Signing the Treaty of Tientsin in June 1858
Tientsin (now known as Tianjin) on the north east coast of China, some eighty miles from Beijing, became a treaty port at the conclusion of the Second Opium War in 1858. The Treaty of Tientsin was ratified by the Emperor of China in 1860, and Tientsin was formally opened to Great Britain and France, and thus to the outside world. The city became only second to Shanghai in its importance as a Treaty Port.Between 1895 and 1900, Britain and France were joined by Japan, Germany and Russia, and countries without Chinese concessions such as Austria-Hungary, Italy and Belgium, in establishing self-contained concessions in Tientsin. These nations left many architectural reminders of their rule, the racecourse, churches, factories and thousands of villas.
The history of Tientsin during the Treaty Port period was not always peaceful. One of the most serious violent incidents to take place was the Tientsin Church Incident. In June 1870, the orphanage held by the Wanghailou Church (Our Lady of Victories), in Tientsin, built by French Roman Catholic missionaries, was accused of the kidnapping and brainwashing of Chinese children. Chinese protestors rioted and burned down the church and the nearby French consulate and killed eighteen foreigners including ten French nuns, the French consul, and merchants. In June 1900, the Boxers were able to seize control of much of Tientsin. On June 26, European defense forces heading towards Beijing were stopped by Boxers at nearby Langfang, and were defeated and forced to turn back to Tientsin. The foreign concessions were also under siege for several weeks. In July 1900, the Eight-Nation Alliance recaptured Tientsin. This alliance soon established the Tientsin Provisional Government, composed of representatives from each of the occupying forces (Russian, British, Japanese, German, French, American, Austro-Hungarian, and Italian). The city was governed by this council until August 15, 1902 when the city was returned to Qing control.
Eminent Qing General Yuan Shikai led efforts to transform Tientsin into a modern city, establishing the first modern Chinese police force. In 1907, Yuan supervised China's first modern democratic elections for a county council.Western nations were permitted to garrison the area to ensure open access to Beijing. The British maintained a brigade of two battalions in Tientsin, and the Italians, French, Japanese, Germans, Russians, and Austro-Hungarians maintained understrength regiments; the United States did not initially participate. During World War I, the German and Austro-Hungarian garrisons were captured and held as Prisoners of War by Allied Forces while the Bolshevik government withdrew the Russian garrison in 1918. In 1920, the remaining participating nations asked the United States to join them, and the US then sent the 15th Infantry Regiment, less one battalion, to Tientsin from the Philippines.On July 30, 1937,
Tientsin fell to Japan, as part of the Second Sino-Japanese War, but was not entirely occupied, as with Shanghai the Japanese for the most part respected foreign concessions until December 1941. On August 9, 1940, all of the British troops in Tientsin were ordered to withdraw. On November 14, 1941 the American Marine unit stationed in Tientsin was ordered to leave, but before this could be accomplished, the Japanese attacked the United States. The American Marine detachment surrendered to the Japanese on December 8, 1941. Only the Italian and French concessions (the local French officials were loyal to Vichy) were allowed by the Japanese to remain. Japanese occupation of the city lasted until August 15, 1945, with the surrender of Japan marking the end of World War II.