Japan started on her programme of imperialist expansion in the last decades of the 19th century. Western countries had tried to establish their foothold there. In 1853 American warships under Commodore Perry had, after a show of force, compelled the Japanese to open to American shipping and trade. This was followed by a similar agreement by Japan with Britian, Holland, France and Russia. However, Japan escaped the experience and fate of other Asian countries. In 1867, after a change in government, known as Meji Restoration, Japan began to modernize its economy. Within a few decades, she became one of the most industrialized countries in the world. But the same forces that made many of the western countries imperialist were also active in Japan. Japan had few raw materials to support its industries. So she looked for lands that had them and for markets to sell her manufactured goods.
China provided some opportunities for Japan’s imperialist designs. A war took place between China and Japan over Korea, in 1894 A.D. after this Japan’s influence in China increased. The Anglo-Japanese Treaty of 1902 recognized her as a power of equal standing with the great European powers. In 1904-05 she defeated Russia. As a result of this war, the southern half of Sakhalin was ceded to Japan. Japan also gained control of the southern part of the Liaotung Peninsula with Port Arthur which was leagued to her. In 1910, Korea became a colony of Japan. When the First World War began in 1914, Japan could look back with some pride at the record of her last fifty years. She had become a great power and could expand further at the cost of China if the western powers would only allow her to do so. However, her own record was, if anything, worse than that of western imperialists. In fact, Japan’s activity helped to show that imperialism was not limited to any one people or region. Rather, it was the result of greed for economic and political power which could distort the policy of any country regardless of its race of cultural claims.