Chinese treaty ports
The British established the first treaty ports in China at the conclusion of the First Opium War by the Treaty of Nanking in 1842. As well as ceding the island of Hong Kong to the United Kingdom in perpetuity, the treaty also established five treaty ports at Shanghai, Canton, Ningpo, Fuchow, and Amoy. French and American concessions followed soon afterwards.
The second group of British treaty ports was set up following the end of the Arrow War in 1860 and eventually more than 80 treaty ports were established in China alone, involving many foreign powers.
Foreigners, who were centered in foreign sections, newly built on the edges of existing port cities, enjoyed legal extraterritoriality as stipulated in Unequal Treaties. Foreign clubs, racecourses, and churches were established in major treaty ports. Some of these port areas were directly leased by foreign powers such as in the concessions in China, effectively removing them from the control of local governments.
Chinese capitulation treaties
The treaty port system in China lasted approximately one hundred years. It began with the 1841 Opium War and ended with the 1941 attack on Pearl Harbor. The major powers involved were the British, the French, and the Americans, although by the end of the 19th century all the major powers were involved, including Latin American countries and the Congo Free State. It is not possible to put an exact date on the end of the treaty port era. The Russians relinquished their treaty rights in the wake of the Russian revolution in 1917, and the Germans were forced to concede their treaty rights following their defeat in World War I.
Norway voluntarily relinquished its treaty rights in a capitulation treaty of 1931. However the three main treaty powers, the British, the Americans, and the French, continued to hold their concessions and extraterritorial jurisdictions until the Second World War. As regards the British and the Americans, it ended in practice when the Japanese stormed into their concessions in the wake of the attack on Pearl Harbor at the end of 1941. They then formally relinquished their treaty rights in a new "equal treaties" agreement with Chiang Kaishek's Nationalist Government in exile in Chungking in 1943.
Meanwhile the pro-Japanese puppet government in Nanking signed a capitulation treaty with the Vichy French government in 1943. This was not recognized by Free French leader Charles de Gaulle. In 1946, in order to induce the Chinese to vacate the northern half of French Indochina, de Gaulle signed a capitulation treaty with Chiang Kai-shek's nationalist (Kuomintang) government.
Whatever residues of the treaty port era were left in the late 1940s were ended when the communists took over China in 1949.
Major treaty ports in China
Leased territories in China
In these territories the foreign powers obtained, under a lease treaty, not only the right to trade and exemptions for their subjects, but a truly colonial control over each concession territory, de facto annexation:
|Territory||Modern Province||Date||Lease holder||Notes|
|Kwantung||Liaoning||1894–1898||Imperial Japan||Now Dalian|
|Weihai||Shandong Province||1898–1930||United Kingdom|
|Qingdao||Shandong Province||1897–1922||German Empire|
|New Territories||Hong Kong SAR||1842; 1860; 1898–1997||United Kingdom||These are the territories adjoining the original perpetual Hong Kong concession and its 1860 Kowloon extension|
|Guangzhouwan||Guangdong Province||1911–1946||France||Now Zhanjiang|
Japanese treaty ports
It designated five more ports, Yokohama, Kobe, Nagasaki, Osaka, and Niigata, in 1858 with the Treaty of Amity and Commerce. The treaty with the United States was followed by similar ones with Britain, the Netherlands, Russia and France. The ports permitted legal extraterritoriality for citizens of the treaty nations.
The system of treaty ports ended in Japan in the years 1899 as a consequence of Japan's rapid transition to a modern nation. Japan had sought treaty revision earnestly, and in 1894, signed a new treaty with Britain which revised abrogated the previous "unequal" treaty. Other countries signed similar treaties. The new treaties came into force in July 1899.
- Japan's Treaty Ports and Foreign Settlements: The Uninvited Guests, 1858–1899 by J.E. Hoare (RoutledgeCurzon, 1995) ISBN 978-1-873410-26-4.
- This article incorporates text from a publication now in the public domain: Herbermann, Charles, ed. (1913). "China". Catholic Encyclopedia. Robert Appleton Company.
- Nield, Robert. The China Coast: Trade and the First Treaty Ports. Hong Kong: Joint Publishing Co., 2010.