Wednesday 9 October 2019

a synallagmatic act

While former the former colonial outposts of Hong Kong and Macau are far better known, the port city of Tianjin (天津市, Tientsin) in the northern part of the country on the Gulf of Bohai hosted no fewer than nine concessions (small territories “leased” to foreign powers and because of this contractual nature are not subject to international law) granted at the turn of the last century by the Qing Emperor.
Reasoning that trade and missionary work would destabilise the empire, China tried to restrict such activities to special economic zones but was rather relentlessly pressured to allow in more international businesses. For their militaries’ role in suppressing the Boxer Rebellion (the Yihetuan—Righteous Militia—Uprising, 義和團運動) that sought to overthrow the dynasty and expel foreign consuls, Belgium, Austro-Hungary, Germany, the UK, France, Italy, Japan, Russia and the US were given districts in the city along the Pei Ho (Hai River) and at the railhead that linked the north with the capital. These quarters were self-contained and had their own shops, barracks, schools, churches and hospitals. War, shifting allegiances and revolution have overseen the return of all of these holdings to China and outside of diplomatic compounds the majority of remaining concessions with extraterritoriality are cemeteries and monuments of foreign wars maintained by the sending nation—the exceptions being Guantanamo Bay in Cuba and the Khmeimim Air Base in Syria.