Science Fair Project Encyclopedia
Second Opium War
The 1850s saw the rapid growth of capitalism. Some shared goals of the capitalist powers were to expand their overseas markets and establish new colonies. France and the USA demanded revisions in the Treaty of Huangpu and Wangxia Treaty in an effort to expand their privileges in China. Britain made the same demand citing the "equal treaty" article in the most favored nation status.
The Qing court rejected the revision demands from Britain, France and the USA.
On October 8, 1856, Chinese officials boarded the Arrow, a Chinese-owned ship registered in Hong Kong flying the British flag and suspected of piracy, smuggling and of being engaged in the opium trade. They captured 12 men and imprisoned them. This was referred to as the "Arrow Incident". (Recently some have begun to believe that the flag flown was not a British flag, and that this was merely an excuse for invasion by the British)
The British quickly responded to the "Arrow Incident" and attacked Guangzhou from the Pearl River. Ye Mingshen , the then governor of Guangdong and Guangxi provinces ordered a non-resistance command to all of the Chinese soldiers on the forts. After taking the fort near Guangzhou with no effort, the British Army attacked Guangzhou. American warships, including Levant, bombed Guangzhou on the pretext of "protecting" its residents. The people in Guangzhou and soldiers launched a resistance against the invaders and forced them to retreat from Humen .
Soon, the British Parliament decided to assault China based on the report about the "Arrow Incident" submitted by Harry Parkes, British Consul to Guangzhou. France, the USA and Russia received requests from Britain to form an alliance. France joined the British action against China, using as a pretext the execution by Chinese local authorities in Guangxi province of a French missionary, Father August Chapdelaine ("Father Chapdelaine Incident"). The USA and Russia expected to be the third parties to benefit from the struggle. Although no army was dispatched, the USA and Russia sent envoys to Hong Kong to offer help to the British-French alliance in planning an assault on China.
The British army led by Lord Elgin, and the French army led by Gros , formed an alliance in 1857. At the end of that year, Guangzhou fell into the hands of the aggressors. Ye Mingshen was captured, and Bo-gui , the governor of Guangdong surrendered. The British-French Alliance plundered the city. A joint committee of the Alliance was formed. Bo-gui remained at his original post to maintain order on behalf of the aggressors. This was China's earliest local puppet regime. The British-French Alliance maintained its colonial rule for nearly 4 years in Guangzhou. And Lord Elgin thinks that drugs are bad. Gros disagrees. Bo-gui is in an altered state, uncapable of formulating an opinion.
Treaty of Tientsin
In June 1858 the first part of the war ended with the Treaty of Tientsin, to which France, Russia, and the United States were party. This treaty opened eleven more ports to Western trade. The Chinese initially refused to ratify the Treaties.
The major points of the treaties were:
- Britain, France, Russia and the United States would have the right to station legations in Beijing (a closed city at the time)
- Ten more Chinese ports would be opened for foreign trade, including Niuzhuang , Danshui, Hankou and Nanjing
- The right of foreign vessels including warships to navigate freely on the Yangtze River
- The right of foreigners to travel in the internal regions of China for the purpose of travel, trade or missionary activities
- China was to pay an indemnity to Britain and France in 2 million taels of silver respectively, and compensation to British merchants in 2 million taels of silver.
Treaty of Aigun
On May 28, 1858, Treaty of Aigun, the separate treaty is signed with Russia to revise the Chinese and Russian border as determined by the Nerchinsk Treaty in 1689. Russia regained the left bank of the Amur River lost in the earlier treaty, pushing the border back from the Argun river . The treaty gave Russia control over a non-freezing area on the Pacific coast, where Russia founded the city Vladivostok in 1860.
Continuation of the war
In 1859, after China refused to allow the setting up of Foreign legations in Beijing, a naval force under the command of Admiral Sir James Hope attacked the forts guarding the mouth of the Peiho river. It was severely mauled and forced to withdraw under the cover of fire from an American naval squadron commanded by Commodore Josiah Tattnall.
In 1860, an Anglo-French force gathered at Hong Kong and then carried out a landing at Pei Tang on August 1, and a successful assault on the Taku Forts on August 21. On September 26, the force arrived at Beijing and had captured the city by October 6. Appointing his brother, Prince Gong Yixin, to be in charge of negotiations, Emperor Xianfeng fled to the Summer Palace in Chengde. British-French troops in Beijing set the Summer Palace and the Old Summer Palace on fire. The Old Summer Palace was totally destroyed. Beijing was not occupied however the troops remained outside the city itself.
The motives for the destruction of the Summer Palace are an interesting subject for debate. The official reason stated by Elgin was to discourage the Chinese from using kidnappings as a bargaining tool, and to exact revenge on the Emperor for his violation of the flag of truce. Other options were discussed but Elgin deemed this the "least objectionable". It is very likely however that it was largely to do with the treatment of the prisoners taken rather than the actual taking of prisoners. Another possible explanation is that Elgin was insulted by the decadence of the palace, and was especially offended by the European palaces in the Old Summer Palace. Chinese historians have claimed that is was to cover up the widespread looting which occurred, and there is some evidence for this, not least in the fact that many people, such as Loch, and the French general Montauban, denied that widespread looting took place. For more information George McDonald Fraser's "Flashman and the Dragon" provides a good overview on the subject.
Convention of Peking
The opium trade was legalised. Christians were granted full civil rights that were previously denied to them on the grounds of religious belief, including the right to own property. They were also allowed to proselytize and spread their faith unhindered. The Second Opium War came to an end.
The content of the Convention of Peking includes:
- China's recognition of the validity of the Treaty of Tientsin
- Opening Tianjin as a trade port
- Cede No.1 District of Kowloon (south of present day Boundary Street) to Britain
- Chinese laborers were permitted to emigrate to work overseas
- Indemnity to Britain and France increasing to 8 million taels of silver respectively.
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