Between 1880 and the beginning of World War I, the European imperial powers controlled most of Asia directly or through treaty. Britain was especially successful, controlling all of India, large parts of the rest of Southeast Asia and most of China.
European powers had split the undeveloped world between them by 1900, and their great wealth, fueled by the provision of raw materials from their territories, could no longer expand without wars against one another. Rivalries led to small conflicts in imperial holdings throughout the world, but these conflicts remained small until Kaiser Wilhelm III of Germany, fueled by nationalistic pride, decided to challenge the rest of Europe for their prizes. He began building up his nation's navy and crafting better weapons in his factories. The rest of Europe followed suit. By 1914, Europeans knew that war was inevitable, waiting only for a spark.