Throughout the early 1800's, the British East India Comanpy had began trading opium in China, causing productivity to plummet, and sending China into an economic recession. The Chinese military attempted to curtail opium use by seizing British trade ships, and arresting opium users and traders. But this resulted in British ships engaging with Chinese ships, often ending with the death of British citizens. The British ordered the Chinese to stop this, but the Chinese denied their demands, and continued to attack British trade ships. The attacks continued until on October 6, 1856, and the British gathered a group of other nations interested in the conflict. Within the next 2 months, the US, France, and Russia, had joined the war on China.
Assault By Sea in the North and Russian Invasion of Mongolia
The British, French, and United States combined in a joint fleet of 200 ships, and 20,000 soldiers, and landed at Yantai and Qingdao. The Chinese army marched from Beijing in a force of 50,000 to counter the invaders, and engaged them at the Battle of Shandong Peninsula, where the invading forces defeated the Chinese using their superior firepower and tactics. A new advance by the invaders was able to attack Jinan by November 16, 1856, and the city fell on November 24. From these two points, the invading allies were able to establish strong supply lines and keep their war going.
Meanwhile, the Chinese Navy attempted a counterattack, sending a fleet of 450 ships, mostly junks, to cut off the allied fleet at Yantai's port. There the Chinese divided into three groups of 150 and surged against the enemy simultaneously, but all this succeeded in doing was to create a turkey-shoot when the Chinese when a misdirected order caused a group of 25 Chinese ships to move out of formation, and resulted in the Chinese attack falling into chaos. British, French, and American warships opened up on the Chinese ships as they scurried across the ocean. At the end of the day, 120 Chinese ships had been destroyed and only one British ship had been damaged.
Meanwhile, as the allies in the south invaded by sea, the Russians in the north invaded by land into Mongolia with 80,000 troops where they found a Chinese army of 40,000 waiting for them. But the Russians had the advantage in both numbers and in technology. The Russians were armed with rifles and pistols, while the Chinese were armed with muskets and bows and arrows. The Russian Army marched into Mongolia to be confronted upon arriving at the Khovsgol Lake, easily defeating the Chinese army, and taking the city of Moron. The Chinese were now left only with Uliastai to defend, and even that they couldn't hold on to. Superior Russian firepower and artillery easily destroyed any built-up Chinese defenses, and lead to the Russians easily taking the city. With now major points left to defend, and a majority of their army killed or captured, the Chinese retreated into their homeland.
Japanese Support and Moving West
The Westerners believed a smart option to assist them in the war would be to garner support from the one power in the area they knew hated China the most, Japan. Since war was declared in October 1856, the British and French foreign advisors in Japan had asked the government to declare war on Japan. However, Japan stubbornly refused until in March of 1857 when a Chinese junk sunk a group of Japanese merchant ships they believed to be western ships. Japan formally declared war on both China and their ally, Korea, on March 24, 1857. The Japanese Army was sailed across the sea and invaded Korea on April 12. The Westerners plan had worked 40,000 Chinese soldiers were diverged from the Chinese reserves to fight the Japanese in Korea.
Meanwhile, as Japan invaded Korea, the Westerns marched west and into China, moving to cut off Peking by land and sea by marching northwest until they met the Russian Army and would then march to Beijing. Their first major engagement in the area came as they exited Jinan and marched towards Shijiazhuang, where 25,000 Chinese troops charged downhill to attacked the their position. But what resulted was a slaughter as the Chinese were picked off by western rifles and forced to retreat. The westerners quickly continued to march and laid siege to the Chinese city on April 29. With less than 5,000 Chinese soldiers left to defend the city, the battle was an easy victory for the western powers.
On May 14, the westerners assaulted the Chinese city of Hohhot, easily taking it as a majority of the Chinese had already fled to defend their capital, Peking. And now with Hohhot captured, their goal was completed, and they linked up with the Russian army to march to the Chinese capital. Chinese soldiers were forced to return to China from Korea, but the westerners had a problem, months of fighting had left them low on ammunition and on cannons, not nearly enough to take Peking. Instead the invaders opted to campaign around the area and take what different ports or major city's they could.
