Far East” the predominance of history is apparent from the outset. He mentions the monsoon climate, on which a wealth of publications already existed. However, among the territories described by the geographer Jules Sion in 1928, in his two volumes on “Monsoon Asia”, Renouvin excluded India (Southern Asia) and of Southeast Asia retained only the Indochinese Peninsula.

7At the opposite end of the spectrum, the Far East had to include the cold regions of the north‑eastern part of the continent as well as the island chains of the Pacific.

8Nonetheless, this distortion is not as great as it seems. Renouvin was not mistaken in his choice. In the nineteenth century, and particularly in the latter half, East and Far East existed in global politics through their confrontation with the West. In this connection, military inferiority or superiority took precedence over geographical positions. Any analysis must thus involve an examination of the different forms of colonisation, seen in the context of the West’s attempt at world domination during this period.

9It would seem advisable to begin by examining what was known as the West. Far from encompassing the states lying to the west of an imaginary line, the term referred merely to colonialist Europe, or more precisely, the six great powers that coexisted in the region more or less uneasily, namely Great Britain, France, Austria and Russia, then more recently Germany (strengthened by its Prussian heritage) and Italy. Russia is the odd one out in this list: western on the grounds of its formidable military strength, eastern by dint of its location or incongruity. With the exception of Austria, these powers were, or rather saw themselves as, nation‑states. In a bid to guarantee their security, each was heavily armed given what remained a highly uneven level of industrialisation. Their policies were generally at once defensive and geared towards expansion.

10American countries were excluded from this category, even the United States until their victory over Spain (1898): they had little involvement in international politics apart from when their continental interests were at stake.

11The expansion of this dominating Europe was multiform and adapted itself to a variety of territories. Among these, the East and Far East, along with their defining characteristics, must be described, without forgetting that it is through their European roots that we can distinguish the different phases in the history of international relations: 1815‑1848, then 1850‑1870 and finally, 1871‑1914.

  • 4 On military issues in the Far East see: Hata Ikuhiko 秦郁彦, Taiheiyō kokusai kankeishi 太平洋国際関係史 (The (...)

12I propose to separate the word colonisation—irrespective of economic and political motivations—into the act of settlement, which presupposes a massive displacement of people, and the act of conquering, which aims to control a territory through military action.4 Colonisation is only complete when one state successfully carries out both policies.

  • 5 Philippe Rygiel, “Quand l’Europe était une terre d’émigration” (When Europe Was a Land of Emigratio (...)

13In fact, during the nineteenth century it was rare for Western expansion to combine both settlement and conquest. According to experts, fifty‑five million Europeans left their continent between 1820 and 1920, the vast majority of them choosing America as their final destination,5 often to occupy spaces that were still free, yet always under the sovereignty of new states without colonial ties to Europe.

14On the African continent, land of colonisation par excellence, it was military action that dominated. However, such action was often limited to small units, for exploratory purposes as much as for war, stretching out from coastal bases that dated back to earlier periods in European intervention (Portuguese, British and French). The result was a dividing up of the African continent within just a few decades, aided by the absence of stable political structures. The Ethiopian resistance to colonisation by Italy (1896) was an exception. Borders were easily determined and disputes between colonial powers remained limited. The Fashoda Incident of 1898 was another exception, one that can be explained by the Nile basin being bound up in the “Eastern Question”.

15In comparison, the East and Far East could not have appeared open either to mass immigration or to easy military penetration. Their dominant trait was being organised around a deeply entrenched and long‑standing presence of the state, sometimes to the extent of building vast empires: such as the Ottoman Empire close to the West, and far away, China itself. Both of these heterogeneous empires declined in the nineteenth century, mostly due to centrifugal forces at their peripheries where they succumbed to the actions of the Western powers, who were both cause and effect. It was owing to this almost permanent geopolitical fact that the word “Question” (which in diplomatic language signifies a crisis with no plausible solution) was spontaneously employed in the East and, by imitation, in the Far East, in the singular, despite the fact that the problems at hand were numerous and diverse.

A Crucial Subsystem: Manchuria–Wars and Military Colonisations

  • 6 On the “Manchurian Question” see: Kitaoka Shin’ichi, Gotō Shinpei 後藤新平 (Gotō Shinpei), Tokyo, Chūōk (...)
  • 7 An Austrian economist and former minister who became a professor at Harvard University in 1932.

16Manchuria, the focus of this paper, rose from obscurity in the nineteenth century to sudden notoriety in the twentieth as the scene of an intentional and successful industrialisation, a rarity among colonies.6 It thus came to the attention of Joseph Schumpeter.7 It is said that after the war Mao Zedong congratulated Ayukawa Yoshisuke 鮎川義介 (1880‑1967), the founder of Nissan, who in 1937 had contributed to this economic success.

17However, when Manchuria “entered international history” at around the turn of the twentieth century, it was not economic modernity that was the driving force but rather military modernity, as illustrated by the events of the two great wars, the Sino‑Japanese War (1894‑95) and the Russo‑Japanese War (1904‑1905).

  • 8 Known in France through the Battle of Palikao (Baliqiao 里橋 in Chinese), which earned General Cousi (...)

18Admittedly, since the Opium Wars—and particularly since Anglo‑French forces entered Beijing in 18608—China had been considered a military power. More recently, at the end of the Sino‑French War in 1885, the local defeat at Lang Son had succeeded in causing fear in Paris. Nonetheless, none of these conflicts was sufficiently devoid of colonial exoticism to justify a comparison with the memory of the Austro‑Prussian (1866) and Franco‑Prussian (1870) wars.

  • 9 Okamoto Shunpei, The Japanese Oligarchy and the Russo‑Japanese War, op. cit., p. 149. “Even the Bat (...)

19The Far Eastern wars mentioned here were of an entirely different nature. The battles fought in those faraway lands were considerably more modern technologically speaking than those raging concurrently in Cuba, the Philippines (the Spanish‑American War), the Transvaal or even in the Balkans. Port Arthur, a Russian fortress besieged for four months (in 1904), became as famous as Sevastopol in the Crimea. However, it was the naval fleets that best illustrated the level of military technology. The battle of “the Yalu River” in 1894, which pitted Chinese and Japanese squadrons against each other, is considered to be the largest since that of Lissa (fought between Austria and Italy in 1866 in the Adriatic). On 27 May 1905, following the complete destruction of the Russian Baltic Fleet near the island of Tsushima (Sea of Japan), the Japanese victory was compared to Nelson’s at Trafalgar (1805).9

20Such “full‑scale” experiences of battle attracted the attention of Western experts. In London, in the months following the Battle of Tsushima, “First Sea Lord” Admiral John Fisher (1841‑1920) invented two types of ship: the slow but powerful “dreadnoughts” (named after the first battleship in this class), which replaced existing battleships; and the powerful battlecruiser, whose reduced armour gave it speed and which replaced armoured cruisers. Both types of vessel were employed at the Battle of Jutland on 31 May 1916.

21As we shall see, Manchuria (and in particular the Liaodong Peninsula at whose tip Port Arthur is located) first entered history through wars that were not of a colonial nature but rather prefigured Europe’s immediate future.

I. Manchuria and the Three Empires

  • 10 Yves Lacoste, Hérodote, issue entitled “Asie du Nord‑est”, no. 97, Paris, 2000.

22The area covered by the wars—the Kingdom of Korea and Manchuria in particular—can be included in several geopolitical frameworks: 1) the northern edge of the China‑centric world; 2) Central Asia, neither Chinese nor Russian but under Chinese or Russian authority during the nineteenth century; 3) Northeast Asia, a concept defined by Yves Lacoste, pertinent for its inclusion of Japan.10 Whatever the term chosen, the intermediary area was surrounded by three empires at the turn of the twentieth century, when it was thrust to the forefront of world history by modern wars. Today, one hundred years later, the borders have been altered slightly. However, although under different regimes, the three main states are still in place—China, Russia and Japan—, as is the area in‑between, though it has been reduced to the two Koreas and Taiwan. Western colonisation exists only in the form of American bases established sixty years ago in Japan and Korea. Defining the area affected by the non‑colonial Sino‑Japanese and Russo‑Japanese wars is already to describe constants, which nonetheless can only be understood as a sum of historical situations.

At the Far Edge of the “Chinese Continent”

23As far as the chancelleries were concerned, China and Manchuria were indistinguishable according to international law: their official borders with foreign powers did not allow it. To give an example, let us examine the consequences of a treaty signed by China and Russia in Beijing in October 1860. Having recognised the Tsar’s sovereignty over the region lying between the Sea of Japan to the east and a tributary of the Amur River, the Ussuri River, to the west, the Ussuri became a border between the two states. Although located in Manchuria, it marked the boundary between China and the Russian Maritime Province.

24Nevertheless, Manchuria could not be reduced to the status of a Chinese province. In the first place, symbolically speaking the link between Manchuria and China resulted from a dynastic union. The concept of “dual monarchy” existed in nineteenth‑century Europe. However, rather than a union based on equality, it resembled the relationship between Ireland and Great Britain. In Beijing the sovereign, a Manchu descendant since 1644, was present and governed as Emperor of China. In Mukden, the Manchurian capital considered the ancestral home of the Manchu dynasty, his presence as emperor was a fiction. Nevertheless, the two lands’ nominal duality was enough to underline their separation. The existence of the Manchu language “Tartar”, a written and diplomatic language, taught by Édouard Chavanne at the Collège de France in around 1900, can be considered symbolic.

25Secondly, the separation of the two territories was functional. In the seventeenth century the Manchus, who were a tiny minority, had succeeded in conquering China, their mastery in war having met only with the Chinese indifference for military action. This behavioural difference subsequently became a key factor in China’s political stability. In Beijing, the sovereigns of the Manchu dynasty were constantly faced with the problem of protecting their homeland from the immigration of Chinese peasants who could have destroyed the Manchu people. Despite this obstacle, by the time the Sino‑Japanese War broke out the majority of the population in southern Manchuria was already Chinese, although land occupation density was much lower than in China.

26Accordingly, judging by its inhabitants, Manchuria in 1880‑1890 was not yet a Chinese land. It was merely in the early stages of becoming one. The transformation underway was due to a settler colonisation that had recently become possible. After a slow start —and only in places where travel was possible— this colonisation took the form of a mass movement of people after the end of the Russo‑Japanese War. It was this, twenty‑five years later when the Japanese puppet state of Manchukuo was created, that gave the impression of a coexistence between diverse peoples. Ishiwara Kanji 石原莞爾 (1899‑1949), who planned the invasion of Manchuria, described the region at that time as “the land of the Manchu, Mongols and Koreans, [later] colonised by the Chinese”.

27Only China was capable of achieving this type of colonisation. She alone had the necessary demographic “surplus” reinforced by close proximity. Russia and Japan would have liked to achieve such a result but never had the means.

Manchuria, a Central Asian Region to be taken in Account…

  • 11 Pierre Renouvin, La Question d’Extrême‑Orient 1840‑1940, op. cit.

28Clearly distinct from China “proper”, Manchuria also occupied a special place in Central Asia towards the end of the nineteenth century. This long and wide expanse of territories, both massively continental and sparsely populated, stretched from Turkestan in the west to the epicontinental seas of the northern Pacific in the east, the Sea of Japan and the Yellow Sea. If we add the Korean Peninsula to this immensity, Central Asia extends into the East China Sea. Nevertheless, its originality and unity were above all geopolitical in nature. As Renouvin wrote in 1946, within this region, during the long nineteenth century, “Russia bordered the Chinese Empire over thousands of kilometres through Siberia and the Maritime Province”. However, he added, “almost everywhere contact was established in regions where the population was not Chinese and was not controlled to any significant extent by Beijing government officials.11 The border’s continuity should not mask the dissymmetry between its northern and southern sides. On the Russian side the ability and desire to establish a military border and complete sovereignty were hindered by the difficulty in occupying the land sufficiently. On the Chinese side the fragility of its sovereignty (its indirect nature: various vassalages, use of cultural links and prestige) was potentially compensated for by the ability to densely populate any area where the topography, aridity and restrictions on travel allowed it.

in the Construction of Northeast Asia

29In the huge land mass known as Central Asia, the originality of Manchuria stemmed from its consisting of a vast plain at its centre and a wide coastline along the Yellow Sea to the south. Accordingly, it is here that we find the focal point of the Far East’s modern wars: the Liaodong Peninsula and Port Arthur.

30The conjunction of an empty space and a coastline narrows the distance between Manchuria and the two territories adjoining it: on one side the Russian Maritime Province, defined by the powerful naval base of Vladivostok, hardly older than Port Arthur (1866), and on the other the Kingdom of Korea, declared independent in 1876. The political and military weaknesses of Korea could create an impression of emptiness comparable to a population shortage. On the other hand, it enjoyed extensive and well located port facilities in relation to the straits separating it from Japan. All of these lands were bordered by a string of small seas that were not enclosed but distinct, notably the Gulf of Chihli (Bohai). Surrounded by China, Russia and Japan, together the area formed a Northeast Asia that was extremely open to navigation. Although smaller geographically than the region defined by Lacoste, the latter was drawn into rapid geopolitical transformations between 1880 and 1890.

31Nonetheless, such descriptions are only useful if they help to explain the wars fought between the three neighbouring powers between 1894 and 1905. These disputes, recognised as inter‑state conflicts, represented the sudden emergence of advanced military technology in areas that were little or under‑developed. Accordingly, it does not seem acceptable to consider the Sino‑Japanese and Russo‑Japanese wars as variants of the economic rivalries that make up the “Far Eastern Question”, as seen in the French historical‑geographical tradition.

Empire‑Building issues and Strategies in the Face of Manchuria

32Despite undeniable interactions, it would seem pertinent to make two distinctions. The first is geopolitical in nature and involves separating China “proper” and Northeast Asia. The Chinese state is present in both, but while it was colonised by Western countries, it in turn imposed colonisation on Manchuria and Korea. The second distinction concerns the causes of the wars. Could it be that we are influenced by the current domination of free market economy paradigms and the aspirations these bring (a taste for profit, consumerism, etc.)? It often seems that when looking back at past conflicts we have difficulty in perceiving other causalities and realities than those related purely to economics. In fact China, Russia and Japan had long‑term, indeed resolutely permanent, plans that related above all to their security.

  • 12 Sarah C. M. Paine, The Sino‑Japanese War of 1894‑1895, op. cit., pp. 75‑76. Port Lazareff was locat (...)
  • 13 Lionel Babicz, Le Japon face à la Corée à l’ère Meiji, op. cit., p. 34; Nihon gaikōshi jiten, op. c (...)

33Russia’s main concern was to acquire a new naval base capable of correcting the imperfections of Vladivostok. In 1884 an attempt was made in the form of a leasehold at Port Lazareff,12 on the Korean coast of the Sea of Japan. Earlier still, in 1861, towards the end of the Tokugawa shogunate, a Russian warship, the Posadnik, had stationed itself at Tsushima on the pretext that it required repair work and had attempted to create a base there.13 In both cases Russia withdrew without a fight following the intervention of the British fleet. Japan was satisfied with this help. There was no economic interest at stake in these incidents; everything was strategic.

