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The Concessions in Tianjin were concession territories ceded by the Chinese government to some European countries and Japan in Tianjin, then known as Tientsin (also spelled Tien-Tsin).

Map of concession territories in Tientsin, now Tianjin.

General context[edit | edit source]

Prior to the 19th century, the Chinese were concerned that European trade and missionary activity would upset the order of the empire. Strictly controlled and subject to import tariffs, European traders were limited to operating in Canton and Macao. Following a series of military defeats against Britain and France, the Qing were slowly forced to permit extraterritoriality for foreign nationals and even cessions of Chinese sovereignty over certain ports and mineral rights. Tianjin's position at the intersection of the Grand Canal and the Peiho River connecting Beijing to the Bohai Bay made it one of the premier ports of northern China. Foreign trade was approved there for the British and French by the 1860 Peking Convention. Its importance increased even further when it was connected to the Tangshan coal fields by the Kaiping Tramway, the railroad that eventually connected all of northern China and Manchuria. Between 1895 and 1900, the two original powers were joined by Japan, Germany, Russia, and by Austria-Hungary, Italy and Belgium – countries without concessions elsewhere in China – in establishing self-contained concessions each with their own prisons, schools, barracks and hospitals. The European settlements covered 5 square miles (13 km2) in all, the riverfront being governed by foreign powers.

With the collapse of the Chinese Empire, the Kuomintang managed a restructuring of Chinese domestic and foreign relations, allowing it to recognize European states as equals. In turn, the concessions in Tianjin were dismantled in the early to mid-20th century with successful recognition of the European states by the Kuomintang, which gave European property owners equality before Chinese officials. However, World War II disrupted this nascent development: the Japanese seized the concessions of powers allied against it during its occupation of the country. Soon after the war, all the powers relinquished their concessions in China, including in Tientsin.

Austro-Hungarian concession (1901–1917)[edit | edit source]

Austro-Hungarian naval corps in Tientsin c. 1903-04.

During the Boxer rebellion and its aftermath 1899-1901, Austria-Hungary participated in the Eight-Nation Alliance and helped in suppressing the rising. However, Austria-Hungary together with Italy sent the smallest force of any of the combatant nations. Four cruisers and 296 Hungarian enlisted soldiers were dispatched.[1]

Even so on September 7, 1901, Austria-Hungary gained a concession zone in Tianjin as part of the reward for its contribution to the allies. The Austro-Hungarian concession zone was 150 acres (0.61 km2) in area, situated next to the Pei-Ho river and outlined by the Imperial channel and the Tianjin-Peking railway track. Contrary to the other nations the Hungarians possessed the territory and all of its inhabitants gained Austro-Hungarian citizenship. Its population was around 30.000 people. The order was maintained by 40 marines and 70 Chinese militia (Shimbo). The self-contained concession had its own thermae, theatre, pawnshop, school, barracks, prison, cemetery and hospital. It also contained the Austro-Hungarian consulate and its citizens were under Austro-Hungarian, not Chinese rule. However despite its relatively short life-span (only 16 years in all), the Austrians have left their mark on that area of the city, as can be seen in the wealth of Austrian architecture, that stands in the city to this day.

The administration was held by a town council composed of local high-class noblemen and headed by the Austro-Hungarian consul and the military commander, whereas the two of them had a majority vote. In the focus of juridical system there were smaller crimes and they were based on the Austro-Hungarian laws. If a Chinese person committed a crime on Chinese soil he could be tried in their own courts.[2]

View of the Peiho River and the bridge of the Austro-Hungarian Concession.

Though provided with a small garrison, Austria-Hungary proved unable, due to World War I to maintain control of its concession. The concession zone was swiftly occupied by China at the Chinese declaration of war on the Central powers and on 14 August 1917 the lease was terminated, along with that of the larger German concession in the same city.[3] Austria finally abandoned all claim to it on September 10, 1919 (Treaty of Saint-Germain-en-Laye), Hungary made a similar recognition in 1920 (Treaty of Trianon).

List of consuls[edit | edit source]

  • Carl Bernauer (1901–1908)
  • Erwin Ritter von Zach (1908)
  • Miloslav Kobr (1908–1912)
  • Hugo Schumpeter (1913–1917)[3]

Belgian concession (1902–1931)[edit | edit source]

The former Belgian Concession was established in 1902. Located on the eastern bank of the Hai River (Hai He), the Belgian government and business community did not invest in concession development. The concession was nominal and of little value, so in 1929 Belgium gave it back to China.[4]

