World Library  
Flag as Inappropriate
Email this Article

Unequal treaties

Article Id: WHEBN0001455877
Reproduction Date:

Title: Unequal treaties  
Author: World Heritage Encyclopedia
Language: English
Subject: Second Opium War, Opium Wars, Fukuzawa Yukichi, Boshin War, Bombardment of Kagoshima, Anglo-Japanese Treaty of Amity and Commerce, Subsidiary alliance
Publisher: World Heritage Encyclopedia

Unequal treaties


Unequal treaty” refers to treaties signed with Western powers during the 19th and early 20th centuries by Qing Dynasty China and late Tokugawa Japan after suffering military defeat by the foreign powers or when there was a threat of military action by those powers. The term is also applied to treaties imposed during the same time period on late Joseon Dynasty Korea by the post-Meiji Restoration Empire of Japan.

Starting with the rise of nationalism and anti-imperialism in the 1920s, the Guomindang and Chinese Communist Party used these concepts to characterize the Chinese experience in losses of sovereignty between roughly 1839–1949. The term "unequal treaty" became associated with the concept of China's "Century of Humiliation", especially the loss of the Treaty Ports, extraterritoriality, and tariff autonomy.


The historian Wang Dong concludes that "although the phrase has long been widely used, (unequal treaty) nevertheless lacks a clear and unambiguous meaning" and that there is "no agreement about the actual number of treaties signed between China and foreign countries that should be counted as 'unequal'."[1] The term "unequal treaty" did not come into use until early in the 20th century. These treaties were considered unequal in China "because they were not negotiated by nations treating each other as equals but were imposed on China after a war, and because they encroached upon China's sovereign rights ... which reduced her to semicolonial status". In many cases China was effectively forced to pay large amounts of reparations, open up ports for trade, cede or lease territories (such as Hong Kong to Great Britain and Macau to Portugal), and make various other concessions of sovereignty to foreign "spheres of influence", following military defeats.[2]

The earliest treaty later referred to as "unequal" was the 1841 Convention of Chuenpee negotiations during the First Opium War. China and Great Britain signed the first unequal treaties under the Treaty of Nanjing in 1842. Following Qing China's defeat, treaties with Britain opened up five ports to foreign trade, while also allowing foreign missionaries, at least in theory, to reside within China. In addition, foreign residents in the port cities were afforded trials by their own consular authorities rather than the Chinese legal system, a concept termed extraterritoriality.[3] Under the treaties, Britain and America established the British Supreme Court for China and Japan and United States Court for China in Shanghai.

Japan and Korea

When the American Commodore Matthew Perry reached Japan in 1854, it signed the Convention of Kanagawa. Its importance was limited. Much more important was the Harris treaty of 1858 negotiated by U.S. envoy Townsend Harris.[4]

Korea's first unequal treaty was not with the West but with Japan. Taking a page from Western tactics, in 1875 Japan sent Captain Inoue Yoshika and the warship Un'yō to display military might over Korea in the Ganghwa Island incident. This forced Korea to open its doors to Japan by signing the Japan–Korea Treaty of 1876.[5]

The unequal treaties ended at various times for the countries involved. Japan's victories in the 1894–95 First Sino-Japanese War convinced many in the West that unequal treaties could no longer be enforced on Japan. Korea's unequal treaties with European states became largely null and void in 1910, when it was annexed by Japan.[6]

Chinese resentment

After World War I, patriotic consciousness in China focused on the treaties, which now became widely known as "unequal treaties". The Nationalist Party and the Communist Party competed to convince the public that their approach would be more effective.[7] Germany was forced to terminate its rights, the Soviet Union ostentatiously surrendered them, and the United States organized the Washington Conference to negotiate them. After Chiang Kai-shek declared a new national government in 1927, the western powers quickly offered diplomatic recognition, arousing anxiety in Japan.[8] The new government declared to the Great Powers that China had been exploited for decades under unequal treaties, and that the time for such treaties was over, demanding they renegotiate all of them on equal terms.[9] In the face of Japanese expansion in China, however, ending the system was postponed.