34For China, ensuring the security of the imperial capital was fundamental. Success was possible if the Chinese Northern Seas Fleet (Beiyang) could block the passage of warships and the transport of foreign troops coming from the Yellow Sea. The entrance to the Bohai was controlled by two recently built naval bases. The main one, Port Arthur, was deemed by German experts prior to the Sino‑Japanese War to be equal to Hong Kong. The second, Weihaiwei, lay at the tip of the Shandong Peninsula. However, the policy developed by Li Hongzhang 李鴻章 (1823‑1901), viceroy of the province of Chihli, also aimed to maintain political control over Korea, a former tributary state of Beijing. The Liaodong Peninsula and Port Arthur reinforced this control via the sea.

35Japan’s ultimate aim at the end of the shogunate was to be on truly equal footing—in both military and legal terms—with the great powers. A constant objective was to see the unequal treaties, concluded before 1868, revised. However, the main thrust of Japan’s foreign policy was to secure its national territory by obtaining a dominant political position in Korea, its closest neighbour among foreign powers. Its commercial interests must also be considered. Since 1876 Japanese immigration had been on its way to controlling foreign trade. Yet this commercial success in no way provided the military tranquillity Japan’s leaders in Tokyo desired. Escaping colonisation meant nothing if Japan had to endure the proximity of the Russian and Chinese empires. The problem could only be resolved by turning Korea into a buffer state, or more simply a “defensive wall”, in order to keep these two great continental empires at bay.

36The security policies of these countries were all designed to obtain permanent advantages. Unlike commercial rivalries, they did not lend themselves easily to arbitration. Between China, Russia and Japan the idea was not to share the colonisable territories but rather to use them for the purpose of strategic reinforcement. Nonetheless, it would be appropriate at this point to explain what conjunction of historical situations and geographical facts led the probability of war to become a constant only in 1880‑1890.

  • 14 Jean‑Baptiste Duroselle, L’Europe de 1815 à nos jours, op. cit., pp. 127‑131.

37The year 1880 marked the beginning of a new phase in the expansion of the European states beyond their continent, which Jean‑Baptiste Duroselle termed “the great colonial expansion”.14 Tunisia, Egypt, Sub‑Saharan Africa (almost in its entirety) and Southeast Asia were all affected. Great Britain, France, Germany and Italy—the new powers—played central roles. The United States joined the movement later. The former colonial empires with their weakened metropoles (Spain and Portugal) found themselves called into question (the Spanish‑American War in 1898, the Transvaal War in 1899).

  • 15 In Feydeau’s comedy Un fil à la patte (1894, known as Cat Among the Pigeons in English) a Peruvian (...)

38At the same time, these successes depended on technological advances that encouraged not only international trade but also military action away from home: railways and shipbuilding were both involved in the revival of colonisation. The production of warships demanded technology (turbines, armour‑plating and artillery) that was only possible for the great industrial nations, particularly since ships were quickly rendered obsolete. There was thus a conspicuous international trade in warships in which British shipyards led the field.15

39From a chronological point of view, relations between China, Russia and Japan in Northeast Asia were part of these global changes, but to what extent? Very little from a political perspective; very much so from a technological point of view, with a time lag however between the use of navigation (transportation and battle fleets) as of 1880, and the construction of railways as of 1896. It thus seems impossible to explain the genesis and events of the Sino‑Japanese and Russo‑Japanese wars as part of “the great colonisation”. However, although a time lag in the march of history can be observed, does this reflect the weight of archaisms in Asia or a foreshadowing of World War I in Europe? First of all, beginning in 1850, Russia in Crimea (1855), as well as China and Japan during the process of “opening up”, had suffered the same consequences of their inferiority, particular at sea. Their recently suffered defeats did not lead them into colonial expansion but rather into a process of remilitarisation aimed at achieving rapid efficiency and asserting their power.

  • 16 Alfred Thayer Mahan, The Influence of Sea Power upon History: 1660‑1783, Boston, Little, Brown & Co (...)

40Secondly, the extremely difficult nature of land travel inevitably led the three empires to assign a decisive role—both in attack and defence—to the navy, by planning to associate transportation and combat. Although it is impossible to say for sure in the case of Russia and China, it is known that the first book by Alfred Thayer Mahan (1840‑1914), The Influence of Sea Power upon History (1890),16 was carefully read in Japan.

  • 17 Sarah C. M. Paine, The Sino‑Japanese War of 1894‑1895, op. cit., pp. 132‑134, on the Kowshing “inci (...)

41No doubt this was a necessary consequence of insularity. Even where land routes existed, sea travel was preferable by far. In order to travel from Beijing to Seoul, for example, the best route involved travelling through Dagu (Taku) and the Gulf of Bohai, via Port Arthur and the Yellow Sea. It was here that on 25 July 1894 the Japanese Navy inspected, and then sank, a troop carrier loaned from the British and carrying 1,000 Chinese soldiers to Korea.17

42Beginning in 1880 it became increasingly clear that geographical conditions were leading the three neighbouring powers not to defend their coasts but rather to master the seas, hence the creation of three modern fleets composed of European ships built to international technological standards. Sino‑Japanese and Russo‑Japanese rivalries reached an intensity akin to that observed on the eve of 1914 in the North Sea between the British and Germans. In order to shed light on these events they must be situated in the general evolution of the Far Eastern question up until 1904.

II. Coexistence or Incompatibility between Imperialisms (1890‑1901)

  • 18 Pierre Renouvin, La Question d’Extrême‑Orient, 1840‑1940, op. cit., pp. 4‑7.

43The Far Eastern question is generally presented as having evolved after the mid‑nineteenth century under the joint influence of two guiding forces: on the one hand the widely held view in industrialised countries that China, with its massive population, was “a commercial Eldorado”; and on the other the later fear that Japan, as the only Asian nation to have overcome the handicap of the unequal treaties, might succeed in preventing Westerners from exploiting the Chinese market.18

44While there is an element of reality to such views, they focus too heavily on economic interests and overly generalise because they seek a monistic explanation in China’s demographics.

  • 19 Apart from in western Siberia. See Roger Portal, Cours de la Sorbonne, La Russie industrielle de 18 (...)

45The Trans‑Siberian Railway was not built to serve as a tool for commerce.19 During the Russo‑Japanese War some 500,000 troops were transported to Manchuria at a rate of fourteen trains per day. For its part, Japan ascended to the rank of military power in 1905, well before it became an industrial power. Instead of the monistic explanation, I propose to recognise that a variety of colonial (or national) policies existed in the Far East and observe how they were applied to geographically distinct colonial territories: China proper and the area of friction (or cohabitation) between China, Russia and Japan in Manchuria and, possibly, in Korea. The next step is to place their interactions within a chronological timeframe.

Before the Sino‑Japanese War (24 July 1894)

46The separation between the two geopolitical spheres was maintained without difficulty. The colonisation imposed on China was stable, exceptionally so for the period, due to it being founded on the prevention of military risks in order to serve an ideology of commercial exploitation. It rested on two legal bases which only merged locally: on the one hand, the unequal treaties concluded in each case between China and a colonising state and based on a limited imperialism; and on the other the Most Favoured Nation clause, which featured in each of these treaties and allowed Western traders to enjoy the same privileges and guarantees in all of the ports open to them. This system was born of the intuition that a limited imperialism should also be (or made it possible to also be) a collective imperialism. This gave rise to two types of collaboration: on the one hand between China, its administrative officers and foreigners; and on the other between Western authorities and businesses, despite their rivalry. In fact, this situation reflected a meeting between the traditional attitude of the Chinese empire towards the barbarians and Britain’s supremacy both in trade and at sea.

  • 20 Pierre Renouvin, ibid., p. 126.
  • 21 George M. Beckmann, The Modernization of China and Japan, op. cit., p. 171.

47This naval supremacy at times led to a kind of right to police in the “Chinese commercial Eldorado”. In 1884, when the Russians set their sights on Port Lazareff, a squadron was dispatched from Hong Kong to Port Hamilton in the Korea Strait to prevent them from entering Chinese waters. In the autumn of 1884, as the Sino‑French War continued to rage, Jules Ferry abandoned his order to blockade ports in order to avoid damaging the interests of “foreign powers”.20 Finally, shortly before engaging in operations against China in July 1894, Japan promised not to attack the Shanghai region.21

48On the whole, the sphere of collective imperialism was voluntarily kept out of the conflicts, as was the Beijing region owing to the resident Manchu dynasty which guaranteed the legitimacy of the treaties. In the other geopolitical sphere to the north, between the empires, no conflicts broke out. Yet the ground was clearly being laid for the coming wars: on the Russian side through the construction of railways, and on the Chinese and Japanese sides through a parallel increase in naval power.

  • 22 Roger Portal, Cours de la Sorbonne, La Russie industrielle de 1890 à 1927, op. cit., pp. 89‑91. Yam (...)

49The Siberian railway or Trans‑Siberian Railway, stretching 7,416 kilometres from Chelyabinsk to Vladivostok, had been planned since 1850. However, it was only in the post‑Bismarckian Europe, after the Franco‑Russian Alliance had been concluded, that French banks were able to secure the financing. It was decided that Russia’s far eastern provinces should be opened up via an overland route. The railway was to follow the Amur River along the left bank and, after a section on riverboat, re‑join at Khabarovsk a line under construction in the Maritime Province running from Vladivostok.22

50The Russian army only had around 15,000 men stationed in the Far East. Reinforcing them and providing fresh supplies was difficult. The Trans‑Siberian Railway provided a radical solution. However, solving the isolation problem via a railway in no way resolved the port situation; in fact it aggravated it, particularly since contact between the territories via sea remained essential.

  • 23 Pierre Renouvin, ibid., p. 134.

51Although unproven,23 it is likely that as construction neared the Transbaikal the question of which port should serve as the Trans‑Siberian’s terminus was discussed, since the inadequacy of Vladivostok, where the line officially ended, had long been recognised. Far beyond the technical victories, it was inevitable to think that such a project would result in a military colonisation combining railways, an ice‑free port and a powerful fleet.

52At least, this was how Russia’s actions were perceived in China and Japan. The space needed for this military construction could only be found in Manchuria and/or Korea. This signalled the reappearance in the north of a high‑priority threat which Japan had thought largely erased by the signing in Saint Petersburg, on 7 May 1875, of the Treaty of Saint Petersburg exchanging Sakhalin Island with the Kuril Islands (Karafuto‑Chishima kōkan jōyaku 樺太千島交換条約).

  • 24 Abolished in 1876.
  • 25 Yuan Shikai 袁世凱 (1859‑1916), ambassador to Seoul, embodied this system in the manner of Lord Cromer (...)
  • 26 The economic and political success of Britain’s colonisation of Egypt was known in Japan and no dou (...)

53However, this represented a future threat. Decidedly more worrying was China’s reappearance in Korea in 1885. Japanese statesmen saw this—far beyond the return of the status of “tributary state” in a sinicised Asia24—as an example of modern colonialism,25 the same kind instituted by France in Tunisia (1881) and, more particularly, by Britain in Egypt (1882).26 A “modern” colonisation of Korea by China would have seen Japan’s dreams of security crumble. In Tokyo, however, far from challenging the validity of the idea of a buffer state, these failures were explained away by the weakness of the Japanese navy. The Korean problem became one of controlling the Yellow Sea.

54The Chinese and Japanese fleets were equal in number at the Battle of the Yalu River on 17 September 1894, with each side possessing ten vessels. However, they had different qualities reflecting different policies.

  • 27 Tonnage calculations can vary, hence the slight differences between sources.
  • 28 Ikeda Kiyoshi, Nihon no kaigun Jōkan, op. cit., p. 100.
  • 29 Lionel Babicz, Le Japon face à la Corée à l’ère Meiji, op. cit., pp. 202‑208.

55In China, the “Northern Seas Fleet” was the work of Li Hongzhang, who in 1882 had commissioned two 7,335‑ton27 battleships from the Vulcan shipyard in Stettin, Germany: the Dingyuan 定遠号 (or Ting Yuen) and the Zhenyuan 鎮遠号 (or Chen Yuen). Armed with four 305mm guns, the largest calibre of naval artillery at the time, and fitted with thick armour plating, they were capable of reaching fourteen knots. In Europe they would have been powerful ships; in the Far East, where they arrived in 1885, they were unrivalled. The Chinese fleet achieved absolute superiority. When on 5 July 1891 the two battleships made a trip to Japan, this was seen as a show of their invulnerability.28 Strengthening the navy continued to be imperative for each of the successive dominant personalities in Tokyo: Iwakura Tomomi 岩倉具視 (1825‑1883), following the “Imo Mutiny” (Jingo gunran 壬午軍乱) in Seoul in 1882, and Yamagata Aritomo 山縣有朋 (1838‑1922) in 1890 expressed the same opinions.29

  • 30 Toyama Saburō, Nihon kaigunshi, op. cit., pp. 52‑53.

56Between 1883 and 1894 twenty‑four ships went into service.30 Up until 1888 the majority were the work of Japanese shipyards. They were small vessels approximately termed gunboats, corvettes or cruisers. Finances could hardly stretch to commissioning ships in Europe. In Japan itself a lack of either facilities or materials meant that it was impossible to build vessels over 2,000 tons. However, three large cruisers of over 3,600 tons were purchased: two in England (from Armstrong) and one in France (from the shipyards of Le Havre). Delivered in 1886, they were equipped with 260mm guns. This represented a first Japanese tradition of rapid ships (reaching eighteen or nineteen knots) that were well‑or even excessively armed in relation to their tonnage. However, the absence of battleships was notable and fear of the two Chinese vessels grew. It thus appeared necessary to make increasing use of foreign shipbuilders.

  • 31 One of the cruisers in the French Navy was given the name Émile Bertin in 1934.

57The most immediate solution was to commission battleships in Europe, something Japan would only make up its mind to do quite late, in 1892: it was not until 1897 that two 12,500‑ton ships, the Fuji and the Yashima, were completed. In the meantime, Japan sought to counter‑attack using massively armed mid‑sized ships. In 1888 the Yokosuka Naval Arsenal was headed by the French engineer Émile Bertin.31 He designed three 4,278‑ton coastal warships (kaibōkan 海防艦) each equipped with a massive 320mm gun supposedly capable of destroying the Chinese battleships while maintaining a top speed of sixteen knots. However, the rate of fire on these guns was slow: only one shell every five minutes. Japan thus turned its eye to cruisers, in which the ship’s speed and rate of fire were more in harmony. The Yoshino, a 4,216‑ton vessel built by Armstrong, was the world’s fastest cruiser with a top speed of twenty‑two knots.

58The Japanese army was confident in its ability to fight the Chinese on land, but its command of the sea remained uncertain. The result was a certain prudence in Japan’s policy in Korea, even on the eve of war. And yet, Japan did opt to engage in war. The most important issue seems to have been Japan’s perception of the dangers at hand and prioritising of them in a relatively short period of time. There may be a risk involved in going to war and another in the reduced security potentially resulting from not going to war. In order to clarify the reasoning behind the decision taken in July 1894, it would seem essential to make a comparison with the one that drove Japan to attack Russia in February 1904, almost ten years later.

The Treaty of Shimonoseki (17 April 1895) and the Intervention of the Three Powers (23 April 1895)

59The question at hand is simple: to what extent did these events alter the juxtaposition of the two types of imperialism?