Much more important were contracts involving railways, electric power systems and tramways built and partly operated by Belgian private companies. In 1904, China and Belgium signed a contract with Compagnie de Tramways et d'Éclairage de Tientsin, which stated that "this company has the exclusive right to produce and maintain the electric light and trolley systems for a term of 50 years." In 1906, with the opening of the first route of the trolley system, Tianjin became the first city in China with a modern public transportation system (Shanghai had to wait till 1908 to get electric tramways). The supply of electricity and lighting and the trolley business were profitable ventures. All the rolling stock was supplied by Belgian industries, with a small exception: the original electrical equipment came from Germany. By 1914, the network was covering the Chinese city and the Austrian, French, Italian, Japanese and Russian concessions. The Compagnie de Tramways et d'Éclairage de Tientsin was taken over by the Japanese army in 1943 and the members of the Belgian staff, often with their families, were sent to camps. Following the end of World War II, the Chinese authorities took over the network. The Brussels-based company tried to get compensation, but the success of the revolution in 1949 left them without any indemnity. Two more lines were built under Chinese administration, but the network was finally closed around 1972.

British concession (1860–1943)[edit | edit source]

Gordon Hall, 1907

British Indian troops on parade in Tientsin in the 1920s­.

The British concession, in which the trade centres, was situated on the right bank of the river Haihe below the native city, occupying some 200 acres (0.81 km2). It was held on a lease in perpetuity granted by the Chinese government to the British Crown, which sublet plots to private owners in the same way as was done at Hankou. The British concession was blockaded by the Japanese during the Tientsin Incident in June 1939, causing a major diplomatic crisis.

The local management was entrusted to a municipal council organized on lines similar to those in Shanghai. The seat of government was the stately Gordon Hall, situated on Victoria Road (now Jiefang Lu).

French concession (1860–1946)[edit | edit source]

Bastille Day in 1911

Rue de France, French concession

The former French concession was established in 1860. After more than 100 years, almost every prominent building in the original concession is still extant, including the French Consulate, the Municipal Council, the French Club, the Catholic Cathedral, the French Garden and many others. Many of the bank buildings along the financial street (currently Jiefang Lu, formerly the Rue de France) are still in existence today.

French armoured car in Tientsin during the 1928 troubles

The villas around the Garden Road are beautiful and diverse. The dome of the French Cathedral was the subject of unwanted attention during the Cultural Revolution: some young Red Guards climbed to the top of the dome to destroy the cross, though later the Tianjin government not only repaired the cross, but also renovated the entire church. Many French celebrities lived in Tianjin. Among them, Paul Claudel (consul from 1906 till 1909), and the natural scientist Father Emile Licent who conducted research in Tientsin from 1914 to 1939. He founded the Musee Hong Ho Bai Ho and left 20,000 specimens of animals, plants and fossils, as well as 15,000 books. In 1998, Tianjin government invested and rebuilt the Tianjin Nature Museum.

German concession (1899–1917)[edit | edit source]

Germany by the late 1870s was on a course of extensive economic involvement in several Chinese provinces, among them the Tientsin area. The German enclave south of the Hai River was situated between the British and one of the Japanese concessions. In July 1877 xenophobic groups threatened the life and property of German merchants in Tientsin. Local unrest intensified, mainly due to poor harvests and resulting famine, and Tientsin business interests requested armed protection. The German admiralty then dispatched the corvette SMS Luise to China. This initial show of support eventually evolved into a permanent presence in Chinese waters by initially modest German naval forces.

Street of the German concession on the eve of WWI.

After Germany acquired the Kiautschou Bay region in 1898 with a 99-year lease, a further concession was negotiated for the Tientsin enclave and economic growth escalated with infrastructure improvements. Major trading houses and diverse enterprises established themselves, including a branch of the Deutsch-Asiatische Bank. The Boxer rebellion of 1900 initially laid siege to the foreign concessions in Tientsin, but the city was secured and used as a staging area for the eventual march on Peking by the eight-nation international relief forces.

After the German concession territory was recovered by China during World War I, the United States 15th Infantry was billeted in the German barracks from 1917 until 1938, departing only after the Japanese Army entered Tientsin.

Italian concession (1901–1947)[edit | edit source]

Map of the Italian concession

On September 7, 1901, Italy was granted a concession in Tientsin from the Chinese government. On June 7, 1902, the Italians took control of the concession, which was to be administered by an Italian consul. After World War I the former Austro-Hungarian concession was added to the Italian concession, doubling its size. It became the headquarters[5] of the Italian Legione Redenta (an "Italian legio" made of irredentist troops in the defeated Austro-Hungarian empire), that fought in 1919 against Lenin's Soviet troops in Siberia and Manchuria.

British and Italian units marching in Tientsin

The Italian WWI monument and the Piazza Regina Elena.

