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Japan became a colonial power in 1895, at the end of the first Sino-Japanese war. This, however, did not happen by design: Tokyo had gone to war with Beijing the previous year in order to wipe out Chinese influence in Korea, not to acquire new territory.

Early in the conflict, however, Japan scored a series of decisive victories that boosted the confidence of its leaders. Before long, they were asking for a large indemnity as well as the ceding of Taiwan and the neighboring archipelago of Penghu. They even pushed for control of the Liaodong Peninsula on the Chinese mainland, but that was a bridge too far for Russia, Germany and France, who feared for their interests in the Middle Kingdom. They forced Tokyo to pare back its ambition and made it clear it would have to be content with Taiwan and Penghu.

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