60The peace treaty imposed on China contained four categories of demands:

1) To recognise Korea’s “independence” by ceasing all intervention there;
2) To pay war reparations just like all defeated nations at the time;
Following the abolition of the trade treaty of 1871 (Nisshin shūkō jōki 日清修好条規), to conclude a new agreement granting Japan most-favoured-nation status, the use of several ports formerly closed to foreigners and the right to set up factories there. These provisions saw Japan enter the collective colonial system, providing it with numerous additional benefits and supposedly promoting its maintenance, hence Great Britain’s decision to support the Shimonoseki peace treaty;
4) The cession of three territorial dependencies that had previously been Chinese: Taiwan, the small neighbouring archipelago of the Penghu Islands and, in Manchuria, the entire Liaodong Peninsula (from the Yalu River in the east to the Liao River on which junks sailed). Each of the above areas was occupied by the Japanese army.

61Although none of these annexations officially concerned “China proper”, such changes in sovereignty had not been imposed in the Far East since the creation of the British colony of Hong Kong. In fact, if the Shimonoseki Treaty resulted in a serious international crisis in the space of a few days, it was because this return to a colonisation that the great powers feigned to have forgotten concerned Port Arthur. The rapid succession of events proves the gravity of the crisis, which, as was quickly understood, had the potential to lead to a new war. The treaty was signed in Shimonoseki on 17 April 1895. On 23 April in Tokyo the diplomatic representatives of Russia, Germany and France each presented the Japanese Government with an identical note inviting it to return Liaodong to China. On 1 May Japan offered to retain only the southern tip, in other words Port Arthur. This solution was rejected. On 5 May Japan submitted to the demands of this “Triple Intervention” (sangoku kanshō 三国干渉). The crisis had lasted just twenty days. It was agreed that an increased war indemnity would be paid and that until this was settled by China, Japan would retain control (as previously agreed) of Weihaiwei.

62The arguments exchanged during these decisive moments are of no real value. What is important is the power struggle that led Japan to a kind of capitulation, as well as the novelty and scale of the diplomatic combinations, in other words, of the pressure exerted on the Far East.

63Even before Japan was hit by this order, Russia had already concentrated its naval forces. Some of the Black Sea Fleet’s modern ships had been transferred to Vladivostok via the Suez Canal. Although it had conquered the Chinese navy at the Battle of the Yalu River, then at the Battle of Weihaiwei, the Japanese fleet was no match for the Russian navy. The Chinese battleships had been captured because the crews had made a series of disastrous errors and were not equal to the technical capacities of their ships. Such failings could not be hoped for from the Russians. The Russian plan was to organise a blockade of Japan’s ports and, using its command of the seas, suffocate the Japanese troops spread throughout the continent. Japan found itself facing the risk of all‑out defeat. The inadequacy of its naval forces was decisive.

64Japan and Russia were reacting to immediate problems, whereas the other powers were influenced more by ulterior motives essentially unrelated to their interests in the Far East. France and Germany sought to please Russia: France with a view to strengthening the military alliance concluded in 1892; Germany in a bid to draw Russian forces to Asia in order to weaken the military resources of this same alliance. The coalition was thus chasing two contradictory objectives in Europe, since the driving force behind this paradoxical grouping was none other than the French‑German enmity. It is true that neither France nor Germany committed themselves long‑term to supporting the Russian expansion. Against Japan their coalition was limited. Great Britain, on the other hand, took a clearly neutral stance by refusing to come to Russia’s assistance, even camouflaged as aid to China. However, it also refused to support Japan, which had hoped to organise a counter‑intervention in its favour, involving the United States and Italy, in order to retain Port Arthur. Britain’s proclaimed neutrality may have had the underlying aim of avoiding war in the Far East, which the obstinacy of both Japan and Russia made almost inevitable. This neutrality had the effect of putting pressure on Japan, not in favour of Russia but of the peace that was indispensable to the collective imperialism in the Far East.

65While neither the governments nor public opinion underestimated the importance of the Sino‑Japanese War, they drew what were often hasty conclusions, claiming that China was no longer a great power or that Japan had failed to join these ranks. On the whole, the Far East’s two great nations were left weakened by this series of events which prefigured, or were a necessary condition of, a new upsurge in colonialism. In fact, of the three security policies developed between 1880 and 1890 with regards Manchuria‑Korea, two disappeared: the Chinese policy through the country’s defeats, and the Japanese policy through effacement. This left the Russian expansion, which it seemed plausible to reincorporate into the realm of simple colonisation, thus eliminating its Northeast Asian specificity. But to what extent are these new interpretations grounded in reality?

66In the case of Japan, this intellectual reconstruction overly ignores the facts. Firstly, in July 1894, following negotiations with Britain and the United States, Japan obtained the eventual abolition (after a period of five years) of the right to extraterritoriality (chigai hōken 治外法権) for consular jurisdictions (ryōji saiban seido 領事裁判制度). These had been instituted in Japan at the end of the Edo period. For over twenty years, ever since the Iwakura Mission (1871‑72), Japan had vainly sought their revision. Obtained in 1894 and made effective in 1899, this represented a decisive victory on a symbolic rather than a practical level.

67Secondly, the year 1895 saw Japan’s foreign policy grow increasingly complex owing to its occupation of Taiwan and new interest in economic expansion in Southern China. Two geopolitical options featured henceforth: the North (Korea and Manchuria) and the South (continental edge of the East China Sea), with Japan entrusting the task of deciding their importance to opportunism and without military action being assumed from the outset. In reality, the expression hokushin nanshin 北進南進 (northern advance, southern advance) was more concerned with determining a geographical framework than actual intentions.

68Thirdly, if Japan took a back seat politically speaking it was because its principal concern of military security could be achieved outside of international politics. In 1896 Japan began a complete upgrading of its naval fleet, throwing its entire financial resources behind the project. The war indemnity paid by China, in addition to the vote granted to parliament by liberal deputies in favour of the country’s military budgets, enabled the biggest new ships to be constructed overseas.

69During the Battle of the Yalu River none of the ships on the Japanese side had exceeded 5,000 tons. The two British‑built battleships were delivered in 1897. They each weighed 12,320 tons. The new programme required the commissioning of four 15,000‑ton battleships and six cruisers weighing 10,000 tons each. In all, these twelve great ships, totalling 145,000 tons of world‑class technology, entered the Japanese fleet between 1897 and 1902. Ten of them came from British shipyards.

  • 32 Ian Nish, The Anglo‑Japanese Alliance: The Diplomacy of Two Island Empires 1894‑1907, op. cit., p.  (...)
  • 33 Often minister and a future genrō along with six other key figures form the Chōshū and Satsuma doma (...)

70The year 1902 was thus decisive in terms of Japan’s diplomatic presence in the Far East, representing the year it completed its massive naval build‑up programme. According to Satow,32 the British ambassador to Tokyo, Inoue Kaoru 井上馨 (1836‑1915)33 is said to have declared in 1898 that his country should avoid any involvement in international issues until 1902.

71Japan’s resulting naval strength can be defined quite objectively by comparing it to the great international fleets. In Europe, Great Britain continued to far outclass Japan (which had to handle British interests with care). However, the gap with French, Russian and German superiority was narrower and Japan was on equal footing with Italy. One might venture to conclude that Japan’s governments were well aware that, barring a conflict with the British, they could only lose their desired security in two circumstances: a war against a European coalition or the transfer by one of those faraway nations of its entire fleet to the colonial lands of Asia. This eventuality could only have appeared conceivable for Russia, given its unique geographical location.

72Other considerations, either positive or negative in nature, cannot be overlooked. On the one hand, the Japanese navy was not designed for faraway combat. If it stayed close to its ports there was no need to be overly concerned about coal storage aboard ship. The tonnage reserved for armour‑plating could thus be increased without risk. Conversely, the fact that Japan had purchased all of its large modern ships overseas, unlike the Western powers, presented a considerable risk in the event of war, for a belligerent state cannot purchase more ships until peace has been restored. All of these factors underline the fact that Japan’s effacement was not destined to last for long.

73What of China’s weakness then and its ability to withstand a new period of colonialism? Following a series of defeats, it would not be helpful to judge its military strength. On the other hand, data of an almost natural (land mass and demographics) or cultural nature (the power of its written language to integrate) are clearly more stable. However, China’s survival as a state depended above all on the rivalry between foreign interests.

The Territorial Dismemberment of China by Western Colonisation (1896‑1899)

74It is well known that between 1896 and 1899 Russia, France, Germany and Great Britain were all granted sovereign rights by China. Italy and Japan soon went down this same path. With annexation having essentially been morally forbidden, these sovereign rights were awarded for a more or less limited period of time for areas designated as “leased territories”, or for the construction of railways. Unlike the ports already open to foreigners, these new acquisitions—which did not fall within the scope of the most‑favoured nation clause—depended in each instance only on the beneficiary nation: in other words, the one that had signed the treaty with China. This resulted in an attack not only on China and its territorial unity (the dismemberment leading to the so‑called “Break‑up of China”) but also on “commercial equality” (known as the Open Door principle) for the foreign traders officially recognised by the treaties. This new policy represented a subversion of the order based on collective imperialism which was championed by Great Britain and the most beneficial to its interests.

75In addition to the transfer of sovereign rights with immediate effect, promises of “non‑alienation” began to appear in 1898. In the provinces controlled by colonial powers, whose privileges were locally preponderant, China guaranteed the future monopoly of any new concessions it may grant. The term “sphere of influence” thus referred to the combination within a specific area of an established superiority and its potential confirmation in the future. In fact, Great Britain, Germany, France and Japan (in Fujian) all made separate requests for a “sphere of influence”. The chancelleries saw this as the beginning of a breaking up of the Chinese Empire into protectorates.

76Taking advantage of China’s military collapse and Japan’s diplomatic effacement, a short but extensive wave of colonial expansion hit the Far East in 1896‑1900. It consisted in adapting to the Chinese “commercial Eldorado”, until then ruled by a collective colonialism, the more conflicting ideas formed in Southeast Asia (Indochina and Burma) or Northeast Asia concerning the Manchurian and Korean “empty spaces”. Western statesmen and diplomats expected the Chinese state to disappear as an inevitable consequence of colonisation, just as they anticipated the end of the historical and multi‑ethnic Ottoman state. The territorial and multinational colonisations in China played the same destructive role as national minorities did in the Balkans and the Eastern Mediterranean. The same expression of “sick man” was employed. But whereas the Ottoman Empire disappeared, China survived.

77All of these predictions were proved wrong in the Far East in a short space of time. Militarisation occurred only on and after the Boxer Rebellion (1900). In 1899, following three years of decline, the consensual model of colonisation, as seen in China “proper”, once again became dominant along with its two corollary institutions: commercial freedom (as opposed to privilege) and the pre‑eminent sovereignty of Beijing, guardian of the treaties. The unresolved issue was how these could be extended to Manchuria. This paradoxical conclusion to the expected “break‑up” of China came about before the Boxer Rebellion and was the product of an internal dynamic. The key role was played by the relationships between the great colonial powers.

  • 34 On this subject see by contrast the remarkable study by Duroselle on the genesis of World War I, L’ (...)

78But how can we understand such a complete and rapid reversal of the situation? In fact, a simple explanation suffices. The majority of the colonial powers interested in obtaining political and military rights ceased to see a contradiction in accepting commercial freedom. However, it must also be pointed out that the process that was heading towards a dismembering of China took place in separate phases: in 1896, 1898 and finally in 1899. Furthermore, Great Britain was never able to go as far as making an armed threat. Ultimately, all possible disputes between states were settled through bilateral negotiations rather than clashes between groups, thus eliminating the risk of a classification into winners and losers. The feeling of an existential threat never materialised.34

  • 35 The treaty was signed in Moscow, where the coronation of Russian emperors took place, and not in Sa (...)
  • 36 Aleksei Borisovich Lobanov‑Rostovskii (1824‑1896)

79In 1896, first of all, two expansions targeted Chinese territory, though only at its periphery: the French expansion from Tonkin and the Russian expansion into northern Manchuria. Russia had acquired permission to build the Trans‑Manchurian Railway, the cornerstone of the Trans‑Siberian, thereby shortening the journey by 900 kilometres without changing the final destination of Vladivostok. Li Hongzhang, who was present in Moscow for the coronation of Tsar Nicholas II, signed a secret treaty of alliance (mitsuyaku 密約)35 against Japan with the Russian minister Alexey Lobanov,36 who obtained the right to create the northern Manchurian line under the name Chinese Eastern Railway (Tōshin tetsudō 東清鉄道). In 1896 nothing threatened British interests and there was thus no diplomatic storm.

  • 37 Jean‑Baptiste Duroselle, ibid., p. 136: “Great Britain was determined to eliminate the French from (...)

80On the contrary, a violent storm broke out late in 1897 when within weeks of each other, Germany occupied Jiaozhou Bay 膠州湾 and Russia seized Port Arthur. Agreements were signed in 1898 and set out the rights granted by China. The British reaction was immediate but ruled out military force. “Port Arthur isn’t worth a war,” declared the deputy prime minister Lord Balfour in London. With 1898 also being the year of the Fashoda Incident37 and the situation in the Transvaal worsening, Britain needed to conserve its strength. It merely requested that in the ports now controlled by Germany and Russia that these nations not reserve economic rights for their own nationals. It then obtained a promise from China to not alienate the Yangtze Valley, and as territorial compensation occupied the “new territories” of Hong Kong, along with the former base of Weihaiwei vacated by the Japanese.

81The principle of equal commercial opportunities among the colonisers of various nations could not be applied to the railways. This would have resulted in an excess of parallel lines. An amicable distribution seemed preferable. This no longer took the form of monopolies granted by China but of a direct agreement between two colonial powers. British policy headed in this direction in late 1898 with the signing of an agreement with Germany recognising the latter’s railway rights in Shandong. It was followed on 22 April 1899 by an agreement with Russia for the Chinese territories north of the Great Wall (and thus in Manchuria). Great Britain also saw its rights to the Yangtze Valley confirmed.

82The next development, coming in addition to the diversity of colonial treaties, was the Open Door note sent by American Secretary of State John Hay to the great European powers, but not to Japan. Less than two years after the naval strikes in Jiaozhou Bay and Port Arthur, which were followed by commercial promises, territorial compensations and the exchanging of regional monopolies, this text made free commercial competition an ideal of political coexistence, seen as a specific feature of the Chinese territory. All of the powers consulted gave their assent, except for Russia, which refused.

83Could this peaceful commercial coexistence be said to represent a kind of “end of the road” for the Far Eastern question with regards China? It seems that a harmonisation of colonial policies based on British practices could have been achieved had there not already been signs in various places of Russia’s desire for power.

  • 38 On the subject of Masampo see Ian Nish, The Anglo‑Japanese Alliance: The Diplomacy of Two Island Em (...)

84In March, Russia requested permission from the Korean government to set up a coaling station in Masampo, at the tip of the Korean Peninsula opposite Tsushima.38 Officially the Russian plan was to organise a maritime transport service between Port Arthur and Vladivostok. Japan immediately read the plan as Russia’s intention to create a third naval base that would enable it to control the straits. Nothing concrete was decided, but Japan was alarmed: Masampo would be an even more fearful prospect than Port Arthur.

  • 39 Ibid., pp. 93‑94.

