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The treaty ports refers to the port cities in China and Japan that were opened to foreign trade by the "unequal treaties" with the Western powers, as well as cities in Korea opened up in similar fashion by the Japanese Empire.
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 (Guangzhou), Ningpo (Ningbo), Fuchow (Fuzhou), and Amoy (Xiamen). The following year the Chinese and British signed the Treaty of the Bogue, which added provisions for extraterritoriality and most favoured nation status for the latter country. Subsequent negotiations with the Americans (1843 Treaty of Wanghia) and the French (1844 Treaty of Whampoa) led to further concessions for these nations on the same terms as the British.
The second group of 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 sections newly built for them 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. 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. This ended 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 Kai-shek'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 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
In 1858, with the Treaty of Amity and Commerce designated four more ports, Kanagawa, Hyogo, Nagasaki, and Niigata. 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 or abrogated the previous "unequal" treaty. Other countries signed similar treaties. The new treaties came into force in July 1899.
Korean treaty ports
Following the Ganghwa Treaty of 1876, the Korean kingdom of Joseon agreed to the opening of three strategic ports and the extension of legal extraterritoriality to merchants from Meiji Japan. The first port opened in this manner was Busan, while Incheon and Wonsan followed shortly thereafter. These cities became important centers of mercantile activity for traders from China and Japan until Korea's colonization by Japan in 1910.
- Confucian Gentlemen and Barbarian Envoys: The Opening of Korea, 1875-1885 by Martina Deuchler (University of Washington Press, 1977).
- 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). . Catholic Encyclopedia. New York: Robert Appleton.
- Nield, Robert. The China Coast: Trade and the First Treaty Ports. Hong Kong: Joint Publishing Co., 2010.