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Relations between China and other countries


China in 19th century
China in 19th century

China looked upon the Treaty of Nanjing as an unpleasant but necessary concession dictated by unruly barbarians. Eager to gain more trading privileges, Britain, aided by France, renewed hostilities against China, and during the Second Opium War (1856-1860) applied military pressure to the capital region in North China. In 1857 China was forced by Britain and France to sign the Treaty of Tianjin, which further expanded Western advantages in China. However, the Qing government declined to ratify the treaty, and hostilities resumed. A joint British-French expeditionary force penetrated Beijing, where they burned the Qing’s summer palace in retaliation for Chinese treatment of Western prisoners. With the capital occupied by foreigners, the Qing ratified the treaty in 1860.

Other countries, including Russia, Japan, and the United States, soon demanded similar treaties with China. Militarily weak, the Qing agreed to these treaties, which curtailed China’s sovereignty. In China, the treaties became known collectively as the unequal treaties.

By the 1860s there were 14 treaty ports. Because the foreigners had demanded the right to impose their own laws instead of obeying Chinese laws, the concessions, especially those in Shanghai, came to resemble international cities. Foreigners in China sold imported manufactured goods that competed with Chinese products, but the treaties prohibited China from setting tariffs to protect its industries. Beginning in 1875 the Western powers and Japan began to dismantle the Chinese system of tributary states. Japan brought the Ryukyu Islands under its control in the 1870s, and in the mid-1880s France completed its subjugation of Vietnam, and Britain annexed Burma. In 1860 Russia gained the maritime provinces of northern Manchuria and the areas north of the Amur River. Japanese efforts to remove Korea from Chinese dominance resulted in the First Sino-Japanese War of 1894 and 1895.

Japan’s victory was decisive, and China was forced to recognize the independence of Korea, pay an enormous war indemnity, and cede to Japan the island of Taiwan and the Liaodong Peninsula in southern Manchuria.

Russia, France, and Germany reacted immediately to the cession of the Liaodong Peninsula, which they regarded as giving Japan a stranglehold on the most economically valuable area of China. They intervened, demanding that Japan return the Liaodong Peninsula in exchange for an increased indemnity from China. In return for their intervention, the Europeans demanded privileges themselves. Russia demanded and received the right to construct railroads across Manchuria, as well as additional exclusive economic rights throughout that region. The Qing granted other exclusive rights to railroad and mineral development to Germany in Shandong Province, France in the southern border provinces, Britain in the Yangtze River provinces, and Japan in the southeastern coastal provinces. Russia lost the Russo-Japanese War of 1904 and 1905, and thereafter most of Russia’s rights in southern Manchuria transferred to Japan. The United States, attempting to preserve its trading rights in China without competing for territory, initiated the Open Door Policy in 1899 and 1900. That policy, to which the other foreign powers assented, guaranteed the equal position of the powers with regard to trade with China, as well as the preservation of Chinese territorial integrity. "China" © Emmanuel BUCHOT, Encarta, Wikipedia.

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