In 1935, the Italian Concession of Tientsin had a population of about 6,261, including about 536 foreigners. The Regia Marina (Italian Royal Navy) stationed some vessels in Tientsin. During World War II, the Italian concession in Tientsin had a garrison of approximately 600 Italian troops on the side of the Axis powers. On September 10, 1943, when Italy signed an armistice with the Allies, the concession was occupied by the Imperial Japanese Army. Later in 1943, the Italian Social Republic (RSI) formally relinquished the concession to Wang Jingwei's Japanese-sponsored Chinese puppet state, the Reorganized National Government of China which, like the RSI in Axis-held northern Italy, was not recognized by the Kingdom of Italy, the Republic of China, or most other nations. The Wang Jingwei government fell when the Empire of Japan was defeated.

On June 2, 1946, the Kingdom of Italy became the Italian Republic and on February 10, 1947, by virtue of the peace treaty with Italy, the Italian concession was formally ceded by Italy to Chiang Kai-shek's Republic of China.

Japanese concession (1888–1945)[edit | edit source]

The former Japanese concession was established in 1888. The Japanese army occupied the entire city of Tientsin from 1937 until their defeat in 1945.

Two preserved buildings attract visitors' attention: the Zhang Garden and the Jing Garden of the abdicated emperor Puyi.

In 1924, the last emperor of the Qing Dynasty, Puyi, was forced to leave the Forbidden City in Beijing and lived in Tientsin until 1931 when he was forcibly taken by the Japanese army to Dalian. The imperial concubine Wenxiu divorced Puyi in Tientsin, which was the first time in Chinese dynastic history that an imperial concubine divorced an emperor.

Russian concession (1903–1920)[edit | edit source]

Former Russian consulate in Tianjin, circa 1912.

The former Russian concession was established in 1903. The former Russian concession in Tientsin (1903–1920), originally an area of more than 398 hectares, was never completed. Located on the eastern bank of Hai He River along a bend in the river, it was originally divided into two districts (east and west). In 1920 the Beiyang government of the Republic of China retook the land and concession from the Russian SFSR. In 1924, the Soviet Union renounced its claim on the concession.

American concession[edit | edit source]

The United States never requested or received extraterritorial rights in Tianjin, but a de facto concession was administered from 1869 until 1880, principally under the aegis of the British mission. In 1902 this informal American territory became part of the British concession. The United States maintained a permanent garrison at Tientsin, provided from January 1912 until 1938 by the 15th Infantry, US Army, and then by the US Marine Corps until December 8, 1941, the day the United States entered the Second World War and all territories of the US and the British Empire in Asia and the Pacific faced the threat of attack by the Empire of Japan.

Tientsin. The 15th Infantry on parade, 1931.

Lloyd Horne recalls of his time there in the 1930s "I was detailed with the 15th Infantry to rescue missionaries that were being trapped there. It was like they were prisoners — they couldn't even come out of their billets without getting fired on or having rocks thrown at them."[6]

Notes[edit | edit source]

  1. Magyar Királyi Központi Statisztikai Hivatal (1907) [Composed 1901]. "A magyar korona területén kivül tartózkodott magyar honos katonák a cs. és kir. közös hadügyminiszter által megküldött számlálólapok alapján, összeirási (tartózkodási) helyük szerint [The number of Hungarian nationality soldiers dispatched abroad according to the re-enlisting papers emitted by the Royal and Imperial joint Minister of Military affairs sorted by their place of enlisting (dispatchment)]" (in Hungarian) (scan). A magyar szent korona országainak 1901. évi népszámlálása : Harmadik rész. A népesség részletes leirása [Census of 1901 in the countries of the Holy Crown : Volume III. The detailed description of the population.] (census). Magyar statisztikai közlemények. 5 (new ed.). Budapest: Pesti Könyvnyomda-Részvénytársaság. p. 31. http://kt.lib.pte.hu/cgi-bin/kt.cgi?konyvtar/kt04010903/0_0_2_pg_31.html. Retrieved January 19, 2011. 
  2. Géza Szuk (1904). "A mi Kis Khinánk" (PDF). Our Little China. pp. 292–294. http://epa.oszk.hu/00000/00030/02625/pdf/VU_EPA00030_1904_18.pdf. Retrieved 2011-01-19. 
  3. 3.0 3.1 Jens Budischowsky (May 28, 2010). "Die family der wirtschaftswissenschafters Joseph Alois Schumpeter im 19. und 20. jahrhundert" (in German) (PDF). The family of economic scientists, Joseph Alois Schumpeter in the 19th and 20th century. www.schumpeter.info. http://www.schumpeter.info/Familie%20Schumpeter.pdf. Retrieved January 20, 2011. 
  4. Anne-Marie Brady; Douglas Brown (2012). Foreigners and Foreign Institutions in Republican China. Routledge. p. 27. http://books.google.com/books?id=WTKsm1ioEksC&pg=PA27. 
  5. Headquarter building of Italy in Tientsin
  6. Eileen Wilson (30 May 2011). "World War II vet recalls battle on two fronts". granitbaypt.com. http://granitebaypt.com/detail/179727.html. 

Sources and references[edit | edit source]

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