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Sino-French War - 1883-1885

Some territory had been obtained from China by France as far back as 1787. The policy of France in China has been largely a reflection of her policy in European politics. Her actions in China were either the direct products or parallels of her European policies. She joined Great Britain in the second war on China (1857-1860), largely as a continuation to the allied cooperation between Great Britain and France in the Crimean War (1854-1856). In 1858 a further advance had been made by the taking of Saigon and the consequent extension of French influence through Cochin China and Cambodia.

She annexed Cochin-China (1858-1867) mainly under the inspiration of Napoleon III, who pursued a policy of territorial aggrandizement. For this treaty recognition was obtained in 1862.

After the Franco-German war France began to seek a restoration of prestige in her Colonial Empire. She receded and became less aggressive from 1871 to 1880, when she recuperated her strength from the injuries of the Franco-Prussian War. After this, from 1880 to 1904, she resumed her colonial activities and entered into the general scramble for colonial possessions and other concessions which so characterized the close of the nineteenth century.

A treaty was made with Annam in 1874 without consultation with the suzerain power, by which the Red River and its ports, Haiphong and Hanoi, were opened for trade. Since this territory was used for the opening up of trade routes into Yunnan the French soon found themselves in difficulties with the guerilla troops known as Black Flags (largely made up of fugitives from the insurrectionary wars in Yunnan), with the secret support, it was believed, of the Chinese Government behind them.

She established her protectorate over Annam in 1883. No war was declared on either side, but the French, in carrying on her " reprisals," soon came face to face with the regular Chinese troops and warlike operations continued during 1883 and 1884. A convention drawn up at Tientsin by Li Hung-chang and Captain Fournier would have put an end to the conflict, but for the impatience of the French in taking possession of the awarded territory before the Chinese general had received orders from his superior. The consequence was a conflict in which the French were worsted and the "reprisals" continued, without any declaration of war. Among the incidents were the unjustifiable attack by Admiral Courbet upon the forts and ships at Fuchow and the bombardment of Kelung.

It was to the relief of all parties, the French included, that, through the good offices of Sir Robert Hart, a treaty was at last signed in June, 1885, by which much the same terms were accepted as had been agreed upon by Li Hung-chang a year earlier. Tongking now became French, but China came out of the struggle, from a military point of view, not discreditably. It was at this time that Li Hungchang's plans for a new navy began to take shape under Admiral Lang and that a new Navy Department was created under Prince Chun, the Emperor's father. The exigencies of the war with France also led to the extension of telegraph lines which, strangely enough, did not arouse the superstitious prejudice of the people as has been the case with the railways.

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