85The Russian navy was a source of concern for the British and Japanese admiralties.39 All of the European powers undertook a modernisation of their fleet of battleships at the end of the nineteenth century. For Russia, however, its recently built battleships were stationed at Port Arthur. This provided them with greater mobility, being neither subject to winter ice nor to the constraints of the controlled routes (such as the Dardanelles, the Suez Canal and the Danish straits). No sooner had they entered service than they were sent to the Far East. Consequently, it was possible to predict the composition of Russia’s Pacific fleet by taking into account the number and characteristics of its ships under construction. For the British admiralty, this accumulation of Russian and Japanese battleships created the need to send new ships of the line to Hong Kong.

  • 40 A Chinese port (Dalian) which became a Russian commercial port (Dalny) and finally, in 1906, an imp (...)
  • 41 J.‑L. Van Regemorter (La Russie et le monde au xxe siècle, op. cit.) believes that the ministers of (...)

86Further proof of expansion was Russia’s refusal to mention Manchuria in its reply to John Hay, all the while agreeing to apply the Open Door principle to the commercial port of Dalny.40 Through the force of its silence, Russia succeeded in isolating the Manchurian territory from China proper without ever contesting the Beijing government’s sovereignty in the region. It is probable that Russia wished to signal to the other powers that Manchuria was an exception among Chinese provinces and as such, was available exceptionally for colonisation. These terms are vague but we must examine the nature of the fear Russia elicited, either as a result of its show of strength or, precisely, through the obscurity surrounding its intentions.41 The danger emanating from Russia was thus perceived differently according to the circumstances of the powers: it was rarely direct but instead was generally seen through the prism of its potential effects on the Far East. Japan alone was under threat. Indeed, Russia threatened Japan’s two sources of security: superiority at sea in the waters around the archipelago and the neutralisation of Korea. Few in the military high commands thought that war was likely: Russian colonisation was still only being built and Japan was not yet considered a major military force.

87The most feared outcome was the collapse of the Chinese state, the keystone of commercial colonialism. A weak sovereign China was a satisfactory state of affairs for all: Great Britain, Germany, France, the United States and Japan. The system remained fragile but who would want to deal it a deathblow?

  • 42 Pierre Renouvin, La Question d’Extrême‑Orient 1840‑1940, op. cit., p. 173.

88Suspicion fell on Russia, though without any certainty on which to base such a judgement. It is this that Renouvin expressed in his hypothetical comment: “if the initiative of one of the powers—Russia—were to bring about the collapse of the Chinese Empire…”.42

89The way the sentence is arranged, even graphically, shows that singling out Russia was neither a reasoned decision by the historian nor a fact imposed by the reading of diplomatic documents. It reflects an opinion, widely held in 1900, that merits an explanation. Renouvin, however, did not undertake such an investigation, no doubt because this would have entailed discussing the political or economic origins of colonialism.

90In 1900, when the Boxer Rebellion broke out in protest against Western colonisation, serious questions remained unanswered:

Was there a future for China as a state?”
“How far would Russian expansionism go?”
“What was Manchuria’s true international status in the Far East?”

91The uprising provided the answers to these questions in the space of a few months.

The Boxer Episode (1900‑1901)

92The Boxer Rebellion was a brief but decisive episode that confirmed China’s role as a “commercial Eldorado” and made the Russo‑Japanese War almost inevitable due to its effects on Manchuria. The separation of the two geopolitical regions of China proper and Northeast Asia was re‑established.

  • 43 Nora Wang, L’Asie orientale du milieu du xixe siècle à nos jours, op. cit., p. 78.
  • 44 Ian Nish, op. cit., p. 81.

93The Boxer movement was fundamentally a hostile expression of Chinese “popular nationalism”43 towards foreigners and Christians. However, when it began to pose a threat to colonial interests, British Prime Minister Salisbury wrote that “Russia, not China, seems to me the greatest danger of the moment”.44 Right from the beginning, then, there were two power struggles at work: on the one hand a few colonial‑type battles between the Boxers and foreign forces (June‑August 1900), and on the other a diplomatic clash involving, in various ways, Russia, Japan or even Great Britain and Germany, with long‑lasting consequences.

94The military aspect of the Boxer Rebellion sheds light on diplomatic history via the battle locations, the numbers of soldiers involved and the losses sustained. The Boxers only became active in places where they did not come up against the Chinese administration, such as in part of Manchuria where they attacked the South Manchurian Railway. At this point the Russian army took complete control of the territory, without consulting the Western powers. The military issue became a diplomatic one because it came on top of what had already been perceived of the Russian expansion. On the other hand, when the siege and attack on the Beijing Legation Quarter began (20 June to 14 August 1900 in particular), after rail and telegraph communications between Dagu Fort, Tianjin and the capital were cut, the problem once again became a military and diplomatic one. Troops had to be found, and with the Chinese state now involved, a peace treaty needed to be considered. The counter‑attack had to involve not only the colonial powers but also those—the United States and Japan—represented in Beijing.

95Only two significant battles were fought during the march on Beijing. On 11 June a force of 2,000 men led by British Admiral Seymour, in accordance with traditional military norms, was driven back. On 14 July a multinational army ten times the size (8,000 Japanese, 5,000 Russians, 3,000 British and 2,500 Americans) took control of Tianjin. Its losses numbered 750 killed and wounded compared to 15,000 Boxers, representing a ratio of 1 to 20. Although the number of soldiers had risen considerably, the battles themselves were still of a colonial nature. Beijing was occupied without difficulty on 14 August and restoring peace became a priority. In the meantime, in July that year American Secretary Of State Hay sent a second note in support of the Open Door principle and demanding that China’s territorial integrity be respected.

96The peace treaty (Boxer Protocol, 7 September 1901) represented the triumph of financial and commercial colonialism. The Chinese state was both confirmed and rendered completely dependent on the Western banks from which it borrowed money to pay the indemnities due to the colonising powers. The military guarantees included in the treaty were collective: guards in Beijing around the embassies and contingents sent by the eight great powers (United States, Japan and the six European nations) to protect the railway and telegraph lines around Tianjin. The “Japanese garrison” (Chūgoku chūtongun 中国駐屯軍 renamed Shina chūtongun 支那駐屯軍in 1913) was destined to be the largest, given the proximity of Japan.

97The coalition’s inability to either mention or resolve the issue of Russia’s massive military presence in Manchuria was the Boxer Protocol’s main (negative) trait. It was the Russian (and not the Chinese) side of the Boxer episode that turned the Far Eastern question on its head, and this in three areas: 1) the role of land armies in addition to that of the navy; 2) Manchuria’s entry into the conflicts; 3) the unresolvable dispute between Russia and Japan.

The New Essential Element in Territorial Control: Ground Troops

  • 45 Remember that the Marchand mission, designed to give France control over the Middle Nile Valley, ha (...)

98A decisive change in the balance of power came about when on 23 June, followed by 3 and 5 July, the British government asked Japan to intervene against the Boxers. Japan and Russia were the only powers to possess massive, efficient armies in the area. Britain chose cooperation with Japan. In most cases colonisation in the nineteenth century had been carried out with minimal military means, with arms and professionalism making up for numbers.45 The colonial powers’ fear of the Boxer movement was not surprising. However, only “low‑military‑cost” colonialism was thwarted. Yet the help requested from Japan (one, then three divisions) seems disproportionate. Great Britain needed to take other threats into consideration: the Boer War in South Africa and the Russian expansion in the Far East. In China, the Japanese army was asked to occupy the province of Beijing in order to prevent the Russians from deploying troops there. The lesson learned from the Boxer Rebellion was clear: it was impossible to colonise a territory without also incorporating it into strategically coherent empires.

Towards a Crystallisation of the Divergences between Empires

99The situation in Manchuria became inextricably complex. The occupation by the Russian army had no definite bounds set to its territorial expansion, duration and sovereign claims. Russia was intent on discussing these issues with China alone and disassociating its negotiations from those initiated by the colonial powers in Beijing. As if to better highlight this distinction, the Russian contingent broke away from the coalition army and fell back to Manchurian territory (25 August). Believing that this policy could lead to the establishment of a protectorate—a rumour was going around on this very subject—, the British government attempted to secure support from Germany (16 October) and the United States, then Japan. Nothing concrete resulted from these diplomatic arrangements in which commercial freedom in Manchuria was judged according to the political risks and advantages.

100Japan was beginning to be recognised as a great military power. In London it was considered a key partner in stopping not the Chinese uprising but rather Russian expansion.

  • 46 Pierre Renouvin, op. cit., p. 197. Ill‑informed on this point, the author wrote that “Russia and Ja (...)
  • 47 War minister from 1902 to 1911 (rikugun daijin 陸軍大臣, literally minister of the army) and governor‑g (...)

101Contrary to what is generally believed,46 Japan responded only hesitantly to Britain’s requests, either due to financial constraints, to protect its relationship with the Chinese imperial court, or to avoid a confrontation with the Russians. When inordinately high numbers of reinforcements were requested (three divisions), General Terauchi Masatake 寺内正毅 (1852‑1919)47 was sent from Tokyo to Tianjin to examine the situation. Japan refused, arguing that one single division—the fifth—would suffice. However, the independence of Japan’s policy stemmed from its original perception of Manchuria. For Great Britain, the Manchurian issue could only be examined in relation to China: uniformly applied, the Open Door principle would apply a political brake on the Russian advance. For Japan, Manchuria was indissociable from the situation in Korea. Russian power and Japanese security were both military in nature. This ran contrary to the wishes of the British, who desired peace without militarisation. The Anglo‑Japanese Alliance (1902) was not born of a desire for power.

III. Russian Military Colonisation (1896‑1904)

102The expression “military colonisation” could be a simple pleonasm, since any colonial conquest at its beginnings presupposes military superiority. It is subsequently only maintained if this superiority continues. Nevertheless, a particular type of military colony existed, of which Gibraltar, Malta and later Singapore were examples in the British Empire. Turned towards the future, instruments of battles to come, war remained their reason for being. Fortifications, port facilities, communications security and the stationing of substantial combat resources were all permanent features.

103Russia’s military colonisation in the Far East was distinctive for being almost exclusively confined to Manchuria. Conversely, it was through the Russian presence that Manchuria developed an identity for the first time. Remember that this colonisation took place in three distinct phases, each bought about in short succession by specific circumstances: 1896 (Trans‑Manchurian Railway); 1898 (Port Arthur, Dalny and the South‑Manchurian Railway); 1900 (diffuse occupation against the Boxers).

104A) For ease of presentation the rights granted by China will be distinguished from the infrastructure put in place by the Russians. Although the Trans‑Manchurian served as a model for several foreign railway lines in China from 1896, the privileges obtained by Russia remained unparalleled. From a technical point of view—track gauge and thus the particularities of the rolling stock, locomotives and wagons—the network created in Manchuria was initially simply a continuation of the Russian national rail network on Chinese territory. The same specificities were then applied to the South Manchurian Railway. Together the various lines (with the exception of the narrow‑gauge lines connecting to the coalmines) made it possible for trains to run continuously—without transferring—from the Transbaikal. Obviously the close proximity of the Russian and Chinese empires made such a unification possible. However, without political commitment, this fact alone would not have been enough. Another distinctive privilege was that the trains running on this network were authorised to transport Russian troops. This was the result of the “secret” alliance concluded against Japan by Li Hongzhang and Lobanov in Moscow.

  • 48 Kitaoka Shin’ichi, Gotō Shinpei, op. cit., p. 80.

105Guarded by Russians—often from Siberia—and used without legal limits by the Russian army, the Chinese Eastern Railway was a fully integrated strategic instrument, despite the differing nationalities of the territories through which it passed. The speed with which the railways were built, particularly after obtaining the leased territory of Liaodong, and thus Port Arthur, highlights the high priority nature of military liaisons. The aim, from the west, was to reach Harbin via the Trans‑Manchurian Railway then to temporarily abandon the advance towards Vladivostok and quickly build the South Manchurian Railway. In this sense, Port Arthur became the terminal of the Trans‑Siberian. The Harbin‑Maritime Province section became an annex in 1903.48

106In the exercise of their port rights the Russians in principle had no special privileges other than the use of Port Arthur, which was designated a naval base devoid of any commercial function. On the other hand, the Liaodong territory was only granted for a period of twenty‑five years, from 1899 to 1923. Of the two treaty ports declared open in Manchuria before the Russians arrived, Dalny was included in the lease, while the other, Yingkou, the larger of the two, located close to the estuary of the Liao River, had been occupied since the Boxer Rebellion.

107Construction work focused on strengthening Port Arthur. Three great forts were erected on the landfront (Dongjiguan 東鶏冠, Erlong 二龍 and Songshu 松樹) and surrounded by batteries. It was against these defences that General Nogi would battle for several months in 1904. Their strength had remained unknown until then.

  • 49 Yamamuro Shin’ichi, Nichiro sensō no seiki, op. cit.

108B) What overall judgement can be passed on this military colonisation? This question cannot be answered without taking into account the war experience. Yet if we move up to a certain level of generality we encounter predictions that drew on a number of constants. Fundamentally, Russia’s military colonisation aimed to create an infrastructure destined to receive combat resources (men, arms and ships) hailing from European Russia. With Russia recognised as a major military power, this image was projected onto its presence in Asia. Yet this strength could also be attenuated or even annihilated by the sheer enormity of the distance separating the two territories. The estimation of the military value attributed to Russia’s colonisation of the Far East depended largely on the transport capacity of the Trans‑Siberian—a single‑track railway over thousands of kilometres, not to mention the difficulty of bypassing Lake Baikal.49 It also depended on maritime navigation facilities, often overlooking the fact that the Russian Empire was entirely continental and had coal stations neither in Africa nor Southeast Asia. On the whole, when the Japanese attacked Port Arthur on 8 February 1904, Russia appeared to be stronger at sea than on land. Yet the war proved exactly the opposite. My aim here is not to provide an account of the various military operations but simply to point out the underestimation of the Trans‑Siberian and the overestimation of Port Arthur as a naval base. Following the construction of a second track at some of the major stations, the number of trains reaching the Far East rose from eight to fourteen per day. The Russian army swelled and became increasingly well‑equipped during the first year of fighting. Conversely, by late May 1905, after the Battle of Tsushima, the Russian navy had ceased to exist.

109Among the causes of this disaster were the poorly understood shortcomings of Port Arthur. A distinction must be made between the strength of the fortress (seafront and landfront) and the fragile nature of the shelter it was supposed to provide Russia’s main Pacific squadron (seven battleships and one armoured cruiser). In this case, figures describe the situation most eloquently. Paralysed by a lack of resolve, as well as the extremely narrow passage that led out to the Yellow Sea, five of the seven battleships remained stuck at the base from 11 August 1904. In late December, all were sunk in shallow water by Japanese land artillery. Port Arthur had been chosen over Vladivostok in order to avoid the winter ice. In fact it became the graveyard of the Russian fleet.

110C) The railways and ports were created or reinforced for military purposes. However, once in place this infrastructure could also be used for economic development. Nevertheless, given Manchuria’s dispersed population it only offered transport facilities for a small number of Chinese immigrants, either seasonal or permanent, and modest quantities of agricultural production. The relationship between military preparations and economic action was very different from what it became in 1931 when Japanese colonisation transformed Manchuria into Manchukuo, an industrial base for the army stationed there (Kantō gun 関東軍, the Kwantung Army).

