Of Rajahs and Hornbills: A timeline of Brooke Sarawak

Great to see this return.
😌

Grand to see an update here.

And heartwarming to see some people in such times being able to set the conflicts aside even if only briefly.

Good luck.
Well, I have to fit in something that's optimistic to make up for puffing-away a Christmas truce. /s

One of the inspirations for the interlude was the transits of Venus in 1761 and 1769, when the British and French (more so the former) allowed astronomers to pass through each other's territories despite conflicts at home. The Russians and Basmachi are certainly evoking the spirit of such for the solar eclipse, though most of them don't even recognize the similarities.
 
Late-Great War: 1906-1907 - East Asia and the Russian Far East New
1906-1907 East Asia 1.jpg

Kwame Vladimirovich Ulyanov, East Asia and the Third Bubonic Pandemic: A Summary (Red Star Journal: 2021)

The bubonic plague changed everything for the East Asian theatre.

There had been increasing concern on the spread of infections throughout the Qing Empire, with the government in Peking instituting roadblocks and health centers to halt the spread. As infection rates soared in the coastal cities and more cases appeared farther north by the week, the economy of China stumbled. Transporters refused to haul food into high-caseload neighborhoods while peasants started to hoard rice and grain, sending food prices on a tailspin. In the far north, the Yersinia Pestis bacterium further added to the unrest in the Mongolian steppe as locals and newcomers blamed each other of spreading the plague. [A]

But for Peking, the ultimate concern was to prevent the infection from reaching the frontlines. With the potential of the bubonic plague to complicate winter campaigns in the Yellow Sea coast, southern Manchuria, and northern Korea, containment was of the utmost necessity. Luckily, the winter conditions of 1905-06 seemed to halt the advance of the bacterium from reaching the various battlefronts as troop movements slowed; the Japanese never expected their campaign to last so long, with new logistical and supply issues beginning to conflict with established objectives. As temperatures fall to below freezing, most Qing, Korean, and Japanese soldiers entrenched their positions and built ground defenses, waiting for the other side to move and the season to end.

However, this only served to concentrate men in unhygienic conditions, and the slow movement of troops masked the transport of weapons and food to the frontlines… with rats in tow. The Yersinia strain had also evolved to lay dormant for up to a week amongst new hosts, allowing the plague to spread into north China and Korea beneath the watchful eye of road-guards and health officials. The following spring of 1907 was a perfect storm for the bacterium as the war resumed and snows melted – new recruits from Qing south mingled with veteran fighters while additional resources were funneled to contain the unrest in the Mongolian borderlands.

The early days of 1906 also saw a new vector in the form of the Imperial Russian Army. Seeing the desperate situation in the Russian-leased, Japanese-besieged stronghold of Port Arthur, Tsar Nicholas II hashed out an agreement with Peking to allow Russian “volunteers” enter Qing Manchuria to relieve the city. Of course, when this volunteer force turned out to be large regiments of official troops, Peking revolted and asked for promises that they leave once Manchuria is pacified. But these political bickerings hid the dark fact that Yersinia Pestis began to infect these men as well, probably through close contact with Chinese soldiers near the Manchurian-Qing border.

From these, the disease spread like wildfire across the northeast and swiftly jumped into the Korean Peninsula. Before long, Pyongyang reported its first cases while Korean troops on the frontlines were instructed to kill any rats on sight. The Japanese-held south quickly ordered new health and sanitary campaigns to halt the spread, such as quarantining new ships docking at Busan. But the necessities of war meant that war vessels had to be serviced hastily in defiance of those orders, allowing the bacterium to spread into the city as well as gain entry into the Japanese home islands through the port of Nagasaki.

As panic spread amongst Japanese residents, Tokyo swiftly instituted new public health measures to stop the spread. Unfortunately, a fair number of locals also began to suspect Korean migrants of spreading the plague themselves, leading to a spate of mob violence against the community….