Campaigning in the South and Russian Campaign in Manchuria
With their line near Peking secured, the westerners marched south to take many of the other Chinese forts and major southern cities. After the march from their line of defence, the westerners arrived at the port of Liangyungang, where they met 12,000 Chinese soldiers determined to stop their march towards the city. The Chinese even used a cavalry charged, which was quickly defeated by the westerner's cannons and muskets. Then the Westerners launched their own cavalry charge which routed the Chinese, forcing their surrender. The next day, western forces marched into the city and occupied it.
Meanwhile, the Russians had march up and back to Mongolia, and in April of 1858, had invaded Manchuria. They made a quick march, easily capturing cities that were almost undefended, including Hailar, Qiqihar and Harbin. But what they didn't expect was a Chinese army of 50,000 soldiers that confronted them when the attacked the city of Changchun. But the Chinese made another horrible mistake, they marched in deeply packed lines, like soldiers in Europe around the turn of the century, and their march allowed them to be shot at by volleys of musket fire and cannon fire. With the city undefended, it was captured by the Russians in early June of 1858. Russia now had built its own line of defense from the north, and completely cut of the Chinese capital.
Capturing of Peking
As time went on, many more Chinese cities fell to western and Russia soldiers, Shanghai and Hong Kong both fell to British marines, and eventually, it came time to return to the Chinese capital, Peking. The western forces arrived back at their line on June 2, 1860, where they then marched simultaneously with the Russians against the Chinese capital. With new weapons and fresh reinforcements, the westerners marched and surrounded the Chinese capital on June 10, where their cannons and mines continuously broke down the Chinese defenses and the defenders. The Western part of the city was breached on June 22, and the Chinese now had to fight within the city to keep their capital safe. But try as they might, the Chinese couldn't keep up with the Westerner's weapons and training, leading them to lose the western part of the city by the beginning of July.
The westerns soon broke through the city's southern defenses, and the Chinese fell back to defend the north and northwest, where the Emperor's Summer Palace lay, a major prize for any western general to capture. The Chinese were admired by the westerners for their fighting spirit and unwillingness to give up, but the continued to defeat them none the less. And eventually, the Chinese were pushed to a single point of defense, the Summer Palace. They were given orders by the emperor himself, but nothing he did could stop the westerners as the attacked the Palace and burned part of it to the ground on July 30. The Chinese capital had fallen, and now China had no choice but to sue for peace.
Convention of Peking and Treaty of Tientsin
In early October 1860, the two warring sides met in Peking, or what was left of it, to discuss the terms of Chinese defeat. The two sides argued endlessly over what cities would be kept, and what land would be taken. But as the western powers dictated the treaty signing, these were the terms:
- Britain, France, Russia, and the United States would have the right to station foreign legation in Peking
- Eleven ports would be opened to western trade, including Newchwang, Danshui, Hankou, and Nanjing
- The right of foreign vessels to travel along the Yangtze River freely
- The right of foreigners to travel in the internal regions of China for the purpose of travel, trade, and missionary activites
- China must pay each enemy power two million taels and three million taels to French and British merchants
- Official letters and documents exchanged between China and Britain are banned from referring to British Officials and Subjects of the Crown by the character yi (meaning "barbarian)
- Each foreign power is to be offered a Chinese port as a settlement to be given plebiscite in 50 years time
- The Joseon dynasty of Korea shall disband itself and be replaced by the authority of the Tokugawa Shogunate
- Mongolia and northern Manchuria shall be transferred to the Russian Empire
The warring states each took the following ports as their own:
- Britain-Hong Kong
- United States-Guangzhou
The terms of the treaty were devastating to China, their honor had been stripped and their attempts to isolate themselves from western powers had given them nothing but defeat. Korea had been taken over by Japan, and worse yet, they owed each enemy power a city on their coastline. The payments the Chinese were forced to make devastated their economy, and their army had been disgraced. But as the century went on, they began to adopt a more western-style army, but nothing could stop what all this would lead to, the Boxer Rebellion.