Two important political-economic developments of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries were the conflicting alliances formed among European powers and the related colonization of Africa, the Middle East, and Asia. By the 1890s, Britain and France had extended their imperial control of key areas of Africa and Asia, while Germany and Italy had been less successful. With increasing industrialization, both a steady supply of cheap natural resources and unrestricted access to land and water routes were crucial to building up national economies, including militarization. With its victory in the Spanish American war, the United States also gained a firm foothold in Asia by controlling the Philippines.
By the 1910s, the European powers had split into two groups: England, France, and Russia formed the Triple Alliance, while Germany, Italy, and Austria-Hungary created the Triple Entente. Both groups challenged the former Ottoman control of Eastern Europe and key Middle Eastern and central Asian areas, including modern Turkey and nations along the Eastern Mediterranean Coast. The division of the African continent among these powers, nicknamed the Scramble for Africa, was established in the 1884 Berlin Conference; by 1914 less than ten percent of African countries remained independent.
In Asia, Britain had consolidated its political control over India while extending its economic spheres of influence into China. The German strategy was to keep a port settlement in China and control islands throughout the Pacific, thus accentuating its naval might. Britain’s alliance with Russia seemed crucial to maintain that control and stemming the expansionist tendencies of Japan. These relationships flared into armed conflicts during the Russo-Japanese War (1904-1905).