********************

1906-1907 East Asia 2.jpg
1906-1907 East Asia 3.jpg

Charlie MacDonald, Strange States, Weird Wars, and Bizzare Borders, (weirdworld.postr.com, 2014)

You know what? That’s it

I’ve had it

Enough.

There is just… a point where I cannot take any. Single. Page. More. About troop numbers and casualty counts and failed offensives and infection rates and I’ve. Just had. Freaking. ENOUGH.

Here’s the bullshit-free truth: Japan had one of the largest and most logistically forward force in East Asia with troops batting out in Korea, China, and Manchuria. It had hundreds of thousands of men whom were trained under western lines and under western advisors. It had a partial weaponry advantage and definite seapower advantage over the naval fleets and land forces of the opposing sides.

AND YET, IT LOST.

HOW IN THE WORLD DO THEY LOST?

I dunno, maybe it was the freaking black plague wafting around and making every 1 in 5 soldiers sick? Maybe it was the unexpected quantity of Chinese troops holding the line at Tientsin and the Yellow Sea coast? Maybe it was the Crimson Sword religious brotherhood which grew to encompass hundreds of thousands of devoted ferocious fighters? Or maybe it was the Chinese guerilla groups, Korean Righteous Armies, and Christian militias of Manchuria that picked-off squadrons and raised hell with the Japanese supply lines?

Or maybe it was all of the above, encapsulated within a simple, fundamental truth: Japan may have the resources and firepower to succeed against one enemy, but maybe not two, and definitely not against three/but it can’t win against three. Oh, and these were three seething empires who – although side-eying each other like the freakin’ plague – were in one mind to kick the Japanese off of mainland Asia.

‘Course, that didn’t mean the Japanese didn’t try to win. Even with the pandemic spoiling plans, they were better organized and supplied than their opponents (don’t knock logistical systems, people!).

In fact, this would lead to one of the most enraging aspects of the East Asian theatre: Russia’s deciding to punt their troops into Manchuria and Korea. Tsar Nicholas II, after losing his patience at the pace of things, hastily agreed to a plan that would see tens of thousands of Russian troops into East Asia and free Port Arthur from Japanese besiegement. Now, to say that the Qing court was angry at this was an understatement, and the Crimson Sword brotherhood was pissed beyond reason. But the other option was the Rising Sun flag over parts of mainland Asia, so… yeah.

So by early 1906 – like, in January 1906 – the order was given.


1906-1907 East Asia 4.jpg


Thankfully, none of the soldiers were 100 feet tall. Imagine what might’ve happened then!

Look, everything political that happens from here on partly comes back to this act, so let’s just get it over with.

As expected, the ‘Russians to Manchuria’ order caused much alarm amongst the governments of China, Korea, and Japan. Heck, the Pan-Asianists of the latter even pointed them out as the reason for why Asia must be united under the Japanese protection banner of co-prosperity (and of course, under Japanese overlordship). In fact, the arrival of Russian troops to fight for Port Arthur directly led to the formation of the influential Pan-Asian Star of Asia newspaper (B).

But on the ground, things were waaaaay different. The Chinese Christians of Manchuria – exiled and punted from their own proper homeland, unsurprisingly saw the Russian officers as protectors against anti-Christian Chinese and Manchu mobs. Much of the Korean court also saw Russian intervention with guarded hopes, hedging cautiously that their friend of today may (or may not) be their oppressor tomorrow.

Conversely, many Han Chinese and Manchu townsfolk were in the definite negative, seeing them as an example of Russian meddling into where it shouldn’t be. But the worst reactions came from the Society of the Crimson Swords, who kinda have a thing against the idea of a China sullied and bullied by outsiders. While many adherents of the brotherhood still supported the Dynasty, there were also many who felt betrayed by the Qing government who – in their eyes – was supposed to prevent such interventions in the first place.