111The fact that between 1902 and 1904, the existing means for transporting men and merchandise could only be used by Chinese society did not deter the Russian colonial administration from adopting a voluntarist plan to organise a new trade geography. This was to be refocused on the port of Dalny and the South Manchurian Railway as far as Mukden and then Harbin. The aim was to marginalise the main port at Yingkou—subject to winter ice—and inland navigation on the Liao River.

  • 50 Kitaoka Shin’ichi, Gotō Shinpei, op. cit., pp. 90‑94.

112The Russo‑Japanese War prevented this project from achieving any tangible results. However, no sooner had the Treaty of Portsmouth been signed (September 1905) than the project was resumed by Gotō Shinpei 後藤新平 (1857‑1929) in 1906,50 in a Manchuria that was militarily neutralised but economically a source of conflict.

IV. Japan’s Security Policy Dilemmas (1894‑1905)

113Of the three empires that made up Northeast Asia at the turn of the twentieth century—China and Russia for a small section of their vast territories, and Japan for the entirety of the archipelago—only the latter, the least powerful of the three, initiated a war with both of its great neighbours in turn. The Japanese central government was not blind to the dangers of such endeavours (the Sino‑Japanese War in 1894‑95 and the Russo‑Japanese War in 1904‑1905). However, it confronted these risks precisely in the name of security, seeing the wars as linked to its survival. The problem here stemmed from the way Japan viewed the context.

Security through War

114Since the beginning of the Meiji era, when preparing their plans, Japan’s military leaders had been in the habit of citing their potential enemies in descending order using the term “hypothetical enemies” (sōtei tekikoku 想定敵国). Russia featured permanently on the list, most often alone. It was followed, then overtaken, by China, which subsequently disappeared from the list after the Treaty of Shimonoseki. Even during the decades of intense colonisation, from 1880 to 1900, there was never mention of any Western powers. Japan’s fears were not based on passing feelings but rather on two objective facts: predictable power on the one hand and geographic proximity on the other. Only Russia and China combined both of these features. Japan appears to have quickly acquired the ability to distinguish between temporary neighbours (for the example the English at Port Hamilton in 1885) and territorial acquisitions that from the outset aimed to be permanent. Lying in close proximity to one another, and devising their policies according to their neighbours, the three powers were nonetheless obliged to adapt to local particularities: in Manchuria for China and Russia, in Korea for Japan. Korea introduced a difference, hence the appearance of a contrast. In the case of China between 1880 and 1894, and Russia between 1896 and 1904, military colonisation does not seem to have inspired a desire for war. For Japan, on the contrary, the wars were not preceded by military colonisation. Could this be because the political instability of Korea did not allow it? Or because the Japanese perception of danger in the face of nations as vast as China and Russia led to a different type of reaction?

Korea as “Defensive Wall”

115In Manchuria, the two continental powers took advantage of extended periods of peace to set up their defence systems. They found it hard to believe that Japan might one day attack them, hence a certain dose of cynicism, a lack of judgement and chaotic military preparations.

  • 51 See Lionel Babicz, Le Japon face à la Corée à l’ère Meiji, op. cit., p. 205. Translation and commen (...)
  • 52 Yamagata, creator of the modern Japanese army and Japan’s then prime minister.

116Japan’s policy in Korea was constantly guided by a sense of legitimate defence, not against the Koreans but rather the Russians or the Chinese. According to a famous memorandum51 written in 1890 by Yamagata Aritomo,52 Japan’s survival depended on being surrounded by two lines of defence: one, known as the “line of sovereignty” (shuken sen 主権線), was in accordance with international law; the other, translated as the “line of advantage” (rieki sen 利益線), represented an “outer” security perimeter. While translating rieki as “interest” or “advantage” is correct, it nonetheless alters the expression’s meaning. Yamagata himself stipulated that it referred to “the area where the armed forces of adjacent countries could threaten the safety of the line of sovereignty”, in other words the existence of Japan. This outer perimeter was placed at Korea’s borders with the continental powers. The question remained of what status should be given to the kingdom of Korea. This view of Korea did not lead in principle to its colonisation but to it being used as a means of defence. It nonetheless had major geopolitical consequences.

117This argument was based on the following premise: that the defensive value of Japan’s insularity was insufficient around Tsushima Island and thus ruled out a purely maritime defence. Two solutions presented themselves: one involved war and the sending of an army to the continent; the other drew on peaceful means involving the neutralisation of Korea based on the idealised Swiss model.

118In order to form an efficient wall, the Japanese expeditionary corps needed to be deployed beyond Seoul, in the faraway Northeast, which was accessible mainly by sea. The fragility of communication lines once again underlined the insular nature of Japan. In the Korea Strait the Japanese fleet appeared insufficient; in the Yellow Sea it became essential. It first needed to prove its superiority, but how was this to be done if not through acts of war? Building a “wall” in Korea meant initiating conflict. With both land and sea communications at their disposal, China and Russia could base their colonisation on static investments in ports and railways. Japan was forced to seek security in operational plans in which war was virtually inescapable. Note that the conflicts in both 1894 and 1904 began with naval attacks.

V. The Russo‑Japanese War (1901)—1904‑1905

119Wars are not indistinguishable interludes in history. Each one can be seen as containing a variety of aspects, even though the Russo‑Japanese War is considered to have had one single decisive cause.

Original Features of the Russo‑Japanese Conflict

120In addition to its clear technological modernity resulting as much from the number of soldiers involved as from the fire power produced, three aspects set this war apart: moderation in terms of the alliances, international financing, and strategic precision. Together these factors created a conflict that, while local, was both closely controlled and carefully prepared by the Japanese.

The Alliances

121Although each of the belligerents had allies, the war itself remained isolated. In this it differed categorically from the First World War, where the number of participating countries grew constantly, almost mechanically, according to or independently of pre‑existing alliances.

  • 53 These ideas are inspired by the discussion by Ian Nish, op. cit., p. 240.

122On the contrary, the Russo‑Japanese War was limited to a duel behind closed doors and requires a concrete understanding of the role played by the Anglo‑Japanese Alliance of January 1902. This war fascinated the world, yet did not significantly change it. Two months after the attack on Port Arthur the Entente Cordiale was signed, in Europe and in their respective colonial empires, by England, which was allied to Japan, and France, which was allied to Russia (8 April 1904). The Anglo‑Japanese Alliance was neither offensive nor defensive, but simply conditional. It applied only if the allied state came into conflict with at least two belligerent powers. Otherwise it merely obliged its signatories to remain neutral. The main issue was not the instigation of war but rather its potential spreading, which was to be prevented by diplomatic means.53 No sooner had the alliance been concluded than the British admiralty withdrew part of its forces from the East China Sea and dispensed with constructing new port facilities, relying instead on Japanese bases.

123From the British point of view the alliance was thus oriented towards a policy of peace. The reason the British government committed itself to a military obligation in Asia alone, despite its traditional stance, was that it believed that the legally binding situation to which it was exposed would never come to pass. The fact that the Anglo‑Japanese Alliance had been officially announced was intended to nip any potential extension of war in the bud. Given that the Franco‑Russian Alliance applied only to relations with Germany, France’s neutrality in the Far East was predictable. Britain’s neutrality provided extra legitimacy.

  • 54 Japan had also considered allying itself with China against Russia.
  • 55 For more information on the subject see Ian Nishi, ibid, pp. 229‑244.

124On the other hand, although Japan was obliged to face Russia alone, this isolation was not without its advantages.54 It spared Japan from having to share the spoils of war—control of Korea being the main one—with its allies. Japan’s leaders quickly understood that the only way they could rule Korea was to negotiate an agreement with Russia—a rival, admittedly, but also a military power—either before or after a war.55

125The “neutralities” surrounding the two warring states covered all of “colonially useful” China. Yet, the Franco‑Russian and Anglo‑Japanese alliances did not disappear. They remained, excluding all armed intervention.

  • 56 Ibid., pp. 270‑273.

126When the probability of war increased rapidly at the end of 1903, the British position consisted in making its neutrality clear and providing Japan with services of a non‑compromising nature.56 This was made possible by the international market in warships. Two small battleships commissioned from English shipyards by Chile and two armoured cruisers built for the Argentine government in Genoa, Italy were up for sale. The British admiralty purchased the battleships to prevent them from falling into Russian hands but refused to sell them on to Japan. On the other hand, Japan obtained the two cruisers through British brokers. They left for Asia in January 1904 with an Italian crew commanded by British officers.

127With a state of war having been in place for several months, France was obliged to provide shelter to the Russian Baltic Fleet in the ports of its colonial empire (Africa, Madagascar, Indochina). Moreover, it would have been impossible for the Russian fleet to make the voyage without refuelling with coal, something which the German commercial fleet agreed to provide.

International Financing

  • 57 Pierre Renouvin, La Question d’Extrême‑Orient 1840‑1940, op.cit., p. 70.

128The economic dimension of the Russo‑Japanese War appears neither in its causes nor in its objectives. It was decisive for its means, providing yet further proof of the modern nature of this war. It prefigured the dependence of France and Britain—the Entente—on American banks, which as of 1914 were authorised to “make funds available to foreign governments to settle their commercial debts”.57

129Infinitely poorer in terms of industrial production and capital, Japan found itself confronted, just like these other great economic powers, with military overconsumption. The Japanese navy controlled communications; it had no difficulty, other than financial, in importing the necessary goods. It was vital that it borrow money in order to avoid stifling the armies.

130Victories were achieved and Japan increasingly inspired confidence. However, the number of agreements concluded with banking groups flourished and the sums requested soared as needs grew considerably:

  • 58 Ian Nish, ibid., p. 288, footnote 2.

ten million pounds sterling in May 1904;
–twelve million in November 1904, the tenth month of war;
–thirty million in April 1905, the fourteenth month of war;
–thirty million in July 1905, one month from peace.

  • 59 Future prime minister, governor of the Bank of Japan, and minister of finance. Assassinated on 26 F (...)

131Admittedly the interest rate granted to Japan dropped during this period from 6% to 4.5%. All of the negotiations, held in London and New York, were entrusted to one single expert, Takahashi Korekiyo 高橋是清 (1854‑1936).59

132The technical aspect of these financial arrangements is to their history what in the art of war, tactics are to strategy. What merits examination here is the connection with political history, hence the following question: who lent money to Japan and why?

133Recognising that without these loans Japan could neither have continued the war nor even started it is to state the obvious. But this does not really answer the question.

  • 60 Ian Nish, ibid., pp. 288‑289.

134The banks were mainly British, as were half of the funds lent.60 However, given that the capital market is free and international, and that banks can be neutral, the financial and political motivations are impossible to guess.

  • 61 Pierre Renouvin, ibid., pp. 11‑17. Ian Nish does not discuss this issue.
  • 62 Nihon gaikōshi jiten, op. cit., entry on Jacob Henry Schiff, p. 355.

135On this subject American banks are more explicit. In the United States in 1900, the ethnic groups of European origin remained intact beyond the period of immigration. This particularity occasionally coloured their perception of international events.61 The support provided to Japan by Kuhn, Loeb & Ca is said to have stemmed from this bank’s hostility to Russian nationalism. Founded by German immigrants, it had been presided over by Jacob Schiff (1847‑1920) since 1885. During a trip to Japan in 1906, Schiff was invited to an audience with Emperor Meiji where he was thanked and decorated.62

The Strategies: Plans and Realities

136The risk in this war was greater for Japan than for Russia because it was inversely proportional to the distance separating the powers from the central triangle of fighting: Port Arthur, Mukden and Tsushima. Japan’s military leaders gave intense thought to their future operations, well before the central government had definitively chosen to go to war. The experience gained in 1894 served the Japanese well, for it revealed certain geostrategic constants: at sea, a need to control communications from the start; on land, a need to face a battle of movement due to the overabundance of space in Manchuria.

  • 63 In fact these were large army corps; however, army corps had no institutional existence in the Japa (...)

137Japan’s armies consisted of small expeditionary corps grouped together on national territory and then transported by sea.63 They landed at a given point on the Korean or Manchurian coasts in order to reach the theatre of operations as quickly as possible and avoid a potential encounter with the Russian fleet. These operations lasted several months. The four armies sent to battle landed in Korea Bay. One of them, the First Army, gathered east of the Yalu River. The three others were left on the eastern coast of the Liaodong Peninsula between April and June. The Second Army occupied the Russian commercial port of Dalny on 30 May. It was here that General Nogi Maresuke 乃木希典 (1849‑1912), heading the Third Army, landed on 8 June 1904 to begin the siege of Port Arthur. These actions supposed a “command” of the sea.

138Against the Chinese fleet in 1894, the Japanese admiralty feared the two battleships purchased in Germany. In 1904, the quality of Japan’s ships equalled or outclassed that of its enemies. But the question remained of their quantity. In the domain of naval forces a kind of forecast accounting existed—in Northeast Asia, Europe (the North Sea and the Mediterranean) and in South America—which influenced if not the decision to go to war, at the very least the moment chosen to do so and the strategy adopted. With its 6‑6 formation (battleships and armoured cruisers), turned 6‑8 with the last‑minute purchase of the Kasuga and the Nisshin in Italy, Japan possessed a static force. The official state of war prevented it from making further acquisitions and its own shipyards could provide no new constructions of higher category ships. Yet Japan had to face the Russian squadrons from Port Arthur and Vladivostok, and above all the ships built in Saint Petersburg, a potential total of thirteen modern battleships.

139Just as it was vital for the Russians to bring together their squadrons, it was imperative that the Japanese fleet fight them separately. In principle this did not seem impossible given the enormous distances separating the Russian forces from one another. On the other hand the Japanese fleet, never far from its bases, was able to divide and reassemble at will according to the action undertaken.

140Right from the beginning of the war Japan’s military leaders knew that at sea the battle would have to involve several phases. Firstly, contradictory requirements needed to be accommodated: protecting the expeditionary forces as they landed; destroying the Russian squadron at Port Arthur; avoiding high risk battles; keeping the fleet intact for a later stage, all the while asking it to destroy the enemy. Japanese strategists believed that such a result could be achieved simply by transforming the harbour at Port Arthur into a closed lake, by laying mines and scuttling old cargo ships in the narrows. Next, the seven Russian battleships trapped inside could be damaged through repeated bombing using indirect fire (kansetsu shageki 間接射撃). This strategy of attrition warfare was based on known facts: the narrowness of the entrance for large ships and the vulnerability of the harbour despite the coastal batteries. The first months of the war seemed to confirm the strategy’s validity, partly due to Russia’s passive naval command which gave up trying to prevent the Japanese landings, and partly due to the failure of the only sortie made by an enemy battleship. Captained by Admiral Makaroff (1848‑1904), the ship in question sank on 13 April 1904 after hitting a mine.

141The limits of this war of attrition, which was not without risk, subsequently became apparent. On 15 May two of Japan’s six battleships sank after striking mines laid by a Russian ship. The Japanese fleet deemed it wise to relax their bombings of the harbour where six Russian battleships lay damaged. If they were to leave, Japan would still wish to drive them back, but at the least possible cost. The aim was to destroy them, particularly given the upcoming departure of Russia’s Baltic squadron.

