Treaty Ports in China 1842–1936

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Map Code: Ax2307

The First Opium War, triggered by the British government’s imposition of an opium trade upon Qing China, was concluded in 1842 by the Treaty of Nanking, under which the Chinese ceded to the British Empire the island of Hong Kong and the five treaty ports at Shanghai, Canton (Guangzhou), Ningpo (Ningbo), Fuchow (Fuzhou) and Amoy (Xiamen). In 1843 the Treaty of the Bogue additionally granted Britain favoured nation status. Similar treaties followed with the French and the Americans. After the Second Opium (or ‘Arrow’) War, from 1860 many more treaty ports were added, with the total reaching over 80 by 1936. Under a system of treaties and leases, areas (‘bunds’) of prime land on and around port cities and waterfront locations were to be exclusively administered by foreigners¬ – Europeans and Americans – legally independent from the local Chinese authorities. Western churches, clubs and businesses were established and managed by foreigners for their own benefit, with the native Chinese often treated as second-class citizens or employed as servants. The Europeans were not allowed to station troops on the bunds, but they often wielded a visible naval presence. The Treaty Port system largely came to an end with the outbreak of World War II and the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor in 1941.

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