Also, the arrival of the bubonic plague to Manchuria fed salacious rumors that the Russians were intentionally spreading the disease around to cull unruly locals. So that was fun!

Unsurprisingly, this led to a surge in anti-Qing sentiment amongst some cells of the Crimson Swords, though this was clamped down by the leading figures of the movement. Still, this sentiment against the dynasty would fester and would lead to the eventual confrontation between the brethren and the imperial government…

In terms of offensives and what-not, 1906 was a pretty muddled year. There were Russian and Chinese and Korean offensives against Japanese troops, and the latter responded back in kind. But this was also the year the bubonic plague really spread through East Asia, so pretty much everyone stopped shooting each other when they started vomiting. There was a Chinese push in late winter and a Russian offensive in April, but that was it really. At least Port Arthur was taken back and became a refuge for tired Russian ships before it became converted into a ‘hospital city’.

In fact, 1906 mostly belonged to the guerilla groups and Crimson Swords than anything. Made of mobile groups and cells, they raised hell with the Japanese supply lines and forced Tokyo to weed out the Korean, Manchurian, and Chinese countryside, tying down precious troops. They were so successful at this that all three anti-Japanese empires quickly legitimized them, networking with commanders and officers to figure out where to attack! The Righteous Armies of Korea were particularly instrumental at halting Japanese incursions into Pyongyang and the north, with help from a few Russian advisors and Qing logistics.

But mainly, 1906 was a wash. Too many soldiers on all sides were falling sick to make any sort of progress. It was only in the 06’-07’ 1907 winter that things truly changed, and it was really more economics than anything! Qing China had partially adapted to a war economy (albeit one hemorrhaged by plague) while Japan, meanwhile, found itself shoveling more and more money to keep the war, the nation, the pandemic healthcare, and the economy afloat. Remember, Japan was an importer of raw materials, and the nation was hungrier than ever at this point. The Yen inflated like a balloon, and by spring, public protests were sparking in Osaka and Yokohama over pricey basic goods.

This was compounded by a ginormous spring offensive in Qing China and Manchuria, led by both the Chinese and Russian armies, the Christian guerrillas, the Crimson Swords, and the Righteous Armies. As Leo Tolstoy said it, “Quantity has a quality all its own”, and boy did the Japanese got on the blunt end of that! Tientsin and the Yellow Sea coast were flushed out by June – though the Yellow Sea remained a Japanese lake – and Manchuria was firmly under control under the Russian generals (despite being technically Qing soil, but we don’t have time to talk about that!).


1906-1907 East Asia 5.jpg


Oh look, Qing propaganda. Also, please don’t ask me why the Chinese troops are dressed like that. I don’t even know. Maybe the artist was an old-school conservative?
With that done, supplies and men flooded into Korea, enabling Pyongyang to slowly inch forwards over the fall and even taking Seoul by October. However, this is when things started to unravel. Many among the Qing court and Crimson Swords were wondering “why is Russia still hanging around in Qing Manchuria?” and there were even several attacks done by members of the Swords on Russian battalions over this.

But finally, FINALLY, events elsewhere will render this discussion moot.




AND THAT IS IT. HOLY HELL WAS THIS PAINFUL TO MAKE. HOW ON EARTH DO THE HISTORIANS EVEN DO IT? This was a goddamn mindbender and literally took months!

Okey, I think this might be the last time I’m ever detailing a war in this side of the earth, because fuck me I’m not doing this ever again!

____________________


Notes:

So… how y’all doin’?

If you are wondering where I have been over the months, I apologize. The pandemic and related issues have sapped my eagerness to write, and this update in particular has been vexing me for weeks. There were so many moving pieces that I actually wrote three different drafts of the East Asia theatre before this one, and all of them were inadequate in some form. Top tip: when writing a timeline, make sure you don’t write yourself into a corner by adding too many moving pieces. You might just save yourself weeks of guesswork!

[A] See post #2025 for an introduction to the bubonic plague pandemic and the Mongolian clashes out north.

