OF Britain's two hereditary enemies, France could, if necessary, be met in a direct fight, in Africa, in Asia, or in the Mediterranean. How to conduct a vendetta with the Tsar was a different problem. His Empire stretched half across the world, hidden in northern fogs. In the centre we held India against it. In the West, we had for decades tried to turn decrepit, crumbling Turkey into a fortified bastion. At the other end of the continent there was another Sick Man. Exactly the same considerations applied there, and with perhaps greater force. If China fell, the way to India would be uncovered on another side, to say nothing of losses to out commerce. If hostility to Russia was indeed an immutable law, and not merely, as one journalist called it, a "moulting and mangy prejudice",1 China would seem to be marked out by the Englishman's Providence as his partner in an alliance that would combine half the human face.
It was easy after 1895 to inveigh against the "fatal illusion that China was not only out natural ally, but an ally whose alliance was worth cultivating".2 But was not that being wise after the event? It is decidedly possible to assert that, in the years we have surveyed, informed opinion on the whole believed the star of the Chinese Empire to be rising and not setting. This, said Bowen of Hongkong in 1883, was the conviction of all the most competent judges.3 Ruled either by Christianity or by some Napoleon, wrote a missionary scholar, China must soon powerfully affect the destinies of the world.4 kThe Chinese Recorder wrote :" It is evident that China has learned much from the conflict (with France), and comes out of it stronger than ever____________________