In 1750, east Asia is a centre of development and a cradle of power. In the middle of it all is China, a nation with the largest population in the world. With a huge economic potential and only a limited number of ports on its coastline, the whole world will wonder how long this giant will remain asleep. This is a threat that no other nation in the region can ignore.
Japan, the second greatest power in east Asia, is strong enough to withstand Chinese aggression but prolonged wars that end in a stalemate would be extremely expensive and damaging.
To the north the Kingdom of Joseon is a considerable power between the two giants and finds two Russian ports further north, a stepping stone into east Asia for a third giant.
Further down in southeast Asia Vietnam, Siam and Burma are of considerable strength, and beyond them, powerful Sultanates of Maguindanao, Aceh, Gowa and Johor will not be easily overthrown. But the fact remains that Japan outweighs each of them three times and more, and China outweighs them nearly thirty times.
The larger nations in southeast Asia might not be the easiest pickings, but the region is divided in numerous smaller Kingdoms and Sultanates that are much weaker. However, in-between these nations lie two more giants. The VOC, the Dutch East India Company, has ownership of the huge nation of Java and has strategic ports spread out throughout southeast Asia. A second colonial power, Spain, owns the Philippines. The Philippines themselves cannot compare to the Dutch VOC possessions, but Spain itself is a nation with considerable resources.
Southeast Asia is a region with many opportunities for empire building, but the giants of China, Japan, Russia and the VOC have to decide who makes the first move, while the smaller yet powerful nations have to decide who’s side to pick.
If the Asian nations could decide to work together and turn on the colonial powers, this could clear the field considerably, but history has shown that these nations often chose to create alliances with the colonial powers to fight their regional enemies instead.