Many different European powers exerted tremendous imperial control over the countries of Asia, so it will only be possible to give one example of each here.
Political considerations led to the Russian attempt to “colonize” parts of China and Japan at the beginning of the twentieth century. After Russia’s disastrous defeat in the Crimean War of 1856, and the tumultuous circumstances at home precipitated by the emancipation of the serfs, Russia looked to the east as a place where it could reclaim the political influence that it had been losing in Eastern Europe for decades. Construction of the Trans-Siberian railway, for example, ran through China’s Heilongjiang province through the border city of Harbin. This was a Chinese city that putatively remained under Russian control and which housed a significant number of Russian immigrants. Once the Russians settled Vladivostok, they also began to quarrel with the Japanese over imperial possessions in Manchuria and Korea, leading to their equally disastrous defeat in the Russo-Japanese war of 1904-1905.
For the British administrators who partially colonized Qing China, social factors left them with a very negative perception of the Chinese way of life. In the port city of Tianjin, British public health officials were appalled at the insalubrious sanitary conditions they witnessed Chinese residents engage in. The traditional Chinese conceptions of weisheng—or roughly “hygiene” in Chinese—did not correspond closely enough with modern British sensibilities concerning cleanliness or personal health. As a result, British authorities used military force to make the Chinese inhabitants of Tianjin observe new laws regarding their personal behavior and way of life. Public urination, for example, was punishable with a hefty fine or even jail time. In this way, the social expectations the British had of a modern society were reflected in the way they carried out their imperial mission in China.
Economic considerations ensured that the French long exploited the Vietnamese laborers in the territories of Tonkin and Cochin china. Up until the first Indochinese war in 1945, French colonial administrators had a strong desire to accumulate as many natural resources as was possible to feed industrial production back in Europe. Rice cultivation was one obvious area of colonial management, but the French were also extremely interested in the enormous coal mines that dotted the coastal waterways of Ha Long Bay. Furthermore, the rubber-tree plantations they had cultivated in the south produced enough resin to sufficiently feed automobile factories, such as the Michelin company, in Paris. In pursuit of these economic goals, the French brutalized the local populations of Vietnam and Cambodia for decades.