Since the 1870s, the imperialist powers accelerated their capital expansion in China. Besides dominating the merchandise market and intensifying raw material extraction, they also exported capital with their best endeavours. Through the Treaty of Shimonoseki, Japan became the first to obtain the right to open factories in China, a move other powers wasted no time in emulating.
First, they strove to be China’s creditors, forcing it to take huge loans to finance the war indemnities owed to Japan and to redeem the Liaodong Peninsula (遼東半島). Foreign banks granted loans to the Qing government, allowing it to use its tariff revenues and other forms of tax as collateral.
Secondly, they demanded the right to establish factories, build railways, and open mines. France, for example, obtained the right to build a railway connecting Vietnam, and the provinces of Yunnan (雲南) and Guangxi (廣西); Russia to build and operate a railway in north-eastern China; and Germany to build roads and open mines in Shandong Province (山東). Between 1895 and 1898, the powers obtained railway concessions of 10,000 kilometres of railway in China.
Through capital export, the powers strengthened their hold on the Chinese economy and made it increasingly semi-colonial. Domestic industry and commerce deprived of business were devastated.
Pictured is the Shanghai branch of the Sino-Russian Righteousness Victory Bank. After its defeat in the First Sino-Japanese War, China borrowed a mint from Russia and France. The Sino-Russian Righteousness Victory Bank played a key role in facilitating this.
On the left: the Xiamen Branch of the Japanese Mitsui & Co., in the late 19th century; on the right: a contract dated 1899 for mining concessions between the German Buchheister & Co. and the Hunan Mining Bureau (湖南礦務局). Taking advantage of China’s weakness following its defeat in the First Sino-Japanese War, foreign investors poured more capital into the country to control its light and heavy industries. It thus began the takeover of China’s resources and market. China’s domestic enterprises, handicraft, and cottage industries were unable to compete.
Pictured is a late Qing cartoon that shows the imperialist powers divvying up China’s railways. Railways were instrumental in getting China loans from foreign banks as well as facilitating the transportation of resources, finished goods, and even armies. It also made it easier for the powers to incorporate areas along the railways into their own spheres of influence. Thus, railway concessions in China were much sought after by the powers.
Pictured is the Chinese Eastern Railway’s (東清鐵路) commencement ceremony of construction taken on 28 August 1897. Opened in 1903, the Chinese Eastern Railway connected to the Trans-Siberian Railway. It cut across the Chinese territory to link Russia and Vladivostok up. The railway enabled Russia to strengthen its control over north-eastern China.
Pictured are Russian troops stationed along the Chinese Eastern Railway. Railway was of great economic as well as military significance.
A photo of Qingdao (青島) station of the Jiaoji Railway (膠濟鐵路) in Shandong taken shortly after it commenced operation (left), and a modern-day photo of the station (right). During the late Qing dynasty, this Germany-operated railway linked Qingdao and Jinan (濟南) up. Its construction began in 1899 and operation commenced in 1904.
A modern-day photo of the Kunming-Haiphong Railway (滇越鐵路). After the First Sino-Japanese War, France was one of the countries that pressured Japan into giving up its possession of the Liaodong Peninsula. France then demanded that China reward it for this "good deed". It was granted the concession to extend the French railway from Vietnam into the Chinese territory. The construction of the southern section of the Kunming-Haiphong Railway commenced in 1901; the Yunnan section in 1904; and the entire line became fully operational in 1910.
Pictured is the opening ceremony of the Kowloon-Canton Railway (九廣鐵路) held at Luowu (羅湖) station on the British section.
On 5 October 1911, the Chinese and the British representatives attended the opening ceremony of the railway’s Chinese section in Shenzhen (深圳).
Pictured is a late Qing editorial cartoon: Britain, France, and Germany all provided loans to China to finance the construction of the Chuan-Han Railway (川漢鐵路) connecting the provinces of Sichuan (四川) and Hubei (湖北). Meanwhile, the United States was trying to make a loan on China. By working together to finance and monopolise the Chinese railways, the imperialist powers were able to grip the country’s economy. The caption reads “the perilous situation of being carved up economically” shows the Chinese economic situation at that time.
Sources of most photos used in this feature piece: Fotoe (pictures 1-6, 8-10), Visual China Group (picture 7), misc. photo sources.