(B) See post #2030 for an introduction to the early strains of the Pan-Asian Movement.
 
Update!

Don't sweat it- I know what it's like to start a big war in you TL and then get bogged down in the details of writing about it when you really want to talk about something else.
Haha, I originally set out this timeline to prevent such bogging-down from happening (there's a reason why wars and conflicts are mostly skimmed. And why the United States is practically persona non grata). At least now the biggest bump in the Great War is dealt with!
 
Getting the big nasty space filling empire to give up land it's got troops in is something of a tall order. Hopefully Korea comes out of this better than it did the results of OTL World War II.

China might be heading to a new divided states era, if the Qing get toppled without a ready replacement. Would be interesting.
 
Look, everything political that happens from here on partly comes back to this act, so let’s just get it over with.

As expected, the ‘Russians to Manchuria’ order caused much alarm amongst the governments of China, Korea, and Japan. Heck, the Pan-Asianists of the latter even pointed them out as the reason for why Asia must be united under the Japanese protection banner of co-prosperity (and of course, under Japanese overlordship). In fact, the arrival of Russian troops to fight for Port Arthur directly led to the formation of the influential Pan-Asian Star of Asia newspaper (B).

But on the ground, things were waaaaay different. The Chinese Christians of Manchuria – exiled and punted from their own proper homeland, unsurprisingly saw the Russian officers as protectors against anti-Christian Chinese and Manchu mobs. Much of the Korean court also saw Russian intervention with guarded hopes, hedging cautiously that their friend of today may (or may not) be their oppressor tomorrow.

Conversely, many Han Chinese and Manchu townsfolk were in the definite negative, seeing them as an example of Russian meddling into where it shouldn’t be. But the worst reactions came from the Society of the Crimson Swords, who kinda have a thing against the idea of a China sullied and bullied by outsiders. While many adherents of the brotherhood still supported the Dynasty, there were also many who felt betrayed by the Qing government who – in their eyes – was supposed to prevent such interventions in the first place.

Also, the arrival of the bubonic plague to Manchuria fed salacious rumors that the Russians were intentionally spreading the disease around to cull unruly locals. So that was fun!

Unsurprisingly, this led to a surge in anti-Qing sentiment amongst some cells of the Crimson Swords, though this was clamped down by the leading figures of the movement. Still, this sentiment against the dynasty would fester and would lead to the eventual confrontation between the brethren and the imperial government…
Now this is a profoundly interesting bit of foreshadowing. Evidently the Russian presence in Manchuria beginning around this time is to some extent linked to political controversy as of ATL 2014 (at least, in whatever circle/community/region the author of weirdworld.postr.com is a part of), with the touchy information in question revolving around the Russian troops' appearance receiving a mixed reception by the locals.

