Concessions in China
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Concessions in China were a group of concessions within late imperial China and during the Republic of China (1911-1949), which were governed and occupied by foreign powers, and are frequently associated with colonialism.
Imperial China period
Imperial China granted the concessions during the latter Qing Dynasty period (1644–1911), as a result of the series of "Unequal Treaties". They began in 1842's Treaty of Nanjing with the United Kingdom. Under each treaty, China was usually obligated to open more treaty ports for trade and lease out more territory as part of the concession or surrender it completely. The one exception that preceded this period was Macau, which had been leased in 1557 to the Kingdom of Portugal, during the Ming Dynasty (1368–1644); Portugal continued to pay rent up to 1863 to stay in Macau.
There were a varying number of concessions in each city. For example, the concessions in Tianjin reached a total of nine at the height of the era. The concessions were usually under the control of a single Western power or the Empire of Japan. However, in the Shanghai International Settlement, the United Kingdom and the United States merged their concessions, while the French retained their separate French Concession.
In these concessions, the citizens of each foreign power were given the right to freely inhabit, trade, do missionary reductions, and travel. They developed their own sub-cultures, isolated and distinct from the intrinsic Chinese culture, and colonial administrations attempted to give their concessions "homeland" qualities. Churches, public houses, and various other western commercial institutions sprang up in the concessions. In the case of Japan, its own traditions and language naturally flourished. Some of these concessions eventually had a more advanced architecture of each originating culture than most cities back in the countries of the origin of the foreign powers.
Chinese were originally forbidden from most of the concessions, but to improve commercial activity and services, by the 1860s most concessions permitted Chinese, but treated them like second-class citizens as they were not citizens of the foreign state administering the concession. They eventually became the majority of the residents inside the concessions. Non-Chinese in the concessions were generally subject to consular law, and some of these laws applied to the Chinese residents.
Each concession also had its own police force and different legal jurisdictions with their own separate laws. Thus, an activity might be legal in one concession but illegal in another. Many of the concessions also maintained their own military garrison and a standing army. Military and police forces of the Chinese government were sometimes present. Some police forces allowed Chinese, others did not.
Republic of China period
The foreign concessions continued in the mainland Republic of China (1912–1949) period. In major cities like Shanghai and Tianjin, because there were so many jurisdictions, criminals could commit a crime in one jurisdiction and then easily escape to another. This became a major problem during the Republic of China period, with the rise of post–Imperial Warlord era and the collapse of central authority in the 1920s–30s. Crime often flourished, especially organized crime by different warlord groups.
Some efforts were made by the foreign powers to have the different police forces cooperate and work together, but not with significant success. The image of gangsters and Triad societies connected with the major cities and concessions of the period is often due to extraterritoriality within the cities.
At the start of the Second Sino-Japanese War (1937–1945), the standing army in the Japanese concessions would be used against the mainland Republic of China and Chinese forces.
List of concessions
- Joseph Timothy Haydn (1885). Dictionary of dates, and universal reference. [With] (18 ed.). Oxford University. p. 522.
MACAO (in Quang-tong, S. China) was given to the Portuguese as a commercial station in 1586 (in return for their assistance against pirates), subject to an annual tribute, which was remitted in 1863. Here Camoens composed part of the "Lusiad."
- Anne-Marie Brady; Douglas Brown (2013). Foreigners and Foreign Institutions in Republican China. Routledge. p. 27. ISBN 978-0-415-52865-8.
- Geoffrey C. Gunn (1 November 2016). Wartime Macau: Under the Japanese Shadow. Hong Kong University Press. p. 28. ISBN 978-988-8390-51-9.
- Fiona de Londras; Siobhán Mullally (4 December 2014). Irish Yearbook of International Law. Bloomsbury Publishing. p. 24. ISBN 978-1-84946-975-3.
- Nield, Robert (2010). The China Coast: Trade and the First Treaty Ports. Hong Kong: Joint Publishing Company. ISBN 9789620429873.
- Panikkar, K. M. (1953). Asia and Western dominance, 1498-1945, by K.M. Panikkar. London: G. Allen and Unwin.
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