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Anglo-French Expedition to China (1856-1860)

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The Anglo-French Expedition to China: an Overview

Following the Opium War, the Western powers had on multiple occasions requested amendments to previous treaties, but were all denied by the Qing government. Eventually, they decided to resort to force again. In 1856, the British military attacked Guangzhou and France later joined. In 1860, the Anglo-French alliance captured Tianjin and Beijing, forcing the Qing government to sign some more unequal treaties.

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

Following the Opium War, the foreign powers were eager to revise the terms of their treaties with the Qing government to further their interests. However, their requests were repeatedly denied. Thus, they actively sought an excuse to declare war on China. In 1856, the Anglo-French Expedition to China, also known as the Second Opium War, erupted.

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(2) The Sino-British and Sino-French Treaties of Tientsin

In 1858, unable to defend itself against the Anglo-French alliance, the Qing government signed separate Treaties of Tientsin that made numerous concessions to Britain and France.

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(3) The Re-ignition of the Anglo-French Expedition to China

In June 1859, while on their way to ratify the treaties in Beijing, warships of the Anglo-French alliance attempted to force their way through Dagu by bombarding its forts, but were driven away by the Qing military. Eventually, they returned in force and overcame the Qing military in successive battles, with their sights set on Beijing.

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(4) The Burning of the Old Summer Palace

Having invaded Beijing successfully, the Anglo-French alliance went on a looting spree in the Old Summer Palace, a more than 150-year-old world-famous royal garden. Then, in an extreme act of cultural and artistic destruction, the soldiers burnt everything remained to the ground.

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(5) The Sino-British and Sino-French Conventions of Peking

With Beijing in the hands of the Anglo-French alliance, the Qing government was forced to sign the Sino-British and Sino-French Conventions of Peking. The conventions imposed further indemnities upon the Chinese government, opened additional ports for foreign trade, and ceded the southern part of the Kowloon Peninsula to Britain.

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(6) Russia and the United States Profited from China’s Misfortune

During the Anglo-French invasion of China, Russia and the United States seized the opportunity to force China to sign unequal treaties with them. Russia, in particular, managed to annex some 1.5 million square kilometres of the Chinese territory on separate occasions without firing a single shot.

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(7) The Growing Influx of Western Civilisation into China

With the two Opium Wars, China was brought into greater contact with the outside world. Various foreign items, once available only in coastal regions, also began to show up in inland regions. While this hastened the influx of Western civilisation into China, it also led to more conflicts between Chinese and Westerners.

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The Anglo-French Expedition to China: an Overview

Following the Opium War, the Western powers had on multiple occasions requested amendments to previous treaties, but were all denied by the Qing government. Eventually, they decided to resort to force again. In 1856, the British military attacked Guangzhou and France later joined. In 1860, the Anglo-French alliance captured Tianjin and Beijing, forcing the Qing government to sign some more unequal treaties.

The Anglo-French Expedition to China: an Overview

Following the Opium War, the Western powers had on multiple occasions requested amendments to previous treaties, but were all denied by the Qing government. Eventually, they decided to resort to force again. In 1856, the British military attacked Guangzhou and France later joined. In 1860, the Anglo-French alliance captured Tianjin and Beijing, forcing the Qing government to sign some more unequal treaties.

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

Following the Opium War, the foreign powers were eager to revise the terms of their treaties with the Qing government to further their interests. However, their requests were repeatedly denied. Thus, they actively sought an excuse to declare war on China. In 1856, the Anglo-French Expedition to China, also known as the Second Opium War, erupted.

(2) The Sino-British and Sino-French Treaties of Tientsin

In 1858, unable to defend itself against the Anglo-French alliance, the Qing government signed separate Treaties of Tientsin that made numerous concessions to Britain and France.

(3) The Re-ignition of the Anglo-French Expedition to China

In June 1859, while on their way to ratify the treaties in Beijing, warships of the Anglo-French alliance attempted to force their way through Dagu by bombarding its forts, but were driven away by the Qing military. Eventually, they returned in force and overcame the Qing military in successive battles, with their sights set on Beijing.

(4) The Burning of the Old Summer Palace

Having invaded Beijing successfully, the Anglo-French alliance went on a looting spree in the Old Summer Palace, a more than 150-year-old world-famous royal garden. Then, in an extreme act of cultural and artistic destruction, the soldiers burnt everything remained to the ground.

(5) The Sino-British and Sino-French Conventions of Peking

With Beijing in the hands of the Anglo-French alliance, the Qing government was forced to sign the Sino-British and Sino-French Conventions of Peking. The conventions imposed further indemnities upon the Chinese government, opened additional ports for foreign trade, and ceded the southern part of the Kowloon Peninsula to Britain.

(6) Russia and the United States Profited from China’s Misfortune

During the Anglo-French invasion of China, Russia and the United States seized the opportunity to force China to sign unequal treaties with them. Russia, in particular, managed to annex some 1.5 million square kilometres of the Chinese territory on separate occasions without firing a single shot.

(7) The Growing Influx of Western Civilisation into China

With the two Opium Wars, China was brought into greater contact with the outside world. Various foreign items, once available only in coastal regions, also began to show up in inland regions. While this hastened the influx of Western civilisation into China, it also led to more conflicts between Chinese and Westerners.