Kwang-Chou-Wan (also spelt Guangzhouwan or Kwangchowan) was a small enclave on the south coast of China ceded by Qing China to France as a leased territory. The territory did not experience the rapid growth in population that other parts of coastal China experienced, only rising from 189,000 in 1911 to 209,000 in 1935. Industries included shipping and coal mining. The colony was invaded and taken over by Japan in February 1943, taken back by France in 1945, and finally returned to China in 1946, at which point its original name of Zhanjiang was restored.
The leased territory was situated in Guangdong Province
(Kwangtung Province) on the east side of the Leizhou Peninsula
, north of Hainan
, around a bay then called Kwang-Chou-Wan (Kwangchow Bay), now called Zhanjiang Gang (Zhanjiang Harbor). The bay forms the estuary of the Maxie River
(Maxie He). The Maxie is navigable as far as 19 km (12 mi.) inland even by large warships. The territory ceded to France included the islands lying in the bay, which enclosed an area 29 km long by 10 km wide and a minimum water depth of 10 metres. The islands were recognized at the time as an admirable natural defense. The limits of the concession inland were fixed in November 1899; on the left bank of the Maxie, France gained from Gaozhou
prefecture (Kow Chow Fu) a strip of territory 18 km by 10 km, and on the right bank a strip 24 km by 18 km from Leizhou
prefecture (Lei Chow Fu). The total land area of the colony was 842 km². The town of Zhanjiang
was named Fort Bayard
by the French and developed as a port.
Annexation and early development
Kwang-Chou-Wan was annexed by France on 27 May 1898
as Territoire de Kouang-Tchéou-Wan
, to counter the growing commercial power of British Hong Kong
and Portuguese Macau
. Their colony was described as "commercially unimportant but strategically located"; most of France's energies went into their administration of French Indochina
, and their main concern in China was the protection of Catholic missionaries
, rather than the promotion of trade. Following the annexation, a 99 year lease to France was formally conceded by imperial China in 1900; Kwang-Chou-Wan was effectively placed under the authority of the French Resident superior
(itself under the Governor general of French Indochina
, also in Hanoi
); the French Resident was represented locally by Administrators. In addition to the territory acquired, France was given the right to connect the bay by railway with the city and harbour situated on the west side of the peninsula; however, when they attempted to take possession of the land to build the railway, forces of the provincial government offered armed resistance. As a result, France demanded and obtained exclusive mining
rights in the three adjoining prefectures. The population in 1911 was recorded as 189,000. The return of the colony to China was promised at the Washington Naval Conference
of 1921-1922, but this plan was in fact never realised.
By 1931, the population of Kwang-Chou-Wan had reached 206,000, giving the colony a population density of 245 persons per km²; virtually all were Chinese, and only 266 French people and four other Europeans were recorded as living there. Industries included shipping and coal mining. The port was also popular with smugglers; prior to the 1928 cancellation of the American ban on export of commercial airplanes, Kuang-Chou-Wan was also used as a stop for Cantonese smugglers transporting military aircraft purchased in Manila to China, and US records mention at least one drug smuggler who picked up opium and Chinese emigrants to be smuggled into the United States from there.
World War II
After the fall of Paris
to Nazi Germany in 1940
, the Republic of China
recognised the London
-exiled Free French government
as Guangzhouwan's sovereign rulers and established diplomatic relations with them; from June 1940 until February 1943, the colony remained under the administration of Free France. During the Japanese occupation of Hong Kong
, Guangzhouwan was often used as a stop on an escape route for civilians fleeing Hong Kong
and trying to make their way to Free China
; Patrick Yu
, a prominent trial lawyer, recalled in his memoirs how a Japanese civilian in Hong Kong
helped him to escape in this way. However, the escape route would not remain open for long; in collaboration with German-controlled Vichy France
, which relinquished the concession to the Japanese-sponsored Chinese National Government
(another claimant to the succession of the former Chinese empire), the Imperial Japanese Army
would invade and occupy the area in February 1943
Just prior to the Japanese surrender which ended World War II, the National Revolutionary Army, having recaptured Liuzhou, Guilin, and Taizhou, as well as Lashio and Mandalay in Burma, was planning to launch a large-scale assault on Guangzhouwan; however, due to the end of the war, the assault never materialised. The French lease over Guangzhouwan would soon be terminated regardless, under an agreement concluded on February 28, 1946. In exchange for a withdrawal of Chinese forces from northern Vietnam, the French not only returned Guangzhouwan to the Nationalist government, but also gave up extraterritorial rights in Shanghai, Hankou, and Guangzhou, sold the Yunnan Rail Line to China, and agreed to provide special treatment for ethnic Chinese in Vietnam and Chinese goods exported to Vietnam. After the handover, the Zhanjiang City Government was formally established to administer the city.
French cultural and economic influence
A French school, École Franco-Chinoise de Kouang-Tchéou-Wan
, as well as a branch of Banque de l'Indochine
, were set up in Fort Bayard. In addition, a Catholic church constructed during the colonial period is still preserved today.
- Includes images of letters sent to and from the territory.