Most of China's unequal treaties were abrogated during the Second Sino-Japanese War, which started in 1937 and merged into the larger context of World War II. The United States Congress ended American extraterritoriality in December, 1943. Significant examples of unequal treaties on China did outlast World War II: unequal treaties regarding Hong Kong remained in place until Hong Kong's 1997 handover, and in 1969, to improve Sino-Russian relations, China reconfirmed the 1859 Treaty of Aigun.

Select list of unequal treaties

Imposed on China
Treaty Year Imposer
  English name    Chinese name 
Treaty of Nanjing 南京條約 1842  British Empire
Treaty of the Bogue 虎門條約 1843  British Empire
Treaty of Wanghia 中美望廈條約 1844  United States
Treaty of Whampoa 黃埔條約 1844 France French colonial empire
Treaty of Canton 中瑞廣州條約 1847 United Kingdoms of Sweden and Norway
Treaty of Kulja 中俄伊犁塔爾巴哈台通商章程 1851  Russian Empire
Treaty of Aigun 璦琿條約 1858  Russian Empire
Treaty of Tientsin 天津條約 1858 France French colonial empire,  British Empire,  Russian Empire,  United States
Convention of Peking 北京條約 1860  British Empire, France French colonial empire,  Russian Empire
Treaty of Tientsin 中德通商條約 1861 Kingdom of Prussia Kingdom of Prussia,  German Confederation
Chefoo Convention 煙台條約 1876  British Empire
Treaty of Saint Petersburg 伊犁條約 1881  Russian Empire
Treaty of Tientsin (1885) 中法新約 1885 France French colonial empire
Sino-Portuguese Treaty of Peking 中葡北京條約 1887 Kingdom of Portugal Kingdom of Portugal
Treaty of Shimonoseki (Treaty of Maguan) 馬關條約 1895  Empire of Japan
Li-Lobanov Treaty 中俄密约 1896  Russian Empire
Convention for the Extension of Hong Kong Territory 展拓香港界址專條 1898  British Empire
Guangzhouwan Leased Terrority 廣州灣租界條約 1899 France French colonial empire
Boxer Protocol 辛丑條約 1901  British Empire,  United States,  Empire of Japan,  Russian Empire, France French colonial empire,  German Empire,  Kingdom of Italy, Austria-Hungary Austro-Hungarian Empire,  Kingdom of Belgium,  Kingdom of Spain,  Kingdom of the Netherlands
Simla Accord 西姆拉條約 1914  British Empire
Twenty-One Demands 二十一條 1915  Empire of Japan
Tanggu Truce 塘沽協定 1933  Empire of Japan
Imposed on Japan
Treaty Year Imposer
English name Japanese name
Convention of Kanagawa 日米和親条約 1854[10]  United States
Anglo-Japanese Friendship Treaty 日英和親条約 1854[11]  British Empire
Ansei Treaties 安政条約 1858[12]  United States,  British Empire,  Russian Empire,  Kingdom of the Netherlands, France French colonial empire
Treaty of Amity and Commerce (Harris Treaty) 日米修好通商条約 1858[13]  United States
Anglo-Japanese Treaty of Amity and Commerce 日英修好通商条約 1858[14]  British Empire
Prussian-Japanese Treaty of Amity, Commerce and Navigation 1861[15] Kingdom of Prussia Kingdom of Prussia
Imposed on Korea
Treaty Year Imposer
English name Korean name
Japan-Korea Treaty of 1876
(Treaty of Ganghwa)
강화도 조약(江華島條約) 1876[16]  Empire of Japan
United States-Korea Treaty of 1882 조미수호통상조약(朝美修好通商條約) 1882[17]  United States
Japan-Korea Treaty of 1882
(Treaty of Chemulpo)
제물포 조약(濟物浦條約) 1882  Empire of Japan
China–Korea Treaty of 1882
(Joseon-Qing Communication and Commerce Rules)
조청상민수륙무역장정(朝淸商民水陸貿易章程) 1882[18]  Qing Empire
Germany-Korea Treaty of 1883 조독수호통상조약(朝獨修好通商條約) 1883[19]  German Empire
United Kingdom-Korea Treaty of 1883     조영수호통상조약(朝英修好通商條約) 1883[20]  British Empire
Russia-Korea Treaty of 1884 조로수호통상조약(朝露修好通商條約) 1884[21]  Russian Empire
Italy-Korea Treaty of 1884 조이수호통상조약(朝伊修好通商條約) 1884[22]  Kingdom of Italy
Japan-Korea Treaty of 1885
(Treaty of Hanseong)
한성조약(漢城條約) 1885[23]  Empire of Japan
France-Korea Treaty of 1886 조불수호통상조약(朝佛修好通商條約) 1886[24] France French colonial empire
Austria-Korea Treaty of 1892 조오수호통상조약(朝奧修好通商條約) 1892[25] Austria-Hungary Austro-Hungarian Empire
Belgium-Korea Treaty of 1901 조벨수호통상조약(朝白修好通商條約) 1901[26]  Kingdom of Belgium
Denmark-Korea Treaty of 1902 조덴수호통상조약(朝丁修好通商條約) 1902[27]  Kingdom of Denmark
Japan-Korea Treaty of 1904 한일의정서(韓日議定書) 1904[28]  Empire of Japan[29]
Japan-Korea Protocol of August 1904 제1차 한일협약 (第一次韓日協約) 1904[30]  Empire of Japan[31]
Japan-Korea Protocol of April 1905 1905[32]  Empire of Japan[33]
Japan-Korea Protocol of August 1905 1905[34]  Empire of Japan[35]
Japan-Korea Treaty of 1905
제2차 한일협약 (第二次韓日協約)
1905[36]  Empire of Japan[37]
Japan-Korea Treaty of 1907 제3차 한일협약 (第三次韓日協約)
1907[38]  Empire of Japan
Japan-Korea Treaty of 1910 한일병합조약(韓日倂合條約) 1910[39]  Empire of Japan

