In international law, a concession is a territory within a country that is administered by an entity other than the state which holds sovereignty over it. This is usually a colonizing power, or at least mandated by one, as in the case of colonial chartered companies.
Usually, it is conceded, that is, allowed or even surrendered by a weaker state to a stronger power. For example, the politically weak and militarily helpless Qing China in the 19th century was forced to sign several so-called Unequal Treaties (so-called because if they had been standard contracts, contract law would have invalidated them due to duress, undue influence, and lack of consideration) by which it gave, among other rights, territorial concessions to numerous colonial powers, European as well as Japan, creating a whole host of territorial concessions in China in addition to even more numerous treaty ports where China retained territorial control.
However, just as with permanent sales of territory, there are cases when concession has been entered upon voluntarily by a power which could have resisted the demand, believing the arrangement to their mutual interest, or as part of a more complexly balanced deal.
In the many cases where the terms of the contract (be it in the form of a treaty between states) provides for similar terms as an ordinary property lease, notably a term limited in time and usually an indemnity sum, the territory can be called more precisely a lease territory or leased territory. Many of the concessions in China were leased.
The term is not to be confused with 'territorial concession', which applies to any clause in a treaty whereby a power renounces control over any territory, usually in the form of a full and indefinite transfer, often without any indemnity.
Austro-Hungarian concession holders 
- One of the concessions in Tianjin (Tientsin), in China (1901–1917). Officially surrendered by Austria in 1919 (Treaty of Saint-Germain) and Hungary in 1920 respectively (Treaty of Trianon).
Belgian concession holders 
- The Guatemalan parliament issued a decree on 4 May 1843 by virtue of which the district of Santo Tomas was given "in perpetuity" to the Compagnie belge de colonisation, a private Belgian company under the protection of King Leopold I. Belgian colonizing efforts ceased after a few years, due to the lack of financial means and the harsh climate.
- The Lado enclave, in the Anglo-Egyptian Sudan, leased to the Congo Free State (not a part of Belgium itself, but in a personal union with Belgium under King Leopold II) (1894–1910)
- Belgian Concession in Tianjin (Tientsin) (1902–1929)
British concession holders 
- The Hong Kong Island was ceded to Britain by the Empire of China in 1841–42 under the Treaty of Nanking. On 24 October 1860, the Kowloon Peninsula and the Stonecutters Island were ceded by China under the Convention of Peking (British annexation took place on 4 February 1861). On 9 June 1898, the New Territories (comprising areas north of Kowloon along with 230 small islands) were leased from China for 99 years as a concession under the Convention for the Extension of Hong Kong Territory. On 19 December 1984, the UK agreed to restore all of Hong Kong — including the territories ceded in perpetuity — to China on 1 July 1997.
- On 20 November 1846, a British concession in Shanghai (in China) was established (after the 16 June 1842 – 29 August 1842 British occupation of Shanghai, since 17 November 1843 a Treaty Port); on 27 November 1848, this concession was expanded, but on 21 September 1863 (after the 1862 proposal to make Shanghai an independent "free city" was rejected) an International Settlement in Shanghai was created by union of the American and British concessions (consummated in December 1863).
- The British concession in Tianjin (Tientsin), in which the trade centred, was situated on the right bank of the river Peiho below the native city, occupying some 200 acres (0.81 km2). It was held on a lease in perpetuity granted by the Chinese government to the British Crown, which sublet plots to private owners in the same way as at Hankou (Hankow). The local management was entrusted to a municipal council organized on lines similar to those at Shanghai.
- On 1 July 1898, Liugong Island (Liukung Island) in Weihaiwei Bay, since 30 January 1895 – 1898 occupied by Japan and Weihaiwei were leased by Britain from imperial China, until Weihaiwei was returned to China on 1 October 1930; it retained a separate administration until 1938.
Privately held 
- Tati Concessions Land 1872–1911, in a small part of present Botswana, detached from the Matabele kingdom.
Canadian concessions 
Following the First World War the Republic of France granted Canada perpetual use of a portion of land on Vimy Ridge under the understanding that the Canadians were to use the land to establish a battlefield park and memorial. The park, known as the Canadian National Vimy Memorial, contains an impressive monument to the fallen, a museum and extensive recreations of the wartime trench system, preserved underground tunnels and cemeteries.
French concessions 
- Zhanjiang since 27 May 1898 French leased territory (under a French Administrateur, subordinated to Tonkin in French Indochina, now in Vietnam; June 1940 – February 1943 loyal to Free France) as territoire de Kouang-Tchéou-Wan, until in February 1943 the French concession is relinquished to the Japanese sponsored Chinese National Government by Vichy France (not recognized by the Free French, nor by the Republic of China), February 1943 – September 1945 occupied by Japan; on 28 February 1946 formally returned to China by France.
- 6 April 1849 French concession in Shanghai (since 17 November 1843 a Treaty Port) established; 17 July 1854 Municipal Council established.
- Tianjin (Tientsin) (1860-1946)
- one of the concessions in Hankou (Hankow; 1898-1946; now part of Wuhan)
- the French concession in Guangzhou (Canton)
German concessions 
All in China:
- On 6 March 1898, Qingdao (Tsingtao) was leased "for 99 years" to Germany (Kiautschou Bay); it was already occupied by Germany since 14 November 1897. On 23 August 1914, Republic of China canceled the German lease, only to find that the concession had been occupied by Japan since 7 November 1914.
