Treaty of Nanjing

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  • Date: 29 Aug 1842
  • Chinese/Japanese: 南京条約 (Nánjīng tiáoyuē / Nankin jouyaku)

The Treaty of Nanjing, signed between the United Kingdom and Qing Dynasty China in 1842, marked the end of the First Opium War. It later came to be seen as the first, and most prominent, of the Unequal Treaties, forcing upon China a subordinate position in its relationships with Western powers.

The treaty ended the Canton system of trade, in which British and other foreign merchants were subject to strict restrictions upon when and where and how much they could trade. China agreed to open five ports to foreign trade, where previously Western trade had been limited largely to Canton (Guangzhou), and to cede Hong Kong to the British in perpetuity. The five treaty ports were Canton (Guangzhou), Amoy (Xiamen), Ningbo, Fuzhou, and Shanghai.

The British were also allowed to establish permanent consulates in these ports, and were granted privileges of extraterritoriality - meaning that British subjects and their property were not subject to Chinese law. The Chinese signed away their power to control tariffs on imported goods, a major boon to Western business which diminished protections for domestic Chinese industry (which might have grown stronger, faster, had they been protected better from full, open competition with foreign imports). And, finally, the Qing Court was obliged to pay a massive indemnity of some 21 million Mexican silver dollars to Britain.


  • Marco Tinello, "The termination of the Ryukyuan embassies to Edo : an investigation of the bakumatsu period through the lens of a tripartite power relationship and its world," PhD thesis, Università Ca' Foscari Venezia (2014), 117n209.