142The annihilation of the Chinese fleet at Weihaiwei in Shandong on 12 February 1895 could serve as a model. At Port Arthur it was thus decided to entrust General Nogi with the task of conquering the fortress and attacking the ships in the harbour. However, the operations were not given a clear order of priority. These two tasks could be carried out in a different order according to the tactic chosen. Having decided to seize the fortress, Nogi carried out frontal assaults against the line of great forts. In retrospect, experts believe this would have been the right decision had success been achieved rapidly. In fact it was a repeated failure from August to November 1904.

  • 64 The hill was immortalised in 1980 in the film 20  kōchi 二百三高地 (203‑Metre Hill), by Masuda Toshio 舛田 (...)

143A complete change of tactic then came about. By abandoning the base itself and concentrating on a less‑fortified sector, Japan simply needed to seize control of “203‑Metre Hill”, which dominated the harbour and made it possible to sink the ships within it.64 By 6 December the Japanese artillery was in place. Russia’s Far‑Eastern fleet was destroyed just as reinforcements sent from the Baltic neared Madagascar. The cost of the siege on the Japanese side was 60,000 dead and wounded.

The Decision to go to War

144The Russo‑Japanese War can be explained by a growing imbalance (beginning in 1901) between Russia’s military presence in Manchuria and Japan’s recognised political position in Korea. These were de facto situations resulting from a variety of events. On the other hand, it had been tacitly accepted since the 1898 Far Eastern crisis that a certain balance must be respected, in the area formed by Manchuria and Korea, between the influence of Japan and Russia, two “rising” powers.

  • 65 Nishi Tokujirō 西徳二郎 (1847‑1912) was the minister of foreign affairs in the third administration of (...)

145Inoue Kaoru and Itō Hirobumi 伊藤博文 (1841‑1909) had invented the expression Mankan kōkan 満韓交換, “the exchange of Manchuria for Korea”, suggesting a process of peaceful coexistence. The Nishi‑Rosen Agreement,65 concluded on 25 April 1898, was to be based on a mutual renunciation. However, Russia only recognised Japan’s priority in economic matters in Korea, a politically neutral country, whereas in Liaodong Russia benefitted from the transfer of sovereign rights. Three years later, Japan requested that the balance of this “exchange” be re‑adjusted.

146In 1901 Japan began to submit proposals to the Russian government for examination. To begin with this took the form of semi‑official action during a visit by Itō Hirobumi to Saint Petersburg on 2 and 4 December. Later came increasingly insistent notes whose tone became threatening. Sent on 12 August, 30 October and 21 December 1903 (the latter was verbal), they received slow responses from the Tsar’s government (31 October and 11 December 1903, and 6 January 1904). A final proposal was submitted by Japan on 13 January 1904, accompanied by a demand for a quick reply. When this was not forthcoming, Japanese decision‑makers unanimously considered war inevitable. This decision was made official on 4 February during an “Imperial Conference” (gozen kaigi 御前会議). Japan moved into the attack during the night of 8 February at Port Arthur.

147Japan suggested two policies to restore the balance of power: the withdrawal of Russian troops from Manchuria or, more in‑line with the principle of exchange, recognition by Russia of Japan’s military hold on Korea.

148The former, which depended on a reduction in Russia’s military colonisation, fit in better with British conceptions. It initially seemed to yield results when in April 1902 Russia promised to evacuate Manchuria completely, enabling Chinese rule to be restored in three stages (September 1902, then April and September 1903). For Japan, this policy removed the extremely high risk of going to war with Russia. However, it was not an ideal solution: it left the question of Korea unresolved and made Japanese security dependent on Russian good will. Russia’s refusal to carry out the second phase of the evacuation only confirmed the doubts of those in Japan who had no faith in Russia (April 1903).

149Having been suspended for one year, direct negotiations resumed between Tokyo and Saint Petersburg. This time around the question of war or peace figured implicitly, although cloaked in diplomatic language. Furthermore, although the call to respect “China’s territorial integrity” (in other words Manchuria) was renewed, the evacuation of the Russian army was no longer the main issue. Japan’s military position in Korea made all the difference between potential peace and inevitable war. But can we identify the reason for Russia’s refusal to exchange Manchuria for Korea?

  • 66 Vladimir Nikolaevich Lamsdorf (1845‑1907), speaking in German.

150The subject was broached in December 1901 during a series of meetings between Itō Hirobumi (speaking in English) and the Tsar’s minister of foreign affairs, Vladimir Lamsdorf.66 Lamsdorf is reported to have made the following statements:

  • 67 Ian Nish, ibid., p. 197.

If we delegated Korean affairs exclusively to Japan and accepted even her right to send troops there, we should naturally require some guarantee that Japan did not turn Korea to her strategic advantage… […] If Japan were to construct bases on the Korean littoral, this would threaten communications between Vladivostok and Port Arthur and, for reasons of self‑defence, Russia could not look on disinterested67.

151This issue resurfaced on 30 October 1903 when Komura Jutarō 小村壽太郎 (1855‑1911), in his request that Japan be given a free hand in Korea, promised Russia that no coastal fortification would threaten its fleet between the Yellow Sea and the Sea of Japan.

152Given that Korea could not serve simultaneously as a rampart for Japan and a neutralised guardian of the straits for Russia, it found itself embroiled in two contradictory security policies. Henceforth, in order to guess what Russia’s territorial demands would be, Japanese leaders considered only the internal geographical coherence of military colonisations. That of Russia in the Far East depended on railway lines to the west, and to the east, on the coastal periphery of the Korean Peninsula, on an indispensable sea line of communication. In such circumstances, with compromise seemingly impossible, only war could decide how the space be utilised.

  • 68 The two ships left Genoa on 9 January 1904 and reached Yokosuka on 16 February.
  • 69 The Borodino‑class battleships (Suvorof, Alexandre III, Borodino and Orel). The final ship, the Sla (...)

153However, the question remained of when to attack. Dependent on the navy (and thus Admiral Yamamoto Gonnohyōe 山本権兵衛) due to the nature of the operations planned, the date chosen had to be late enough for the two armoured cruisers purchased in Italy (the Kasuga and the Nisshin) to reach Japanese waters,68 and soon enough to dispose of at least six months before the Russian battleships under construction entered service.69

The End of the War (1 June–5 September 1905)

154During the first four months of 1905, Japan seemed to conclude the war through a series of spectacular victories.

  • 70 These are the figures quoted by Okamoto Shunpei, The Japanese Oligarchy and the Russo‑Japanese War,(...)
  • 71 Eric Muraise, Introduction à l’Histoire militaire, op. cit., pp. 305‑307.

155Port Arthur fell on 1 January. The besieging troops were sent to join the other Japanese armies on the Manchurian front, south of Mukden. The combined force (totalling 250,000 men against 376,000)70 tried in vain to surround the Russian army corps.71 This battle (from 19 February to 10 March) was the last to be waged on land during the Russo‑Japanese War. It was the only battle of this scale to be fought in Manchuria. On 27 and 28 May the Russian fleet, which had arrived from the Baltic, was sunk or forced to surrender. There were no further major operations apart from the complete occupation of Sakhalin.

156Immediately after Tsushima the President of the United States Theodore Roosevelt offered to act as mediator and initiate negotiations.

157In fact, this initiative secretly emanated from the Japanese side. The request was relayed by the ambassador in Washington on 1 June. In Tokyo, the American offer was officially accepted on 10 June. In Saint Petersburg the Tsar gave his consent on 12 June. Public opinion in Japan, left in the dark as to the actual turn of events, was convinced it was the Russians who had sued for peace.

158Victorious and keen to put an end to the conflict, the attitude of Japan’s leaders can only be explained by their reflection on the evolution of the war.

The Military Situation

159Neither of the two powers could rationally hope for a complete victory. Russia’s sheer size gave it certain invulnerability. This particularity was known to Japanese leaders before they entered into war. But after destroying the Russian squadrons, Japan enjoyed an equivalent invulnerability. The Japanese navy had come to rule the surrounding seas. The only perspective left in this war was thus territorial conquest (or in Russia’s case, recapture). Japan’s greatest victory was to have succeeded in making itself invulnerable. After the Battle of Tsushima a kind of mutual sense of security surrounded all subsequent battles, which could then only be fought on land, and in principle in Manchuria.

160Could new campaigns in Manchuria be imagined? The answer to this question must be considered separately from the Japanese and Russian sides.

161For Japan, the “war map”, in other words the result of the initial conquests, was satisfactory. Korea and South Manchuria were both under Japanese control. The most important thing for military leaders now was to build railways for military use; those left by the Russians were unusable due to a lack of suitable rolling stock.

162If fighting recommenced, the future might be significantly gloomier. The Manchurian army would have to choose between a static war and a war of movement, with the objective being to capture Harbin and sever the Trans‑Manchurian Railway. The necessity of making this tactical decision prefigured France’s military situation from 1914 to 1918.

163Japan’s generals rejected this future and wanted to begin peace negotiations immediately. This decision stemmed from concrete observations. Japan did not possess the industrial and financial means necessary for a protracted war. The Japanese army had suffered a shortage of munitions during several battles and had never managed to achieve a decisive victory. Russia’s power continued to grow: new reinforcements had been sent from Europe. In both cases time worked against Japan in Manchuria. It was wise to put an end to the war. It is not surprising that Russia’s generals were of the opposite opinion. Immediately after losing Mukden, Linievitch (1838‑1909), who had recently been made commander‑in‑chief, suggested launching a counter‑offensive.

  • 72 Okamoto Shunpei, ibid., p. 150.

164His predecessor Kuropatkin (1848‑1925) believed that never before had Russia succeeded in creating armies as “strong as those in Manchuria”. These generals attempted to dissuade the Tsar from negotiating. Yet the order to take up arms again never came. Russia adopted a middle road. Through the declaration of its representative Sergei Witte (1849‑1915) during negotiations for the Treaty of Portsmouth (New Hampshire, United States), Russia set down the principle that in this war “there was no winner and thus no loser”.72 Japan may have won battles but it had not won the war. Russia in turn may have been capable of scoring victories on land, but after Tsushima it could no longer win the war. Returning to peace was easier when it was a question of dividing up territories and rights. However, negotiations were complex in that land and rights can also symbolise victory.


165Strictly speaking, these were limited to a period of less than one month (from 10 August to 5 September 1905). The process was extremely simple. The Japanese delegates, led by the minister of foreign affairs Komura Jutarō, presented the Russians with their demands. The Russians in turn either accepted or rejected them, until they were presented with other, more limited, demands. The same process was repeated several times. Japan took the attitude of a victor, but it had no means of forcing Russia’s hand. The Japanese delegation still had the option of breaking off negotiations, but this could not have led to renewed fighting, which the government and military authorities in Japan rejected. Breaking off the negotiations would not have removed the obligation to keep troops mobilised.

166A comparison of Japan’s demands and Russia’s rejections provides insight into the key points of their respective security policies. The demands were drawn up by various Japanese departments, right from the beginning of hostilities. They can be grouped into three categories:

167a) The least disputed category related to Korea and the southern part of Manchuria. With its army already occupying these areas, Russian recognition merely gave Japan extra legitimacy. The Treaty of Portsmouth took away neither Korean independence nor China’s territorial integrity. Even after Russian troops had withdrawn, Japanese action could only take place within the context of agreements concluded with neutral colonial powers in the region, such as Britain and the United States. This was clearly illustrated by the Taft‑Katsura Agreement (kyōtei 協定), concluded on 29 July 1905, which involved Korea and the Philippines in the form of an exchange.

168b) The most debatable category pertained to the payment of a “war indemnity” to Japan and the awarding of Sakhalin Island. It was known that Nicholas II refused to make any concessions on these two subjects. Although they were secondary on the list of demands, their symbolic value meant that they were a stumbling block in the negotiations.

169c) A third category consisted of various articles. The aim was less to award Japan further rights than to reduce those retained by Russia. There was a military objective: to restrict Vladivostok and the Trans‑Manchurian to a commercial activity and place a limit on Russia’s naval forces.

170Just as peace negotiations were on the brink of collapse, Nicholas II agreed to cede the south of Sakhalin (south of the 50th parallel). The anxious Japanese government saw this as a miracle and immediately ordered Komura to accept. The peace deal was signed. Japan’s military had helped achieve a rapid peace.

171Japan obtained a dominant position in Korea but had to coexist in Manchuria along with Russia, China and American finance.

Appeasement and Cohabitation, the New Colonial Manchuria

172More than the end of a major modern war, the peace signed on 5 September 1905 signalled a change of era in the history of East Asia. China “proper” remained faithful to its system of colonisation, which managed to absorb the impact, without great change, of the 1898 crises (Jiaozhou and Port Arthur) and the Boxer Rebellion of 1900. The Open Door principle served as the dominant ideology. With the Russo‑Japanese War forgotten, the United States and Great Britain hoped to see Manchuria and Korea readily integrated into an area uniformly subject to the practices of commercial imperialism. Their hopes were bound to be dashed.

173In fact, although the return to peace was followed in 1906‑1907 by gradual signs of a coexistence between Japanese, Russians and Chinese, this had a strong political and diplomatic foundation with clearly defined reserved domains: the driving force behind this situation was a cohabitation between states and not a modus vivendi between colonists. Colonial policies remained the exclusive domain of the government and did not amount to a sum of private interests. In the empires in question, this stabilisation then subsequent decline in military colonisations did not loosen the stranglehold of the state. It was this convergence between pacification and state control that set this new era in Northeast Asia apart.

174Following a decade of war and conflict, the views of the three neighbouring empires presented similarities. Without exception—military, economic or demographic—, all consisted of long‑term projects which appeared to depend on lasting peace. And this outcome was truly possible, although still in an armed form. By rejecting the idealisation of the Open Door principle and making the strengthening of their sovereignty in Manchuria a priority, the Northeast Asian powers were simultaneously driven to reconcile political rivalries with cooperation. Manchuria became an exercise in cohabitation.

175In order to be effective, this change in policy could only be envisaged after (or simultaneously with) the withdrawal of the Japanese and Russian armies. The period immediately following the Treaty of Portsmouth must therefore be examined.

The Immediate Post‑War Period (September 1905‑summer 1906)

176This took the form of an unarmed confrontation between the two former belligerents, leaving the prospect of a return to arms—either feared or desired—hanging in the balance for several months. In the short‑term these created strategic concerns for military chiefs, and in Japan’s case related to its status in Korea.


  • 73 Kitaoka Shin’ichi, Nihon rikugun to tairiku seisaku 1906‑1918, op. cit., pp. 35‑36.

177According to military leaders on both sides, the most important issue was not to increase the number of soldiers but to rapidly and safely move those already mobilised. More than ever before, the railways were decisive. Existing lines needed to be repaired and extended. Others were awaiting completion. For the Russians, it appeared wise to continue building the Trans‑Siberian alongside the Amur River, as initially planned. For the Japanese it appeared vital to link the rail networks of Korea and Manchuria so as to create an unbroken line, with a normal volume of traffic, from Pusan to Mukden (via Andong, Seoul then Ŭiju 義州 on the Yalu River/Amnokkang), known in Japanese as the “Hō‑Fu route”.73

  • 74 Stretching over 200 kilometres, this line terminates south of Mukden.

