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Treaty Port

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Title: Treaty Port  
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Treaty Port

This article is about the ports in East Asia. For the Anglo-Irish Treaty ports, see Treaty Ports (Ireland).

The treaty ports was the name given to the port cities in China, Japan, Taiwan, and Korea that were opened to foreign trade by the Unequal Treaties.

Chinese treaty ports

The first treaty ports in China were British and were established 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 broadly speaking 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 free Chinese 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 wasn't 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.

Major treaty ports in China

Current Province or Municipality Cities Date Foreign concession holders
Shanghai Shanghai 1842–1946 Greater Shanghai had three sections: These comprised the Shanghai International Settlement of the  United Kingdom and the  United States, the France French Concession and the Old City of Shanghai.
Jiangsu Province Nanjing (Nanking) 1858
Jiangxi Province Jiujiang
Hubei Province Hankou, now part of Wuhan (Hankow) 1858–1945  United Kingdom; later France France,  Germany and  Empire of Japan
Shashi  Japan
Hunan Province Changsha 1937–1945  Japan
Sichuan Province Chongqing (Chungking)
Zhejiang Province Ningbo (Ningpo) 1841–1842  United Kingdom
Wenzhou  United Kingdom
Fujian Province Fuzhou (Foochow) 1842–1945  United Kingdom, then  Japan
Xiamen (Amoy) 1842–1912  United Kingdom
Guangdong Province Guangzhou (Canton) 1842–WWII  United Kingdom; then  Japan
Shantou (Swatow) 1858  United Kingdom
Haikou (Qiongshan) 1858
Guangxi Province Beihai 1876–1940s?  United Kingdom,  United States,  Germany,  Austria-Hungary,  France, Italy Italy,  Portugal,  Belgium
Yunnan Province Mengzi
Shandong Province Yantai
Hebei Province Tianjin (Tientsin) 1860–1902  United Kingdom,  United States,  Germany,  Austria-Hungary,  France, Italy Italy,  Portugal,  Belgium
Liaoning Province Niuzhuang 1858
Jilin Province Changchun
Heilongjiang Province Harbin 1898–1946  Russia,  United States,  Germany; later  Japan and the  Soviet Union
Aihun  Russia,  Soviet Union
Manzhouli  Russia,  Soviet Union
Taiwan Province (Formosa) Tamsui 1858
Tainan  France

Japanese treaty ports

Japan opened two ports to foreign trade, Shimoda and Hakodate, in 1854 (Convention of Kanagawa), to the United States.

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.

Leased territories

In these 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 Empire of Japan Imperial Japan Now Dalian
1898–1905 Russia Imperial Russia
1905–1945 Empire of Japan Imperial Japan
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


  • Japan's Treaty Ports and Foreign Settlements: The Uninvited Guests, 1858–1899 by J.E. Hoare (RoutledgeCurzon, 1995) ISBN 978-1-873410-26-4.
  • public domain: 

External links

  • Treaty ports and extraterritoriality in China, 1921–22
  • WorldStatesmen: China
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