In June 1858, during the second Opium War, Britain and France, in cahoots with the other major European powers and the United States, forced China to sign the Treaty of Tianjin. Britain waged the Opium War so its merchants could flood China with cheap heroin, cultivated by other British merchants in India.
The treaty allowed western trading powers to annex China commercially, emasculate the emperor and carve up the vast wealth of the Middle Kingdom. The Europeans colonised the mainland from the east, while the resurgent US navy, fresh from annexing California from Mexico, moved across the Pacific from the west.
These events were watched with distress in Edo, as Tokyo was then known. In 1860 Japan was isolated, feudal and weak. It was an obvious next commercial target for avaricious westerners. If India and China could be enfeebled by imperialists, what chance had remote Japan?
But Japan didn’t go the way of China. By 1900 Japan had become the most advanced independent nation in Asia. By 1905 it was trouncing the Russians on the battlefield.
Read the full details in the Irish Times
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