The Japanese government sent an expedition to southern Taiwan in 1874, even as it struggled to create a stable political system after the Meiji Restoration (1868). The expedition, which included a plan to colonize eastern Taiwan, happened in the context of Japan’s subordination to Western powers in the unequal treaty system in East Asia. The government justified the plan by arguing that a state must spread civilization and political authority to territories where it claims sovereignty. It used this argument simultaneously to challenge Chinese authority and to consolidate its power domestically. The Taiwan Expedition reveals that Japanese imperialism emerged out of the process of consolidating government power after the Restoration, it derived from Western imperialism, and it developed in a recursive relationship with Western imperialism.