- One of the Concessions in Tianjin (Tientsin)
- One of the concessions in Hankou (Hankow; now a part of Wuhan)
Italian concessions 
- A concession zone in Tianjin (Tientsin) was conceded to the Kingdom of Italy by Imperial China on 7 September 1901. It was administered by Italy's Consul and had a population of 6,261 in 1935, including 536 foreigners.
- Several ships of the Italian Royal Navy (Regia Marina) were based at Tianjin. During World War II, the primary Italian vessels based at Tianjin were the minelayer Lepanto and the gunboat Carlotto.
- On 10 September 1943, the Italian concession at Tianjin was occupied by Japan. In 1943, Italian Fascist dictator Benito Mussolini's (however virtually powerless) Italian Social Republic relinquished the concession to the Japanese-sponsored 'Chinese National Government', a Japanese puppet state led by Wang Jingwei; it was never recognized by the Kingdom of Italy, the Republic of China, or most world governments. On 10 February 1947, by peace treaty, the zone was formally returned to Nationalist China by the Republic of Italy.
Japanese concessions 
All in China:
- Kwantung (Port Arthur, Lüshun), formerly a Russian concession (see below) from imperial China, until 2 January 1905 when occupied by Japan, since 5 September 1905 a Japanese leased territory (Kwantung Territory), Port Arthur was renamed Ryojun, since 12 April 1919 a Civil administration replaced the military one; since 22 August 1945 occupied by the Soviet Union, September 1945 – 11 October 1955 under joint rule by the Soviet Union and (then fellow communist People's Republic of) China, until on 11 October 1955 fully re-incorporated into China as Dalian.
- the only non-Western concession in Tianjin (Tientsin).
- the only non-Western concession in Hankou (Hankow; today a part of Wuhan).
In Korea (Chosen) : Before the Annex of Japan-Korea (1910)
Portuguese concession 
- Macau: around 1552–1553, the Portuguese obtained permission to establish a settlement as a reward for defeating pirates and to mediate in trade between China and Japan and between both nations and Europe; it was leased from the empire of China from 1670. The concession turned into a Portuguese colony in mid-19th Century. The Chinese government assumed sovereignty over Macau on 20 December 1999, ending 329 years of Portuguese colonial rule.
Russian concessions 
- Kwantung (Port Arthur, Lüshun), since 27 December 1897 occupied by imperial Russia, on 27 March 1898 Port Arthur became the Russian leased territory of Kwantung (Kvantunskaya oblast, i.e. imperial province), since 12 August 1903 seat of Russian Viceroyalty of the Far East, until 2 January 1905 when occupied by Japan, since 5 September 1905 Japanese leased territory (Kwantung Territory)
- one of the Concessions in Tianjin (Tientsin).
- one of the concessions of Hankou (Hankow; now part of Wuhan).
- Hanko (Hangö in Swedish), a peninsula near the Finnish capital Helsinki, was leased for a period of 30 years by the Soviet Union from its northwestern neighbour—and former possession in personal union—Finland for use as a naval base in the Baltic Sea, near the entry of the Gulf of Finland, under the Moscow Peace Treaty that ended the Winter War on 6 March 1940; during the Continuation War, Soviet troops were forced to evacuate Hanko in early December 1941, and the USSR formally renounced the lease—early given the original term until 1970—in the Paris peace treaty of 1947. The role of the Hanko naval base was replaced by Porkkala, another Finnish peninsula, a bit farther east at the Gulf of Finland, in the armistice between Finland and the Soviet Union of 19 September 1944; it was returned to Finland in January 1956. In both cases, the Soviets limited themselves to a military command, without any civilian administration.
U.S. concessions 
- Guantanamo Bay: leased from Cuba (which now disputes the lease) under 1903 and 1934 treaties in perpetuity; no civilian administration, only military command.
- Two in imperial China:
- 1848/54 American concession in Shanghai (since 17 November 1843 a Treaty Port) established, until on 21 September 1863 (after the 1862 Proposal to make Shanghai an independent "free city" was rejected) an International Settlement in Shanghai was created by union of the American and British concessions (consummated December 1863).
- one of the Concessions in Tianjin (Tientsin).
- The numerous cemeteries and monuments administered by the American Battle Monuments Commission. These are located in Belgium, Cuba, France, Gibraltar, Italy, Luxembourg, Mexico, Morocco, the Netherlands, the Northern Mariana Islands, Panama, Papua New Guinea, the Philippines, the Solomon Islands, Tunisia, and the United Kingdom. The most popular sites among these are the Normandy American Cemetery and Memorial in France and the John F. Kennedy Memorial at Runnymede, United Kingdom.
Jointly held concessions 
- 21 September 1863 (after the 1862 Proposal to make Shanghai an independent "free city" was rejected) an International Settlement in Shanghai was created by union of the American and British concessions (consummated December 1863); in 1896 the concession was expanded.
On 7 July 1927 a Chinese city government of Greater Shanghai was formally established. In January/February 1931 the Japanese occupied the Hongkou District (Hongkew), and on 9 November 1937 the Chinese city of Shanghai, but only on 8 December 1941 Japanese troops would occupy the International Settlement (but not the French concession); it was dissolved by Japan in 1942. In February 1943 the settlement is officially abolished by the U.S. and Britain; in September 1945 the last territory is restored to China.
- Beijing Legation Quarter: a de facto concession.
Foreign concessions in China 
- Concessions in Tianjin
- Chinese Eastern Railway Zone
- Kwantung Leased Territory
- Shanghai International Settlement
- Shanghai French Concession
- List of foreign enclaves in China