Given all the later mentions of the Russian presence in (Inner) Manchuria as well as of Pan-Asianism, if I had to speculate wildly on the matter, the Russians are in the end not planning on leaving, with this resulting in one of maybe two things: either a very nasty war between Russia and China later in the 20th century, or a Russian occupation/annexation of Manchuria lasting several decades, perhaps even into the ATL's present. This happening and being related to something(s) nasty is in line both with Imperial Russian geopolitical objectives (not in the least including their policies of Russification in conquered Caucasia and Central Asia), Pan-Asianism remaining a politically sensitive topic into the 21st century, and the possibility I view as likely that East Asia in general remains a lot more prevalent in 20th century geopolitics:
  • Korea remaining united and (possibly) sovereign throughout the 1900s makes it a strong contender for a major regional power; even after having undergone Japanese colonization and Cold War-era division OTL, South Korea regularly ranks in the top 10 in economic and military statistics globally. The chapter also notes at least some apprehension to the notion of greater Russian power projection in its area, which even if it falls under Russian protection/influence is probably only going to strengthen if they gain major control over Manchuria.
  • Qing is currently in a bad place, but I find myself skeptical at the notion that they are as doomed to failure as in OTL - their reform measures are having been stated as having gone a lot better than in OTL (no doubt aided by their forced involvement in a modern industrial war), and in the event Manchuria ends up occupied/annexed the revanchism could serve as a force of national unity among the Chinese population. There's even at least one (probable) victory in store for their mandate in the near future, as we can assume the Qing to demand Taiwan be returned to them upon Japan's defeat. And even if they do fall, I have a hard time seeing phenomena such as the Cultural Revolution being replicated here and kneecapping the country for decades into the mid-20th century.
  • While Japan is fighting a losing war here (and seems to be flirting aggressively with bankruptcy) I don't see what exactly the allied powers can do that will keep them from remaining a strong force into the coming decades. It also reprises its OTL role as the chief driver of Pan-Asianism here, which with a stronger Russian presence (and a weaker presence of their own as an imperial power over its neighbors) can be translated into both increased Russian friction and greater influential room in other Asian countries threatened by Russia.
But finally, FINALLY, events elsewhere will render this discussion moot.
Now there's a cliffhanger...
AND THAT IS IT. HOLY HELL WAS THIS PAINFUL TO MAKE. HOW ON EARTH DO THE HISTORIANS EVEN DO IT? This was a goddamn mindbender and literally took months!

Okey, I think this might be the last time I’m ever detailing a war in this side of the earth, because fuck me I’m not doing this ever again!
There were so many moving pieces that I actually wrote three different drafts of the East Asia theatre before this one, and all of them were inadequate in some form. Top tip: when writing a timeline, make sure you don’t write yourself into a corner by adding too many moving pieces. You might just save yourself weeks of guesswork!
I am all too familiar with that feeling. Don't worry about it - these are trying enough times even without the added stress of complicated writing.
 
Waiting to see what happens to South and Southeast Asia now.
You're in luck! Southeast Asia (and maybe Oceania) is next, and the region is a lot cooler than East Asia in terms of being shooty-shooty, though the area is by no means peaceful.

Getting the big nasty space filling empire to give up land it's got troops in is something of a tall order. Hopefully Korea comes out of this better than it did the results of OTL World War II.

China might be heading to a new divided states era, if the Qing get toppled without a ready replacement. Would be interesting.
To Japan's credit, it managed to bankroll and conduct their war to such degrees most westerners think are impossible for an Asian nation. But the economic imbalance and massive imports needed to sustain the war effort is bleeding Tokyo dry; you can't fight a war when you can't pay for raw materials for the effort. Or get enough bullets or supplies to the front lines.

As for China, the Qing government is certainly having a popularity problem. The decision to allow Russian troops into Manchuria to fight for Port Arthur is massively controversial, and half the Qing court are aghast of invoking the Intervention Card. But emperor Zhangchen is trying his hardest and there are no other princely candidates that are as reformist or pro-industrialization.

Still, the Russian intervention will have a certain (un)popularity effect amongst the local people, especially the Crimson Sword brethren. If the government can't repair their image soon, fighting the Japanese would be the least of their problems.

Now this is a profoundly interesting bit of foreshadowing. Evidently the Russian presence in Manchuria beginning around this time is to some extent linked to political controversy as of ATL 2014 (at least, in whatever circle/community/region the author of weirdworld.postr.com is a part of), with the touchy information in question revolving around the Russian troops' appearance receiving a mixed reception by the locals.

[snip]

That is some impressive theorizing! I will say that Manchuria in the future will share some aspects with certain countries that have secessionist regions, so regional politics shall always stay stormy.

A united Korea that achieves high development is an interesting thread, but I should caution that her current place as a high-development nation only came about due to the post-Korean War government massively courting heavy industry and manufacturing. If Korea decides to stay in relative semi-hermitness in TTL, they shall have a different trajectory for the future.

That is all I can say, but your points reach closer to truth than others. ;)
 
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