15 APRIL 1995, Page 22

One hundred years ago

THE Japanese are exceedingly clever. They understand European opinion, especially the baser side of it, as well as they understand the art of mobilisation, and the terms they offer China are, if correctly reported, drawn with exceed- ing adroitness. They know perfectly well that if Europe as a whole is not irritated by their pretensions, no single Power will interfere with them, Great Britain having no casus belli sufficient to satisfy Parliament, Russia being paralysed by the non-completion of the Siberian Railway, and the excessive expense of transporting a great army across North- ern Asia, France being occupied with Madagascar, and Germany having no interests east of the Straits of Malacca which are not strictly commercial. Count Ito has therefore offered Europe a big bribe in the shape of Free-trade with the interior of China, and Europe has apparently accepted it with glad- ness. The change in the tone of the English Press the moment the terms were known, is almost comical. We were going to make a compact with Russia and France to limit Japanese demands, to request guarantees for the freedom of Formosan waters, and above all to forbid any annexation of any portion of the mainland of the Chinese Empire. The offer of a new trade has, however, acted at once as a lubricant; and the journals agree that as Japan has in this respect been so "magnanimous," the remaining clauses of the Treaty can fur- nish no grounds for European interfer- ence.

The Spectator 13 April 1895