Unequal Treaties

Unequal Treaties

Unequal Treaties is a term used in reference to the type of treaties signed by several East Asian states, including Qing Dynasty China, late Tokugawa Japan, and late Joseon Korea, with Western powers and the post-Meiji Restoration Empire of Japan, during the 19th and early 20th centuries. This was a period during which these Asian states were largely unable to resist the military and economic pressures from foreign powers. The Chinese started referring to the 19th century 'peace treaties' as "Unequal Treaties" during the 1920s, as growing Chinese nationalism began to consolidate.


The earliest attempt to come to a settlement was the 1841 Convention of Chuenpeh in the wake of the First Opium War that started in 1839.Courtauld, Caroline. Holdsworth, May. Vickers, Simon. [1997] (1997). The Hong Kong Story. HK University press. ISBN 0195903536] China and Great Britain signed the first unequal treaties under the Treaty of Nanking in 1842.Wiltshire, Trea. [First published 1987] (republished & reduced 2003). Old Hong Kong - Volume One. Central, Hong Kong: Text Form Asia books Ltd. ISBN Volume One 962-7283-59-2] Following Qing China's defeat, treaties with Britain opened up several ports to foreign trade, while also allowing Christians to reside. In addition, the administration of justice on foreign residents in the port cities were afforded trials by their own consular authorities rather than the Chinese legal system, a concept termed extraterritoriality.

Although the term "Unequal treaty" did not come into use until early in the 20th century, many Chinese considered the treaties unequal since the foreign powers did not reciprocate most of China's concessions with similar privileges. 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 make various other concessions of sovereignty to foreign "spheres of influence", following humiliating military defeats.

When the United States Commodore Matthew Perry forced open Japan in 1854, Japan was soon prompted to sign the "Ansei Treaties" that were similar to the ones China had signed and the same thing soon happened to Korea. Ironically, Korea's first unequal treaties were not with the West but with Japan, which, taking a page from Western tactics, had forced Korea to open its doors to foreign commerce in 1876. [Preston, Peter Wallace. [1998] (1998). Blackwell Publishing. Pacific Asia in the Global System: An Introduction. ISBN 0631202382]

Such unequal treaties ended at various times for the countries involved. Japan was the first to throw off the shackles of its treaties during the mid 1890s, when its performance in the First Sino-Japanese War convinced many in the West that Japan had indeed entered among the body of "civilized nations". For China and Korea, the wait was somewhat longer. Most of China's unequal treaties were abrogated during World War II, when the Republic of China led by Chiang Kai-shek emerged victorious and became a permanent member of the Security Council of the United Nations.China's unequal treaties almost completely dissolved only following Hong Kong's 1997 handover. The agreement was made in 1984 following talks between Deng Xiaoping and the British under the Sino-British Joint Declaration. Exception of territory seized were made by Imperial Russia (Outer Manchuria) in 1860. Korea's unequal treaties with European states became largely null and void in 1910, when it became a Japanese colony.

List of Unequal Treaties

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 U.K.-U.S. extradition treaty. [ [http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm200506/cmhansrd/cm060712/debtext/60712-0010.htm UK-US Extradition Treaty] , House of Commons Hansard column 1437, 12 July 2006] [ [http://comment.independent.co.uk/leading_articles/article1162807.ece Trapped by an unequal treaty] The Independent, 6 July 2006]

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. [A. de Zayas [http://www.law.ubc.ca/files/pdf/events/2003/november/guantana.pdf The status of Guantanamo Bay and the status of the detainees] , 2003]

ee also

*Client state
*Puppet state
*Most favoured nation


External links

* [http://www.geocities.com/treatyport01/TREATY01.html Treaty Ports and Extraterritoriality in 1920s' China]

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