Other uses

Recently, the term "unequal treaty" has been used by the RESPECT leader George Galloway and the then Liberal Democrat leader Menzies Campbell to refer to the 2003 UK–US extradition treaty.[40][41]

The 1903 Cuban–American Treaty, which granted the United States a perpetual lease of Guantanamo Bay, is seen as an "unequal treaty" by Professor Alfred de Zayas.[42]

The American annexation of Hawaii in 1898 was an example of an "unequal treaty doctrine" and its consequences.[43]

See also




  • OCLC 56493769
  • OCLC 300287988
  • Perez, Louis G. Japan Comes of Age: Mutsu Munemitsu & the Revision of the Unequal Treaties (1999) 244pp
  • Wang, Dong. "The Discourse of Unequal Treaties in Modern China," Pacific Affairs (2003) 76#3 pp 399-425.
  • Nish, I. H. "Japan Reverses the Unequal Treaties: The Anglo-Japanese Commercial Treaty of 1894," Journal of Oriental Studies (1975) 13#2 pp 137-146.
  • Wang, Dong. (2005). China's Unequal Treaties: Narrating National History. Lanham, Maryland: Lexington Books. 10-OCLC 60311787

Primary sources

  • Halleck, Henry Wager. (1861). OCLC 852699
  • Korean Mission to the Conference on the Limitation of Armament, Washington, D.C., 1921–1922. (1922). Korea's Appeal to the Conference on Limitation of Armament. Washington: U.S. Government Printing Office. OCLC 12923609
This article was sourced from Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike License; additional terms may apply. World Heritage Encyclopedia content is assembled from numerous content providers, Open Access Publishing, and in compliance with The Fair Access to Science and Technology Research Act (FASTR), Wikimedia Foundation, Inc., Public Library of Science, The Encyclopedia of Life, Open Book Publishers (OBP), PubMed, U.S. National Library of Medicine, National Center for Biotechnology Information, U.S. National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health (NIH), U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, and, which sources content from all federal, state, local, tribal, and territorial government publication portals (.gov, .mil, .edu). Funding for and content contributors is made possible from the U.S. Congress, E-Government Act of 2002.
Crowd sourced content that is contributed to World Heritage Encyclopedia is peer reviewed and edited by our editorial staff to ensure quality scholarly research articles.
By using this site, you agree to the Terms of Use and Privacy Policy. World Heritage Encyclopedia™ is a registered trademark of the World Public Library Association, a non-profit organization.

Copyright © World Library Foundation. All rights reserved. eBooks from Project Gutenberg are sponsored by the World Library Foundation,
a 501c(4) Member's Support Non-Profit Organization, and is NOT affiliated with any governmental agency or department.