After the war with Britain and France, China was left bereft of vast swathes of territory, its sovereignty in tatters, and saddled with unequal treaties that served as a permanent reminder of the indignities it had suffered. Through a series of seemingly reasonable (in the legal sense, at least) arrangements, the Western powers acquired the right to negotiate tariff levels, extraterritoriality, the right to navigate inland waterways, most-favoured nation treatment and other privileges, robbing China of its tariff and judicial autonomy and laying its national defence secrets bare for all to see. Shortly after the end of the war, the Qing government established the Office for the General Management of Affairs Concerning the Various Countries (總理各國事務衙門, which also called the Zongli Yamen﹝總理衙門﹞) as the chief institution dedicated to foreign affairs; it also launched the Self-Strengthening Movement, which aimed to develop Western-style military and industries. Furthermore, the Qing government joined forces with the foreign powers in quelling the Taiping Rebellion (太平天國).
While Western schools of knowledge had made their way to China as early as the late Ming-early Qing period, their influence was intermittent due to resistance from the government, which led to them being banned. As a result of the two Opium Wars, however, foreigners finally had the freedom to navigate China’s inland rivers and evangelise. Western churches, schools and hospitals gradually appeared all over China, and the number of Chinese Christians began to grow, so did “religious incidents” and other Chinese-foreign conflicts. Meanwhile, with more Chinese emigrating overseas to earn a living, overseas Chinese communities began to grow rapidly.
The Anglo-French alliance’s fleet that participated in the 1860 invasion of China. Having suffered disastrous defeat in both Opium Wars, China recognised the necessity of importing advanced armaments from abroad. This led to the launch of a post-war Self-Strengthening Movement (洋務運動) focusing on military reforms, in particular the modernisation of armaments, as its primary objective.
Treaty ports and foreign embassies were no longer limited to major cities such as Beijing (北京), Tianjin (天津), and Shanghai (上海). After the Anglo-French Expedition to China, new ports and embassies began to appear in other parts of China. Pictured is the British embassy established in Takao (打狗, now Kaohsiung﹝高雄﹞), Taiwan, in 1867. Recognising the need to deal with the new diplomatic situation, China established the Zongli Yamen in 1861 to manage the country’s foreign affairs. Later, it progressively established its own embassies in foreign countries.
Following the Anglo-French Expedition to China, the foreign powers ramped up their commercial activities in China. Banks were established as they played a pivotal role in facilitating these activities. While being a form of economic aggression, it nevertheless set up for China the foundation of an advanced financial system. Pictured is the HSBC Building in Shanghai established by the British in 1867.
A photo of the Victoria Harbour in Hong Kong taken in 1860. Once they had annexed Kowloon via the Convention of Peking (《北京條約》, also known as the Convention of Beijing), Britain turned it into its territorial harbour. This ushered in a new era of history for Hong Kong - one that would greatly influence the later development of Hong Kong and China.
A picture of a foreign woman travelling in a sedan chair in 1860 Shanghai. The war with Britain and France accelerated the opening up of China, bringing an ever-increasing number of foreigners to China and Chinese-foreign interactions.
A photo of a steam fire engine used by the Shanghai Municipal Council (上海租界工部局) taken in 1873. The ever-growing stream of western novelties entering China was eye-opening for Chinese people.
Chinese labourers making the Pacific passage on a ship in the 19th century. The Conventions of Peking China signed with Britain and France permitted Chinese nationals to enter contract-based engagements with foreigners and work overseas. Thus, a growing number of Chinese labourers opted to make their living abroad.
The Sino-foreign treaties lifted the ban on propagating Christianity. As a result, an ever-increasing number of foreign missionaries were drawn to China to evangelise and establish churches. Pictured is St. Joseph’s Church located in Wangfujing (王府井), Beijing.
A group photo of teachers and students at a Christian school in Ningbo (寧波), Zhejiang Province (浙江), taken in the late 1870s. Through establishing schools, orphanages, and hospitals in China, foreign missionaries helped bring in advanced technologies and practices, and improve lives for numerous poor people. Their influence in these areas was not without some merit.
As the number of foreigners visiting China grew, so did the number of conflicts between Chinese and foreigners. These arose due to cultural differences between locals and foreigners. Christianity, for instance, figured in some of these conflicts. As the number of missionaries in China grew, so did anti-Christian incidents, often referred to as “religious incidents”. These cropped up sporadically around the country. One particularly notorious religious incident took place in Tianjin in 1870. It resulted in churches being burnt and a number of missionaries being murdered. The increasing anti-Christian and xenophobic sentiments among the common folk eventually culminated in the disastrous Boxer Rebellion (義和團運動) and the invasion of the Eight-Nation Alliance (八國聯軍) during 1899 to 1901.
Source of most photos used in this feature piece: Visual China Group (pictures 1 and 5), Fotoe (pictures 2-4, 6 -10).