Treaty of Tientsin (1885)
The Treaty of Tientsin, signed on 9 June 1885, officially ended the Sino-French War. The treaty, in ten articles, restated in greater detail the main provisions of the Tientsin Accord, signed between France and China on 11 May 1884. As Article 2 required China to recognise the French protectorate over Annam and Tonkin established by the Treaty of Hue in June 1884, implicitly abandoning her own claims to suzerainty over Vietnam, the treaty formalised France's victory in the Sino-French War.
In December 1884, alarmed by Japanese ambitions in Korea, the empress dowager Tz'u Hsi ordered her ministers to extricate China from the undeclared war with France that had broken out on 23 August. Important French victories in Tonkin and Formosa in February and early March 1885 stengthened her desire to end the Sino-French War, and although the Chinese won an unexpected victory in Tonkin in late March, defeating General de Negrier's 2nd Brigade at Bang Bo and reoccupying Lang Son, this success was counterbalanced by the simultaneous French capture of the Pescadores Islands. Despite the fall of Jules Ferry's ministry in France at the end of March in the wake of the retreat from Lang Son, China's position in early April 1885 was critical. Seizing the opportunity offered by the fall of the Ferry ministry, the Chinese agreed to implement the provisions of the May 1884 Tientsin Accord, which recognised France's protectorate over Vietnam. In return, the French dropped their longstanding demand for an indemnity for the Bac Le Ambush. After a flurry of negotiations in Paris in the first days of April 1885, peace was made on this basis.
Preliminaries of peace between France and China were signed on 4 April 1885. The preliminary peace protocol provided for an immediate ceasefire in both Tonkin and Formosa. The French agreed to lift their blockade of Formosa immediately, and the Chinese agreed to withdraw their armies from Tonkin by the end of May 1885. As a surety for Chinese good faith, the French maintained their 'rice blockade' of the Yangtze River and the Chinese ports of Chen-hai and Pak-hoi, and continued to occupy Keelung and the Pescadores Islands.
The Chinese punctiliously observed the terms of the peace settlement, and both the Yunnan and Guangxi armies dutifully withdrew from Tonkin. Recognising the practical difficulties faced by T'ang Ching-sung's Yunnan Army, deep in Tonkinese territory around Hung Hoa, the French extended the deadline specified in the accord of 4 April for its withdrawal, and the Yunnan Army finally crossed the border into China at Lao Cai on 2 June 1885. Under pressure from the Chinese commanders, Liu Yung-fu’s Black Flag Army also withdrew from Tonkinese territory. Satisfied that China intended to honour its obligations, the French government consented to the conclusion of a definitive peace treaty between France and China.
A comprehensive peace treaty in ten articles, based on the provisions of the Tientsin Accord of 11 May 1884, was signed at Tientsin on 9 June 1885, by Li Hung-chang for China and by Jules Paten?tre for France.
Li Hung-chang had earlier negotiated the Tientsin Accord, and had been widely criticised in China for giving away too much to France. Conservative literati prevented the provisions of the Tientsin Accord from being put into effect, resulting in a clash between French and Chinese troops at Bac Le in Tonkin. This confrontation had led directly to the outbreak of the Sino-French War on 23 August 1884. Although the hardline elements in the Ch'ing court were unable to prevent the empress dowager from again appointing Li Hung-chang to negotiate a peace treaty with the French, they insisted that Li was accompanied by two members of the Tsungli Yamen, Hsi Chen and Teng Ch'eng-hsiu. Teng Ch'eng-hsiu was a prominent member of the hardline Purist party (ch'ing-liu) and his appointment, a deliberate insult to Li Hung-chang, was one of the last occasions on which the Purists were able to influence court policy. Discredited by China's defeat in the Sino-French War, the Purists rapidly lost influence at court thereafter.
Restoration of diplomatic relations
The signing of the treaty on 9 June was followed by a banquet at which the two plentipotentiaries expressed their satisfaction with the results of the negotiations. Patenotre spoke as follows:
I have every confidence that the diplomatic agreement we have just signed will do more than just put an end to our past disputes and—I hope—speedily efface them from our memory. By creating new links between France and China, by opening new markets for the commercial activity of all nations, the Treaty of 9 June will indubitably help to entrench and develop between the Chinese Empire and foreign countries that community of interests which has always most effectively cemented friendships between peoples. If the imperial government holds the same sentiments in this respect as the government of the Republic, this treaty will confer real and lasting benefits on everyone.
Li Hung-chang made the following reply:
We Chinese have a saying: 'Friendship shines as brightly as the sun.' This proverb applies particularly to the bonds that link two great countries. China also desires the general welfare and wellbeing. From now on, the friendship between our two countries will shine as brightly as the morning sun when it emerges from the gloom of night.
Implementation of the treaty
On 10 June 1885, immediately after the signature of the peace treaty, the French lifted their naval blockade of the Yangtze River, Chen-hai and Pak-hoi. They evacuated Keelung on 21 June 1885 and the Pescadores Islands on 22 July 1885.
Ratifications of the Treaty of Tientsin were exchanged at Peking on 28 November 1885.
Article 3 of the treaty provided for the appointment of a Sino-French commission to demarcate the border between Tonkin and China. China's commissioners were Chou Te-jun, Hung Lu-ssu and Ch'ing Teng-ch'eng. The French commission was led by M. Bourcier Saint-Chaffray, and its members included M. Scherzer, the French consul in Canton, Dr Paul Neis, a noted Indochina explorer, Lieutenant-Colonel Tisseyre, Captain Bouinais, and M. Pallu de la Barrière (though the latter took no part in the commission's work). In preparation for the commission's work General de Courcy despatched French troops to occupy Lang Son, That Khe and other border towns in October 1885.
Demarcation work began in late 1885 and was completed in 1887. The French rejected Chinese claims to the Vietnamese town of Dong Dang, close to the Guangxi border and the site of a French victory during the Sino-French War, but agreed that the Pak-lung peninsula on the western border of Guangdong province should be awarded to China. A dispute over two areas on the border between Yunnan province and Tonkin was settled by the award of Meng-suo and Meng-lai to Vietnam and the transfer of a large tract of fertile arable land between Ma-pai-kuan and Nan-tan-shan to China. An agreement confirming the new border between Vietnam and China was signed in Peking on 26 June 1887 by French and Chinese representatives.
The peace treaty of 9 June 1885 formalised France's victory in the Sino-French War. Although the French were obliged to evacuate Keelung and the Pescadores Islands (which Admiral Courbet had wanted to retain as a French counterweight to the British colony of Hong Kong), the Chinese withdrawal from Tonkin left the way clear for the French to reoccupy Lang Son and to advance up the Red River to Lao Cai on the Yunnan-Tonkin border. In the years that followed the French crushed a vigorous Vietnamese resistance movement and consolidated their hold on Annam and Tonkin. In 1887, Cochinchina, Annam and Tonkin (the territories which comprise the modern state of Vietnam) and Cambodia were incorporated into French Indochina. They were joined a few years later by Laos, ceded to France by Siam at the conclusion of the Franco-Siamese War of 1893.