178The importance attached to the Andong‑Mukden line74 generated two conflicts: one overseas, with China, which saw the line as an attack on its sovereignty; and another between Japanese military and civil authorities, because the latter wanted to make the South Manchurian Railway from Dairen to Changchun the main thrust of their colonial policy. Japanese generals did not desire war. However, it could be in their interest to prolong preparations for one in order to retain control of the occupied territories.

In Korea

  • 75 Peter Duus, op. cit. p. 80, pp. 184‑186.
  • 76 Ibid., pp. 193‑194.
  • 77 Alain Delissen et al., L’Asie Orientale et Méridionale…, op. cit., p. 173.

179As in 1894, the Japanese army occupied Korea in February 1904 in order to use it as an operational base. However, unlike on the previous occasion,75 the Japanese government now had a precise plan for the future status of Korea. Its aim was to impose a protectorate, recognised by international law, rather than to make Korea a rampart or buffer state as originally planned. As proven in the West by the Moroccan Crisis of 1905, a state, whether archaic or modern in appearance, only becomes a protectorate with the consent of the great powers and the withdrawal of their embassies from the capital of the “protected” country. On 17 November 1905, the Korean monarch signed, or is said to have signed, a treaty agreeing to make Korea a protectorate under Japanese control. Peter Duus writes that it is unclear exactly what transpired that day at the Imperial Palace in Seoul (coercion, confinements, cheating?).76 However, the success of the protectorate resulted above all from the agreements concluded on 12 August 1905, during the renewal of the Anglo‑Japanese Alliance, and on 27 July, following a conversation between William H. Taft (1857‑1930), the American Governor of the Philippines, and Katsura Tarō 桂太郎 (1848‑1913), the Japanese Prime Minister (the “secret agreement” or “memorandum”, himitsu no oboegaki 秘密の覚え書き).77 Japan had no means to force Great Britain and the United States to close their respective embassies in Seoul, yet these closures were promised. In exchange for what?

  • 78 Ian Nish, op.cit. p. 318.

180For very little in the case of Great Britain. The British admiralty wanted above all to repatriate its squadrons to European waters. London agreed to abandon Korea without difficulty.78

  • 79 Irie Akira, Across the Pacific: An Inner History of American‑East Asian Relations, New York, Harcou (...)
  • 80 Yves‑Henri Nouhaihat, Les États‑Unis : l’avènement d’une puissance mondiale 1898‑1933 (The United S (...)
  • 81 P. Devilliers, Encyclopédie Universalis, 1992, volume 18, p. 54.
  • 82 Pierre Chaunu, L’Amérique et les Amériques, Paris, Armand Colin, 1964, p. 289. “The Treaty of Paris (...)

181With the United States the issue had the potential to be much more complex.79 In fact, what Taft offered Japan was merely a mutual agreement of military non‑intervention, of America in Korea and Japan in the Philippines, where a violent colonial conquest had been underway since the end of the Spanish‑American War80 (December 1898, Treaty of Paris). The clash between the American army (whose numbers had reached 126,000 men)81 and the independence movement of Emiliano Aguinaldo was extreme. The contrast between the number of victims on both sides—4200 Americans and 230,000 Filipinos, a ratio of 1 to 50—is characteristic of a colonial conflict. Pierre Chaunu explains the American combat methods by their previous experiments on home ground against Indian tribes and, among others, as “techniques for exterminating the pioneer fringe”.82

  • 83 Nihon gaikōshi jiten, op. cit., p. 761, article “Nunobikimaru jiken” 引丸事件 (The Nunobikimaru Affair (...)

182This situation was known in Japan, in particular among “Asianist” activists (Asia shugi アジア主義 in Japanese). In 1899 they had attempted to send a ship, the Nunobikimaru 布引丸,83 to the Philippines loaded with weapons and ammunition and carrying a few Japanese. It sank during a storm in the East China Sea after leaving Nagasaki. No further action of any kind was taken. In order to preserve the balance of power in the Far East this intervention was voluntarily forgotten, since the Japanese government had sided with the United States. Five years later, it was based on converging military interests that the Taft‑Katsura Agreement was concluded. In the western Pacific Ocean the Philippines continued to represent the terminal point of American military colonisation.

In Manchuria

183In the southern part of Manchuria captured from the Russians and in which it continued to control and administer the Chinese population, Japan was far from achieving as decisive a political consolidation as that in Korea.

184First it had to reckon with the pressure of private colonial interests, aside from any state action.

  • 84 Edward Henry Harriman (1848‑1909), considered, along with Taft and the Secretary of State Philander (...)

185From February to April 1906, demands hailing from advocates of the Open Door principle multiplied. As early as October 1905 the Japanese had received an offer from the American rail magnate Harriman,84 who wished to purchase the Japanese part of the South Manchurian in order to incorporate it, using private capital, into a global transportation network (Europe, Russia and Siberia).

186Then China, which had been particularly hostile to Russia for several years, became critical once again. With its sovereignty in Manchuria recognised, the Treaty of Portsmouth stipulated that the planned transfer of Russian rights would be conditioned by China’s consent. Hence the need for a supplementary Sino‑Japanese treaty (Manshū ni kansuru nisshin jōyaku 満洲ニ關スル日清条約). However, the differing conceptions of this Chinese sovereignty created a problem: seen as merely nominal by the Japanese negotiator Komura Jutarō, for the Beijing government it was a source of real power. The planned reconstruction of the Andong‑Mukden line aggravated the dispute. The treaty, signed on 22 December 1905, was seen as an offensive move by the Japanese.

187On the whole, Japan’s diplomatic situation was deteriorating. Haunted by the memory of 1895, Japan feared isolation, if not a coalition between Russia, China and the United States. It seemed preferable to invent a new type of colonisation, neither overly military nor overly trade‑oriented, and, in association with Russia, to withdraw the great armies deployed in time of war.

Manchuria, an Active Participant in History

188Japan was not in danger of financial ruin in 1906. It could easily find loans in Europe. Technological information circulated freely at the time. With the funds raised, Japan could purchase the necessary material to re‑equip Manchuria’s railways. There was no economic threat on the horizon. However, diplomatic isolation could present a real danger, or even herald a coalition. With the international problem seen as a power struggle, Japan needed to safeguard its rights. This led the Japanese to seek a style of government during a period of prolonged peace that involved neither international liberalism nor simple military colonisation, which had become politically counterproductive. Itō Hirobumi in Tokyo, as the first of the genrō, and Gotō Shinpei in Manchuria, bolstered by his knowledge of colonial issues, were the architects of Japan’s change of policy in the spring of 1906.

189Following their temporary occupation of Manchuria, the evacuation by the Russian and Japanese armies, decided in the spring of 1906, only took place in the summer of that year, almost one year after the peace treaty of Portsmouth. For the first time, China saw the entire Manchuria issue as holding potential. Its central government had perfectly understood that in order to resist Russian and Japanese colonisations —which were rivals but could potentially be combined— it was vital that China intensify both the immigration of farmers from Shandong or Chihli and the construction of an autonomous rail network. The Tianjin 天津Shanhai‑guan 山海関Ximintun 西民屯line could provide the starting point. The desired goal was a sinicization of Manchuria recognised by international authorities and founded on social and material factors (population settlement, infrastructure, economic growth) capable of making the result irreversible. All of the reforms undertaken in the northeast were done so with this struggle in mind.

190The reform most influenced by this state voluntarism was the dividing of Manchuria into three provinces in April 1907: Fengtian 奉天省 (i.e. Mukden) in the south, Jilin 吉林省 in the centre and Heilongjiang 黒龍江省 (the Amur River) in the north. Political unity under a governor‑general was maintained. The boundaries were official and disregarded those—unofficial but real—separating the Russian and Japanese interests. Throughout the region the right to own and commercialise land, in addition to the creation of schools, encouraged the settling of Chinese immigrants, on whom Manchuria’s dynamism depended.

191With birth and death rates relatively unchanged, it is more meaningful to use orders of magnitude to measure this settler colonisation rather than precise figures, which vary too much according to the source. In the decade following the opening up of Manchuria, the population of the central and northern provinces doubled: from three to six million, and from one to two million respectively. In Fengtian, on the other hand, the increase was limited to 20 per cent at most (from ten to twelve million approximately). According to Ishiwara Kanji, Manchuria was colonised by Chinese settlers who lacked ancestral roots in the region. The same could be said for Hokkaidō in Japan and the entire American West. Without the Russo‑Japanese conflict and the absence of an outright victor, China’s sovereignty over an almost unpopulated region could not have been maintained and this belated mass immigration would have been impossible.

  • 85 Kitaoka Shin’ichi, Gotō Shinpei, op. cit., pp. 75‑105.

192China’s desire for a future in Manchuria was matched by a similarly forward‑looking policy developed by the Japanese and based on the same desire to remain in Manchuria. The main characteristics of this policy are easy to present because it was essentially the brainchild of innovative colonial administrator Gotō Shinpei, and because it was embodied by one single institution: the South Manchuria Railway Company (Minami Manshū tetsudō kabushiki gaisha 南満州鉄道株式会社), better known by the abbreviation “Mantetsu”. Tightly controlled by the state and having achieved an impressive level of success within one year (instead of the planned three), it was officially created in February 1907 and Gotō85 appointed president. Modelled on the East India Company (dissolved in 1858), it combined state capitalism (Japan as sole owner of the infrastructure and rolling stock) and an openness to the market. Half of the financing was obtained through the sale of shares, from which the Chinese were excluded. All of Japan’s major banks were called upon. Profits were expected from the commercial running of the railway. The president and vice‑president were appointed by the government and accountable to it alone.

193The other original feature of Mantetsu was its responsibility for running and overseeing all aspects of Japan’s colonisation of Manchuria, with the exception of military activities. These were entrusted to the commander‑in‑chief of the army, which remained stationed in the leased territory and along the length of the railway. As a rail company, Mantetsu built and managed all of Japan’s existing and future railways in the region. As a colonial company, it was charged with attracting and helping those Japanese companies wishing to set up business in Manchuria. It was responsible for managing the Japanese settlers whose numbers Gotō hoped to see rise to 500,000. Schools, hospitals and the training of doctors (Japanese or Chinese) all fell within its remit.

194The heart of Mantetsu as an all‑encompassing Japanese institution was located in Dairen. As far as possible its diverse activities were located in lands adjacent (fuzokuchi 附属地) to the main railway line, in other words, the South Manchurian Railway proper. Everything was geographically concentrated.

195Between two such expanding colonial forces as China and Japan, competition was inevitable. However, the sheer size of Manchuria and the newness of its immigrant society meant that complementarity was also possible. This was particularly apparent in the realm of economics. Despite being poor, farmers were encouraged to abandon subsistence farming in favour of commercial and industrial goods. Processed in Manchuria (as oil and oil cake) and widely exported, soybean almost immediately became the mainspring of local development and also explained the success of Mantetsu and its trading port, Dairen.

196Competition centred on the Chinese plan to build a railway line starting in Ximintun, running south to north in parallel to the South Manchurian’s route (Mantetsu heikōsen mondai 満鉄平行線問題). The conflict was political in nature because it took on an international dimension: the need to borrow money from New York and London; the intervention of Straight, the first American consul‑general in Mukden; the reappearance of the financier Harriman; negotiations in Washington for the Root‑Takahira Agreement, concluded in 1908. This represented the sudden appearance of an entirely new “Manchurian question”, while in Saint Petersburg the minister of foreign affairs Iswolsky and the Japanese ambassador Motono Ichirō 本野一郎 (1862‑1918) strove to erase the memory of the Russo‑Japanese War.

  • 86 Michel Vié, Le Japon et le monde au xxe siècle, op. cit., p. 71.

197The pacification of Northeast Asia was a recognised reality in the region by 1907. It did not stem from an idealisation of peace. The practical adjustments made allowed rivalries to linger on. However, these rivalries were influenced by either voluntary restraint or interaction, both of which were creative forces and led to the birth of colonial Manchuria. Nonetheless, this pacification was also part of diplomatic or military changes that centred either on the Pacific region or on Europe. Together they contributed to a political neutralisation of the Far East, despite the distinct processes at work.86

198Japan and the United States came face‑to‑face in the Pacific, but material obstacles prevented a showdown.

  • 87 Irie Akira, op. cit., pp. 122‑123.

199American imperialism adapted to geographic conditions. In the Pacific this meant military colonialism in an ocean environment, composed of islands and naval bases acquired by coup (Hawaii), wars and forced purchases (Philippines). In parallel to the Russian colonisation and Japan’s creation of a “defensive wall” to the west of Korea, the United States drew their security line thousands of kilometres from their homeland. Beyond this barrier they had no military resources. They therefore limited themselves to economic forms of colonialism such as the Open Door principle in 1899‑1900, and in 1905 the beginning of “dollar diplomacy”, which culminated in 1909 under the presidency of Taft. The progression from one to the other has been explained as a passage from theory to practice. Yet only the second of these policies was directed against Japan, and while both were a failure in Manchuria, the attack continued in the form of moral aggression.87

200The weaknesses of America’s military colonisation are clear: a fleet incapable of imposing itself simultaneously in two oceans, and the absence of a trans‑oceanic canal (which was planned in Nicaragua or Panama).

  • 88 Conway’s All the World’s Fighting Ships, 1906‑1921, op. cit., p. 223.

201However, Japan also had a decisive weakness. A page of history overlooked by historians is that the Japanese fleet was in a phase of depression that began in 1906 with the Royal Navy’s launching of the new dreadnought‑class of battleship. Japan had strength in numbers, but all of its ships were rendered de facto obsolete, including those under construction. In order to avoid relying on overseas purchases, in 1905 it had undertaken the construction of 13,000‑ton armoured cruisers, as well as two 19,000‑ton battleships, the Satsuma and the Aki. But while it won the battle of tonnage, it lost the battle of modernity. And this for one reason: the British dreadnought‑class battleships were armed with ten 305mm guns, while the Japanese battleships of the same size had only four. Japan’s dockyards were incapable of forging large‑calibre guns in sufficient quantity. “Considering the Japanese industry, the creation of the Dreadnought was a disaster for Japan”.88 Japan’s Pacific policy was obliged to remain modest for ten years.

  • 89 Hata Ikuhiko, op. cit., p. 44.

202Unlike that of the Pacific, Europe’s contribution to the peace in the Far East did not stem from the neutralisation of a latent hostility. It was the result of integrating the protagonists of the Russo‑Japanese War into a new diplomatic system. The Franco‑Russian and Anglo‑Japanese alliances, virtually countervailing forces, were maintained, as was the Entente Cordiale of 8 April 1904, which could have placed the two contracting powers in a difficult situation. However, in three months, from June to August 1907, three international agreements made these diplomatic legacies fully compatible: 10 June between France and Japan; 30 July between Japan and Russia; and 31 August between Great Britain and Russia. The consequences were as follows: in Europe, for three of the signatory powers, the start of the Triple Entente (hailed at the time as a counterweight to the Triple Alliance); in the Far East, for Russia and Japan, a reassuring co‑habitation as well as increased security for French and British colonial privileges. There was no collective treaty. Each of the four powers mentioned here achieved a peaceful relationship with the other three via a series of agreements. Together they made a coherent whole, though this did not result in Japan’s absorption into the Entente. It was Iswolsky in Saint Petersburg who took the initiative to organise peace talks with the pro‑Russian ambassador Motono Ichirō89.

