CHAPTER XIV. The Open Door

The United States arrived in the Orient at a moment of high excitement. Russia was consolidating the advance of two centuries by the building of the trans-Siberian railroad, and was looking eagerly for a port in the sun, to supplement winter-bound Vladivostok. Great Britain still regarded Russia as the great enemy and, pursuing her policy of placing buffer states between her territories and her enemies, was keenly interested in preventing any encroachment southward which might bring the Russian bear nearer India. France, Russia's ally, possessed IndoChina, which was growing at the expense of Siam and which might grow northwards into China. Germany saw in eastern Asia the richest prize remaining in the world not yet possessed by her rivals, and it was for this that she was seeking power in the Pacific. Having missed the Philippines, she quickly secured Samoa and purchased from Spain the Caroline Islands, east of the Philippines, and all that the United States had not taken of Spain's empire in the Pacific.

These latent rivalries had been brought into the open by the Chino-Japanese War of 1894-1895, which showed the powerlessness of China. The western world was, indeed, divided in opinion as to whether this colossus of the East was essentially rotten, old, decrepit, and ready to disintegrate, or was merely weak because of arrested development, which education and training could correct. At any rate, China was regarded as sick and therefore became for the moment even more interesting than Turkey, the traditional sick man of Europe. If China were to die, her estate would be divided. If she were really to revitalize her vast bulk by adapting her millions to modern ways, she had but to stretch herself and the toilfully acquired Asiatic possessions of the European powers would shiver to pieces; and if she awoke angry, Europe herself might well tremble. The really wise saw that the important thing was to determine the kind of education which China should receive, and in solving this problem the palm of wisdom must be given to the missionaries who represented the great Christian societies of Europe and America. To small-minded statesmen it seemed that the situation called for conquest. No nation was willing to be late at the division, if division it was to be; while if China was to awake, the European powers felt that she should awake shackled. By no one was this latter view so clearly held as by the Kaiser. With his accustomed versatility, he designed a cartoon showing the European powers, armed and with Germania in the forefront, confronting the yellow peril. On sending his troops to China in 1900, he told them to imitate the methods of the Huns, in order to strike lasting terror to the hearts of the yellow race. By such means he sought to direct attention to the menace of the Barbarian, when he was himself first stating that doctrine of Teutonic frightfulness which has proved, in our day at least, to be the real world peril.

It was Japan who had exposed the weakness of the giant, but her victory had been so easy that her own strength was as yet untested. Japan had come of age in 1894 when, following the example of Great Britain, the various powers had released her from the obligation of exterritoriality imposed upon her by treaties when their subjects were unwilling to trust themselves to her courts. It was still uncertain, however, whether the assumption of European methods by Japan was real, and her position as a great power was not yet established. In the very moment of her triumph over China she was forced to submit to the humiliation of having the terms of peace supervised by a concert of powers and of having many of the spoils of her victory torn from her.

The chief fruits that remained to Japan from her brilliant military victory were Formosa and the recognition of the separation of Korea from China: These acquisitions gave her an opportunity to show her capacity for real expansion, but whether she would be able to hold her prize was yet to be proven. The European states, however, claimed that by the Japanese victories the balance of power in the Orient had been upset and that it must be adjusted. The obvious method was for each power to demand something for itself. In 1898 Germany secured a lease of Kiao-chau Bay across the Yellow Sea from Korea, which she at once fortified and where she proceeded to develop a port with the hope of commanding the trade of all that part of China. Russia in the same way secured, somewhat farther to the north, Port Arthur and Talien-wan, and proceeded to build Dalny as the commercial outlet of her growing railroad. Great Britain immediately occupied Wei-hai-wei, which was midway between the German and Russian bases and commanded from the south the entrance to Pekin, and also, much farther to the south, Mirs Bay, which gave security to her commercial center at Hong-kong. France took Kwang-chau, still farther to the south, and Italy received Sanmen, somewhat to the south of the Yangtszekiang. From these ports each power hoped to extend a sphere of influence. It was axiomatic that such a sphere would be most rapidly developed and most solidly held if special tariff regulations were devised to throw the trade into the hands of the merchants of the nation holding the port. The next step, therefore, in establishing the solidity of an Asiatic base, would be the formulation of special tariffs. The result would be the practical division of China into districts having different and opposed commercial interests.