Shanghai International Settlement: Background

Chinese Marines
Figure 1.--After disturbances in Hankow, the United States dispatched the 4th Marine Regiment to protect U.S. citizens and property in Shanghai (1927). They became known as the Chinese Marines. Here is one of the Marines with some Chinese friends. The photograph was taken in 1937, the year the Japanese invased China. Their first major target was Shanghai. The Chinese tried fleeing the Japanese bombing tried to enter the International Settlement for safety.

Shanghai was in part the financial and business capital of China because the European countries were so involved in the city. European powers during the 19th century secured Treaty Ports which they governed and their citizens had extra-territorial rights. The Shanghai International Settlement was organized as foreign powers were expanding business activities in China (1854). The British were the primary foreign group active in Shanghai, but other foreign businessmen were also active. These businessmen organized a united municipal council--the Shanghai Municipal Council (SMC). The SMC assumed responsibility for the concessions the Chinese Government had granted to the British, French and Americans. The French decided to withdraw from the SMC (1862). The British and Americans decided to formally unite their concessions and this became known as the Shanghai International Settlement (SIS). We note some of the families involved. One is an American family-- the Webbs. Western businessmen and diplomats lived and operated in Shanghai a world apart from the rest of China. Other foreign countries negotiated treaty relations with China. Their businessmen became part of the SIS administration of the settlement, but the SIS continued to be a primarily British-dominated undertaking. Unlike other British treaty ports (Hong Kong and Weiheiwei) which became actual British colonies, the SIS was different. Legally it was Chinese sovereign territory. The SIS set up its own police force--the Shanghai Municipal Police (SMP). There was also a small military contingent--the Shanghai Volunteer Corps (SVC). After disturbances in the British concession in Hankow (1927). the British reinforced the SVC by bringing in a battalion of the British Army which was named the Shanghai Defense Force (SDF). The United States dispatched the 4th Marine Regiment to protect American citizens and their property in the SIS.


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Created: 7:07 AM 1/5/2013
Last updated: 7:07 AM 1/5/2013