203Without the civil war in China beginning in 1911 and the Balkan crisis of 1914, nothing made it impossible to imagine that the peace and order established in the continental Far East would endure permanently. It was in this context that Manchuria, ceasing to be a mere physical space, started to become, for society and the world economy, a tangible reality in History.

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1 François Joyaux, La Nouvelle question d’Extrême‑Orient (The New Far Eastern Question), Paris, Payot, 1985.

2 Pierre Renouvin, La Question d’Extrême‑Orient 1840‑1940 (The Far Eastern Question, 1840‑1940), Paris, Hachette, 1946.

3 For further information on international relations in the Far East see: George M. Beckmann, The Modernization of China and Japan, New York, Harper & Row, 1962; Jean‑Baptiste Duroselle, L’Europe de 1815 à nos jours (Europe from 1815 Onwards), Nouvelle Clio, Paris, PUF, 1964; Ian Nish, The Anglo‑Japanese Alliance: The Diplomacy of Two Island Empires 1894‑1907, London, University of London Historical Studies, 1966; Nihon gaikōshi jiten 日本外交史辞典 (A Dictionary of Japanese Diplomatic History), Tokyo, Yamakawa Shuppansha 山川出版社, 1992; Nora Wang, L’Asie orientale du milieu du xixe siècle à nos jours (East Asia from the Mid‑19th Century to Today), Paris, Armand Colin, 1993; Michel Vié, Le Japon et le monde au xxe siècle (Japan and the World in the 20th Century), Paris, Masson, 1995; Peter Duus, The Abacus and the Sword: The Japanese Penetration of Korea 1895‑1910, Oakland, University of California Press, 1998; Jean‑Louis Van Regemorter, La Russie et le monde au xxe siècle (Russia and the World in the 20th Century), Paris, Masson/Armand Colin, 1999; Alain Delissen et al., L’Asie Orientale et Méridionale aux xixe et xxe siècles (East and South Asia in the 19th and 20th Centuries), Paris, PUF, 1999; Lionel Babicz, Le Japon face à la Corée à l’ère Meiji (Japan‑Korea Relations during the Meiji Era), Paris, Maisonneuve et Larose, 2002.

4 On military issues in the Far East see: Hata Ikuhiko 秦郁彦, Taiheiyō kokusai kankeishi 太平洋国際関係史 (The History of International Relations in the Pacific), Tokyo, Fukumura Shuppan 福村出版, 1972; J. C. Balet, Le Japon militaire en 1910‑1911 (Military Japan in 1910‑1911), Paris, E. Le Roux, 1910; Ikeda Kiyoshi 池田清, Nihon no kaigun Jōkan 日本の海軍 上巻 (The Japanese Navy, Vol. 1), Tokyo, Shiseidō 至誠堂, 1966; Eric Muraise, Introduction à l’Histoire militaire (Introduction to Military History, presented by the Institut des Hautes Etudes de Défense Nationale, Paris), 1964; Okamoto Shunpei, The Japanese Oligarchy and the Russo‑Japanese War, New York, Columbia University Press, 1970; Kitaoka Shin’ichi 北岡伸一, Nihon rikugun to tairiku seisaku 1906‑1918 日本 陸軍と大陸政策1906‑1918 (The Japanese Army and Continental Policy), Tōkyō Daigaku Shuppankai 東京大学出版会, 1972; Toyama Saburō 外山三郎, Nihon kaigunshi 日本海軍史 (History of the Japanese Navy), Tokyo, Kyōikusha Rekishi Shinsho 教育者歴史新書, 1980; Conway’s All The World’s Fighting Ships, 1906‑1921, London, Conway Maritime Press Ltd., 1993; Sarah C. M. Paine, The Sino‑Japanese War of 1894‑1895, Cambridge, Cambridge University Press, 2002, pp. 75‑76.

5 Philippe Rygiel, “Quand l’Europe était une terre d’émigration” (When Europe Was a Land of Emigration), Collections de l’Histoire – Les grandes migrations, no. 46, 2010, p. 65.

6 On the “Manchurian Question” see: Kitaoka Shin’ichi, Gotō Shinpei 後藤新平 (Gotō Shinpei), Tokyo, Chūōkōronsha, 1988; Yoshihisa Tak Matsukata, The Making of Japanese Manchuria: 1904‑1932, Cambridge (MA), Harvard East Asian Monographs, 2001; Yamamuro Shin’ichi 山室信一, Kimera: Manshūkoku no shōzō キメラ 満州国の肖像 (Chimera: A portrait of Manchukuo), Tokyo, Chūōkōronsha, 2004; Yamamuro Shin’ichi, Nichiro sensō no seiki 日露戦争の世紀 (The Century of the Russo‑Japanese War), Tokyo, Iwanami Shoten, 2005; 小林英夫, “Manshūkoku” no rekishi <満州国>の歴史 (The History of Manchuria), Tokyo, Kōdansha, 2008. 

7 An Austrian economist and former minister who became a professor at Harvard University in 1932.

8 Known in France through the Battle of Palikao (Baliqiao 里橋 in Chinese), which earned General Cousin‑Montauban (1796‑1878) the title of Count of Palikao.

9 Okamoto Shunpei, The Japanese Oligarchy and the Russo‑Japanese War, op. cit., p. 149. “Even the Battle of Trafalgar could not match this,” Theodore Roosevelt is said to have written.

10 Yves Lacoste, Hérodote, issue entitled “Asie du Nord‑est”, no. 97, Paris, 2000.

11 Pierre Renouvin, La Question d’Extrême‑Orient 1840‑1940, op. cit.

12 Sarah C. M. Paine, The Sino‑Japanese War of 1894‑1895, op. cit., pp. 75‑76. Port Lazareff was located not far from Wŏnsan.

13 Lionel Babicz, Le Japon face à la Corée à l’ère Meiji, op. cit., p. 34; Nihon gaikōshi jiten, op. cit., “posadonikku‑gō jiken” entry (The Posadnik Incident).

14 Jean‑Baptiste Duroselle, L’Europe de 1815 à nos jours, op. cit., pp. 127‑131.

15 In Feydeau’s comedy Un fil à la patte (1894, known as Cat Among the Pigeons in English) a Peruvian is sent to Paris to buy “two battleships, three cruisers and five torpedo boats”.

16 Alfred Thayer Mahan, The Influence of Sea Power upon History: 1660‑1783, Boston, Little, Brown & Company, 1890.

17 Sarah C. M. Paine, The Sino‑Japanese War of 1894‑1895, op. cit., pp. 132‑134, on the Kowshing “incident”.

18 Pierre Renouvin, La Question d’Extrême‑Orient, 1840‑1940, op. cit., pp. 4‑7.

19 Apart from in western Siberia. See Roger Portal, Cours de la Sorbonne, La Russie industrielle de 1890 à 1927 (Industrial Russia from 1890 to 1927), Paris, Centre de documentation universitaire, (1956) 1976; Yamamuro Shin’ichi, Nichiro sensō no seiki, op. cit., p. 44.

20 Pierre Renouvin, ibid., p. 126.

21 George M. Beckmann, The Modernization of China and Japan, op. cit., p. 171.

22 Roger Portal, Cours de la Sorbonne, La Russie industrielle de 1890 à 1927, op. cit., pp. 89‑91. Yamamuro Shin’ichi, Nichiro sensō no seiki, op. cit.

23 Pierre Renouvin, ibid., p. 134.

24 Abolished in 1876.

25 Yuan Shikai 袁世凱 (1859‑1916), ambassador to Seoul, embodied this system in the manner of Lord Cromer (1841‑1917) in Egypt.

26 The economic and political success of Britain’s colonisation of Egypt was known in Japan and no doubt in China too. Peter Duus, The Abacus and the Sword, op. cit., pp. 134‑135 and on Chinese policy in particular, p. 58.

27 Tonnage calculations can vary, hence the slight differences between sources.

28 Ikeda Kiyoshi, Nihon no kaigun Jōkan, op. cit., p. 100.

29 Lionel Babicz, Le Japon face à la Corée à l’ère Meiji, op. cit., pp. 202‑208.

30 Toyama Saburō, Nihon kaigunshi, op. cit., pp. 52‑53.

31 One of the cruisers in the French Navy was given the name Émile Bertin in 1934.

32 Ian Nish, The Anglo‑Japanese Alliance: The Diplomacy of Two Island Empires 1894‑1907, op. cit., p. 53 and footnote3.

33 Often minister and a future genrō along with six other key figures form the Chōshū and Satsuma domains, civilians and soldiers combined.

34 On this subject see by contrast the remarkable study by Duroselle on the genesis of World War I, L’Europe de 1815 à nos jours, op. cit., p. 101.

35 The treaty was signed in Moscow, where the coronation of Russian emperors took place, and not in Saint Petersburg.

36 Aleksei Borisovich Lobanov‑Rostovskii (1824‑1896)

37 Jean‑Baptiste Duroselle, ibid., p. 136: “Great Britain was determined to eliminate the French from the Nile Valley at all costs, even if it meant war”.

38 On the subject of Masampo see Ian Nish, The Anglo‑Japanese Alliance: The Diplomacy of Two Island Empires 1894‑1907, op. cit., pp. 72‑73.

39 Ibid., pp. 93‑94.

40 A Chinese port (Dalian) which became a Russian commercial port (Dalny) and finally, in 1906, an important Japanese commercial port (Dairen 大連).

41 J.‑L. Van Regemorter (La Russie et le monde au xxe siècle, op. cit.) believes that the ministers of Nicholas ii felt instinctively that in order to exist Russia had to incite fear.

42 Pierre Renouvin, La Question d’Extrême‑Orient 1840‑1940, op. cit., p. 173.

43 Nora Wang, L’Asie orientale du milieu du xixe siècle à nos jours, op. cit., p. 78.

44 Ian Nish, op. cit., p. 81.

45 Remember that the Marchand mission, designed to give France control over the Middle Nile Valley, had only a few hundred soldiers.

46 Pierre Renouvin, op. cit., p. 197. Ill‑informed on this point, the author wrote that “Russia and Japan were the first to propose vigorous intervention”.

47 War minister from 1902 to 1911 (rikugun daijin 陸軍大臣, literally minister of the army) and governor‑general of Korea from 1910 to 1916.

48 Kitaoka Shin’ichi, Gotō Shinpei, op. cit., p. 80.

49 Yamamuro Shin’ichi, Nichiro sensō no seiki, op. cit.

50 Kitaoka Shin’ichi, Gotō Shinpei, op. cit., pp. 90‑94.

51 See Lionel Babicz, Le Japon face à la Corée à l’ère Meiji, op. cit., p. 205. Translation and commentary on the memorandum.

52 Yamagata, creator of the modern Japanese army and Japan’s then prime minister.

53 These ideas are inspired by the discussion by Ian Nish, op. cit., p. 240.

54 Japan had also considered allying itself with China against Russia.

55 For more information on the subject see Ian Nishi, ibid, pp. 229‑244.

56 Ibid., pp. 270‑273.

57 Pierre Renouvin, La Question d’Extrême‑Orient 1840‑1940, op.cit., p. 70.

58 Ian Nish, ibid., p. 288, footnote 2.

59 Future prime minister, governor of the Bank of Japan, and minister of finance. Assassinated on 26 February 1936. Cf. Nihon gaikōshi jiten, op. cit.p. 512.

60 Ian Nish, ibid., pp. 288‑289.

61 Pierre Renouvin, ibid., pp. 11‑17. Ian Nish does not discuss this issue.

62 Nihon gaikōshi jiten, op. cit., entry on Jacob Henry Schiff, p. 355.

63 In fact these were large army corps; however, army corps had no institutional existence in the Japanese army. Balet, le Japon militaire…, op. cit., p. 105.

64 The hill was immortalised in 1980 in the film 20  kōchi 二百三高地 (203‑Metre Hill), by Masuda Toshio 舛田利雄, starring Nakadai Tatsuya 仲代達矢 as General Nogi (and Mifune Toshirō 三船敏郎 as Meiji).

65 Nishi Tokujirō 西徳二郎 (1847‑1912) was the minister of foreign affairs in the third administration of Itō Hirobumi (12 January–5 June 1898). Roman Rosen (1847‑1921) was the Russian ambassador to Tokyo.

66 Vladimir Nikolaevich Lamsdorf (1845‑1907), speaking in German.

67 Ian Nish, ibid., p. 197.

68 The two ships left Genoa on 9 January 1904 and reached Yokosuka on 16 February.

69 The Borodino‑class battleships (Suvorof, Alexandre III, Borodino and Orel). The final ship, the Slava, escaped the disaster at Tsushima. Its construction was not advanced enough for it to be included in the Second Pacific Squadron on 9 September 1904.

70 These are the figures quoted by Okamoto Shunpei, The Japanese Oligarchy and the Russo‑Japanese War, op. cit., p. 108.

71 Eric Muraise, Introduction à l’Histoire militaire, op. cit., pp. 305‑307.

72 Okamoto Shunpei, ibid., p. 150.

73 Kitaoka Shin’ichi, Nihon rikugun to tairiku seisaku 1906‑1918, op. cit., pp. 35‑36.

74 Stretching over 200 kilometres, this line terminates south of Mukden.

75 Peter Duus, op. cit. p. 80, pp. 184‑186.

76 Ibid., pp. 193‑194.

77 Alain Delissen et al., L’Asie Orientale et Méridionale…, op. cit., p. 173.

78 Ian Nish, op.cit. p. 318.

79 Irie Akira, Across the Pacific: An Inner History of American‑East Asian Relations, New York, Harcourt, Brace & World, 1967, pp. 74‑78.

80 Yves‑Henri Nouhaihat, Les États‑Unis : l’avènement d’une puissance mondiale 1898‑1933 (The United States: the Advent of a World Power, 1898‑1933), Paris, Éditions Richelieu, 1973, pp. 20‑31, « une Entrée fracassante sur la scène mondiale » (“A dramatic entrance on the international stage”).

81 P. Devilliers, Encyclopédie Universalis, 1992, volume 18, p. 54.

82 Pierre Chaunu, L’Amérique et les Amériques, Paris, Armand Colin, 1964, p. 289. “The Treaty of Paris governed relations between the United States and Latin America. It showed just how profitable brute force was”.

83 Nihon gaikōshi jiten, op. cit., p. 761, article “Nunobikimaru jiken” 引丸事件 (The Nunobikimaru Affair).

84 Edward Henry Harriman (1848‑1909), considered, along with Taft and the Secretary of State Philander Knox, to be a proponent of dollar diplomacy (known in Japanese as doru gaikō ドル外交).

85 Kitaoka Shin’ichi, Gotō Shinpei, op. cit., pp. 75‑105.

86 Michel Vié, Le Japon et le monde au xxe siècle, op. cit., p. 71.

87 Irie Akira, op. cit., pp. 122‑123.

88 Conway’s All the World’s Fighting Ships, 1906‑1921, op. cit., p. 223.

89 Hata Ikuhiko, op. cit., p. 44.

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Electronic reference

Michel Vié, Manchuria and the “Far Eastern Question”, 1880‑1910Cipango - French Journal of Japanese Studies [Online], 4 | 2015, Online since 21 September 2017, connection on 03 December 2023. URL:; DOI:

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About the author

Michel Vié

Professor emeritus, Inalco

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