When Russia allied with France and Great Britain in the 1890s, it also gained the ability to extend its influence into Asia. By 1895, Russia and Germany were competing for favor with France. Russia's position as a gateway to Asia from the West made it the power of choice for Britian to negotiate with in order to gain influence in the area. After Japan defeated China in 1895, Russia stepped in and forced Japan to give up rights in Liaotung Peninsula and Port Arthur, located in southern Manchuria, which Russia used to build a railroad with the help of French funds.
All this foreign activity in China resulted in the Boxer Rebellion, which both Japan and Russia sent forces into China to put down. Both countries were backed by other foreign powers with interest in the region. Japan then demanded that Russia get out of Manchuria. The tsar of the time, Nicholas, wanted to compromise ? but his enemies in the government went against his decisions, and in the end he relented. Russia's official standpoint was refusal of Japan's demands until, in 1904, they declared war. By 1905 Russia was definitely losing, and although reinforcements could have made victory, diplomatic pressure by other foreign countries persuaded the tsar to accept mediation by President Roosevelt of the United States. Before the war, the tsar was willing to trade Korea for Manchuria; at the end of the war, he wound up ceding superiority in both regions to Japan.
Imperialism in Asia and the Russo-Japanese War.
From Russia: A Country Study, ed. Glenn E. Curtis
Washington: Library of Congress, 1989).