Glaring out from the centre of the board in its musty yellow is the most powerful land army on the board. China has 5 armies to Start the game, two more than any other power; but when you consider the area it has to defend you can see why it needs them. Despite having a plethora of centres around it, it also has just about every other power around it too! China does not have a navy at the start of the game, but this does not necessarily put it at a disadvantage, one of its most feared enemies, Japan is the beneficiary of this I think!
Three neutral supply centres lie within the borders of China, and all can easily be snapped up providing the other powers play ball, which most, apparently do! China is akin to Austria in the standard game, powerful in the hands of a good player but woefully weak in the hands of a poor player. Let's see who's China's 'friends' are...
Britain: Britain should be a friend, but players of China seem drawn to the likes of Bengal and Kashmir, naturally British centres. It is aggression or greed that drives a player to take these centres. China has one main aim, the destruction, or at least taming, of Japan. Furthermore Russia is a threat to Manchuria, but that is no big deal, you can lose Manchuria and still hold your Mongolia/Peking/Shanghai line. You also have Canton facing the French home centre of Tongking, so why should you worry about the British. They have their own problems, keep the borders as free as possible, the British should be encouraged against Turkey or the Dutch if you just want non-aggression. If you want an alliance then combine against the French, they are weak, have few friends who can help and you have the British fleet to frustrate them. Try and make sure that the majority of the spoils go to you and build fleets whenever possible in Canton. An alliance with the British is difficult to maintain with your north-east corner always looking threatened. As China you have to play with all balls in the air at the same time, playing off one power against the other, the British should be more friendly then foe and with his resources spanning the southern oceans he will not be looking for the same supply centres as you for victory.
Dutch: The Dutch are one power that is not an immediate threat, but given a few years they soon will be! Initial diplomacy will probably encourage the Dutch against the French, or further north against Japan in the long term. Japan must be distracted by somebody in order to take his eye off you, the Dutch have the perfect antedote, lots of fleets!! I would not encourage the Dutch against the British unless I was really sure about Japanese intentions to leave you alone. You want the Dutch to expand so far, but then you will be looking for the same centres for the end game. If your forces do meet it is likely to be in south-east Asia where you will have to fight him; he will have fleets and you will have armies, so neither of you will have the upper hand unless someone else intervenes or you can build enough fleets to foresee the threat.
So what do you say to the Dutch, long term. An alliance can work, but the lines must be pretty definite as he has the board edge position and you are in the middle, its a bit like the Austro-Turkish alliance in standard Dip, but with more supply centres in between your respective home countries. Most games would have been decided by the time the stab comes, so it is not as improbable as the standard board alliance.
French: As the French are perceived as the weak link in the game, why not befriend him and use him to keep the British and the Dutch at bay. Try not be tempted to pile into Tongking, it may cause the French all sorts of problems but it won't do you many favours either. The war with the French is likely to be winnable, but at the cost of diverting attention from more pressing matters that can occur elsewhere. You have to come to an arrangement over the Tongking/Mandalay border, even let the French have them, this will help to cement relations between you but could help him to stab you in Canton whilst your back is turned. There is no reason why a Franco-Chinese alliance shouldn't work, he builds fleets and heads east for the Philippines and north or south against Japan or the Dutch respectively. He can provide your protection from naval attacks while you can ensure that his gains in May, U.Bur and possibly Ben are secure. The likelihood is that you will eventually need a couple of his centres for victory, so make sure that you also have some semblance of a navy and push as far west as you can with your armies.
Trust is a very big factor in working with the French, but once established can provide a very strong alliance with security for China from any likely British or Dutch attacks.
Japan: Hisss; Boooo!!! Japan is hardly to be trusted as far as you can throw him, and even if he is a 6 stone weakling, he will still cause you headaches. As the Dutch are to the British, Japan is to China, most definitely an enemy. Japan must take Chinese centres in order to win the game, it is almost inconceivable not to. China doesn't necessarily need the Japanese islands, but the threat to his own security means a defeated Japan is a huge relief. If there is any possibility of a Japanese alliance it means the destruction of the Russian empire in the east, then you have to persuade him to go south against the Dutch or the French; whichever way the game is going he will probably stab you at some stage. China can win without Japanese centres, but it isn't easy. As China you should ally with Russia to build as many fleets as you can between you, Russia should always be persuaded to go to the Yellow Sea in 1870, this sea area is adjacent to 8, yes 8 supply centres making it extremely important. Too many players simply let Japan into YS hoping that they can trust him, the fools! Make sure you build a fleet in Mac or Sha and that Russia build one in Vla or P.Art if Vla is not available, this will ensure that Japan is stunted, but certainly not dead. He is one of the most difficult powers to eliminate so congratulate yourself if you do it!
Russia: This huge country stretching right across your northern border can be your saviour or your death. As an ally he is extremely useful as he has a hand in the west which is out of your reach, he can also help you defend against Japan - of course you are actually helping him! You both have a mutual enemy in Japan and even between you it is difficult to get that all important attack onto the Japanese islands. Russia can build fleets in Via and P.Art, the former being the most important. But, and a big BUT; if you do eliminate Japan and Turkey or Britain are no threat to him he must surely attack you. Russia really needs Chinese centres to win the game as he is unlikely to have been able to get past the Suez bottleneck in the east or the Kar/Pun line into India. Your alliance with Russia is therefore a temporary affair, but stabbing him must be done in the east into Via and P.Art in order to prevent him from building that side of the board. This cuts off his fleets in the eastern seas and you must cut the Trans-Siberian Railway to stop armies piling east from Moscow. It's tricky, but timing is all important, but remember that he will do it to you if you don't do it to him.
Attacking Russia from the start is dodgy, you have to rely on Japanese support which really benefits Japan a lot more than you, but if you make the gains you can hold the northern edge of the board and fling your arrnies in all directions from there. If you want the alliance with Russia you must trust each other over Manchuria and Vladivostok otherwise you will always have a few armies tied up just defending the north-eastern corner of your country.
Finally, I think this alliance is the most powerful on the board as between you each player holds a large area and can reach viilually the whole board in a couple of moves. Persuade Russia to give you Port Arthur for help against Japan, this eliminates the fear of extra builds by Russia above and beyond his real requirements.
Turkey: Far off to the west Turkey will be fighting either the British or Russia, or being crushed by both. Initial diplomacy will no doubt revolve around what you want to do about Russia, and you should persuade him against Russia unless you have a very strong desire to help Russia. An alliance between China and Turkey is difficult at first, but forces will probably meet around the Afghanistan area where agreement should be relatively simple - he goes seawards into India while you go northwards into Russia. Neither side needs the others centres to win so count him as a friend on the whole.