War of Resistance Against Japanese Aggression
(1931-1945)
Civil War and Founding of the PRC
(1945-1949)
Tales of Hong Kong
(1840-1949)
Tales of Macao
(1840-1949)

(1) The Invasion of China by the Anglo-French Alliance

mainsite_tushuojindai_yingfalianjun1.5_dec7
mainsite_tushuojindai_yingfalianjun1.5_dec7

After the Opium War, the foreign powers were eager to further their interests in China. In the Treaty of Wanghia (also spelt Wangxia or Mong-ha,《望廈條約》) that China signed with the United States, there was a clause that allowed, 12 years after the signing of the treaty, that its parties could revise the treaty’s terms as they saw fit. This included the principle embedded in the treaty of “sharing privileges on an equal basis”. Thus, the United States and the European powers requested a re-negotiation of the treaty with the Qing government on multiple occasions between 1854 (the fourth year of Emperor Xianfeng’s﹝咸豐﹞reign) and 1856, but to no avail. In the end, Britain and France decided to resort to force. The October 1856 “Arrow Incident” (亞羅號事件) became Britain’s casus belli for war. The Arrow was a cargo vessel whose crew was arrested by the Guangdong navy on suspicion of smuggling. As the vessel was registered in Hong Kong (although its registration had expired) and flew the British flag at the time of its detainment, Britain used this as a pretext to protest China’s actions, but the latter refused to apologise. Prompted by the murder of a French missionary named Auguste Chapdelaine in Xilin County (西林縣), Guangxi Province (廣西) in February that year, the French joined the British against China. The Anglo-French Expedition to China (also known as the Second Opium War) thus began.

In October 1856, the British force bombarded Huangpu (黃埔) and set fire to civilian residences. The people of Guangzhou (廣州) retaliated by burning the offices of foreign trading houses. In December 1857, the British Plenipotentiary, Lord Elgin, and the French Plenipotentiary, Baron Gros, led their forces to China. Guangzhou was quickly succumbed under their combined assault. In January of the following year, they captured Ye Mingchen (葉名琛), the Viceroy of Liang Guang (兩廣總督). As he refused to yield, he was exiled to India and later starved himself to death in Calcutta (now Kolkata). In early 1858, the alliance marched north from Guangzhou and captured Dagu (大沽), threatening Tianjin (天津) and Beijing (北京). Panic-stricken, Emperor Xianfeng dispatched the representatives Guiliang (桂良) and Huashana (花沙納) to Tianjin to sue for peace.

Why is the Anglo-French Expedition to China also known as the “Second Opium War”?

See answer below.

mainsite_tushuojindai_yingfalianjun1.1_dec7
mainsite_tushuojindai_yingfalianjun1.1_dec7

In the 19th century, Guangzhou was an important gateway between China and the West. It also played a key role in the incidents that set off the first and second Opium Wars.

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Between 1854 and 1856, the European powers and the United States repeatedly requested amendments to the post-Opium War treaties but were denied by the Qing government. Britain, in particular, sought ways to force the Qing government to submit. The 1856 “Arrow Incident” in Guangzhou became the casus belli for war.

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mainsite_tushuojindai_yingfalianjun1.2_dec12

In October 1856, the Guangdong navy boarded a cargo vessel named the Arrow in Huangpu, Guangzhou, on an anti-smuggling mission and arrested its crew. The vessel was flying the British flag.

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mainsite_tushuojindai_yingfalianjun1.3_dec7

The Chinese naval officers pulled down the Hong Kong-registered vessel’s British flag. The British government protested on the grounds that it was an insult to Britain. Ye Mingchen, the then Viceroy of Liang Guang, agreed to release the crew but refused to apologise.

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mainsite_tushuojindai_yingfalianjun1.4_dec7

On 23 October 1856, the British commenced military action. On 29 October, they managed to break into Guangzhou. Pictured is the scene of Guangzhou being bombarded by British warships.

mainsite_tushuojindai_yingfalianjun1.5_dec7
mainsite_tushuojindai_yingfalianjun1.5_dec7

Angered by the British invasion, the people of Guangzhou set fire to the offices of the foreign trading houses. In January 1857, the British army set fire to several thousand civilian residences before retreating, with plans to mount a larger assault.

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mainsite_tushuojindai_yingfalianjun1.6_dec7

In February 1856, Auguste Chapdelaine (figure locked in a wooden cage), a French missionary who preached in Guangxi, was arrested and executed by the Chinese authorities. The French used his death as an excuse to ally with the British to invade China.

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mainsite_tushuojindai_yingfalianjun1.7_dec7

In December 1857, the Anglo-French forces attacked and captured Guangzhou.

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mainsite_tushuojindai_yingfalianjun1.8_dec7

On 5 January 1858, Ye Mingchen was captured by the Anglo-French forces. He later starved himself and died in Calcutta, India.

mainsite_tushuojindai_yingfalianjun1.9_dec7
mainsite_tushuojindai_yingfalianjun1.9_dec7

In 1858, Guangzhou was in ruins after being plundered by the Anglo-French forces.

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mainsite_tushuojindai_yingfalianjun1.10_dec7

In May 1858, the Anglo-French forces captured the Dagu Forts that protected Tianjin. It thus opened a path to the city and exposed Beijing to attack. Gravely alarmed, the Qing government dispatched representatives for peace talks.

Why is the Anglo-French Expedition to China also known as the “Second Opium War”?  

The First Opium War of 1840 to 1842 and the Anglo-French Expedition to China of 1856 to 1860 were both major external wars that occurred at the beginning of China’s modern era. Aspects of the two were either identical or related. Both had Britain as a major participant and aggressor; the second war was waged due to treaty terms agreed upon after the first war. Also, both were related to the opium trade. While the first Opium War was sparked by a ban on the opium trade, the second resulted in the legalisation of the opium trade. The Anglo-French Expedition to China is thus also called the “Second Opium War”.

Source of most photos used in this feature piece: Visual China Group (pictures 3, 4, 7, 10), Fotoe (pictures 1, 5, 9), misc. photo sources.

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