Editor's note: Diplomacy is war without gunpowder. We usually think that “a weak country has no diplomacy”, but if a country is weak in diplomacy, it can only mean that country has lost blood and is waiting for a massacre. The Sino-French war is a real lesson. China won war at cost of sacrificing countless soldiers, but signed an unequal treaty with France, allowing France to "win without victories" and China "win without defeat." This made other countries see China's weakness and want to divide it.1. Cause of Sino-French War: Conflict between colonialism and system of suzerainty
The Sino-French War broke out in Vietnam, and reason must also start in Vietnam. Vietnam was part of China from Qin Dynasty to Tang Dynasty, known as "Jiaozhi" and "Annan", and from Song Dynasty to Qing Dynasty, it was a vassal state of China and one of most stable countries in suzerainty system established by China.
After Opium War, prestige of Qing Dynasty plummeted, but Qing Dynasty was still able to maintain a suzerain-vassal system with Korea and Vietnam. After Second Opium War, some bureaucrats of Qing Dynasty launched Westernization Movement, learned from Western military, technology and education, established modern enterprises, and formed three major navies. Their national strength showed signs of recovery, and it was called "Tongzhi Zhongxing" in history.
During border crisis of 1960s and 1970s, two groups arose in China: Coastal Defense and Fortress Defense. The representative of coastal defense faction was Li Hongzhang, who advocated focusing on developing navy and protecting southeast coast while abandoning northwest border. Zuo Zongtang, a spokesman for Secret Defense faction, believed that China's biggest enemy was Russia, and defense of northwest should be focus. Through efforts of Zuo Zongtang, Qing dynasty defeated Yagubo, supported by Tsarist Russia, and reclaimed Xinjiang. The rebuilding of Xinjiang is a testament to "TongzhiZTE" and also currently prevents Western countries from easily starting a war against China.
As for France, it completed industrial revolution in 1960s and became second most powerful country after Great Britain. To expand its power in Far East, France decided to invade and occupy Vietnam. In 1859, France occupied Saigon, and in 1867, all of South Vietnam. France attacked Vietnam, which severely damaged suzerain-vassal system established by Qing Dynasty. As usual, Qing Dynasty had to send troops to resist. But at that time, Qing Dynasty was engulfed in internal and external problems, so it did not send troops.
Vietnam could not get help from Qing Dynasty, so they invited Black Banner Army (the remnants of Taiping Heavenly Kingdom) to Sino-Vietnamese border to fight against France. In 1873, Liu Yongfu led Black Banner Army to defeat French army in Hanoi. Vietnam appointed Liu Yongfu as deputy capital of Sanxuan, ruling over three provinces of Xuanguang, Xinghua, and Shanxi. The attack of Black Banner Army led to failure of France's first aggressive war. But at that time, France had just completed a revolution and established a republic, and political situation was unstable. Once France stabilizes, large-scale wars are inevitable.Secondly, Sino-French war, which was fought and talked about
In 1980s, political situation in France stabilized and tried to recover. After Westernization Movement under Qing Dynasty, national power was also restored to a certain extent, and both sides began to challenge. In 1882, France launched a second war of aggression against Vietnam, this time Qing dynasty agreed to Vietnam's request and sent troops to Vietnam to fulfill overlord's obligations. Thus, Vietnamese-French war turned into a Sino-French war.
In 1883, France forced Vietnam to sign first "Treaty of Hue", and Vietnam became a "protectorate" of France. Vietnam continued to send troops north demanding that Qing dynasty withdraw from Vietnam, relinquish suzerainty, and open Yunnan's border. Obviously, Vietnam wants to use Vietnam as a springboard for further attacks on China. Faced with an aggressive France, a new round of debate began in Qing court. Zuo Zongtang, Zhang Zhidong, Liu Kunyi and Zeng Jize believed that "Vietnam is a foreign possession of China and must be protected" and advocated active struggle. Li Hongzhang believed that Chinese navy still could not compete with France and could not go to war. Empress Dowager Cixi was in a dilemma, so she had to order Chinese army to station in Vietnam, but she could not take the initiative to attack.
The weakness of Li Hongzhang and Empress Dowager Cixi undoubtedly fueled ambitions of French aggression. In December 1883, French army directly attacked Chinese army, and Sino-French War officially began. Due to passive reaction of generals of Qing army, Shanxi and Peining fell one by one. In 1884, Li Hongzhang took opportunity to sign "Sino-French Brief Treaty" with France, recognizing validity of "Treaty of Hue" and agreeing to open Vietnamese border and withdraw army. This meant that China voluntarily renounced its suzerainty over Vietnam. Of course, this was not first time that Li Hongzhang had renounced his sovereignty, and not last time.
The weakness of Qing Dynasty once again fueled aggressive ambitions of France, which, after signing treaty, wanted to continue to provoke wars and receive great benefits. In July 1884, French fleet violated international law and directly broke into Fujian naval base - port of Mawei. But Commander-in-Chief of Fujian Fleet not only did not stop this, but also arranged a grand welcoming ceremony for French fleet. It is estimated that French fleet has never seen such absurd and ridiculous things. After French fleet entered port, they were with Chinese fleet. They quietly aimed their guns at Chinese ships and opened fire with all their might. The Fujian navy was almost destroyed.
When it was no longer possible to retreat, Qing Dynasty officially declared war on France. France is also going crazy, sending fleets to attack Chinese Taiwan, Zhejiang, Jiangsu and elsewhere. But this time, France faced a tough bone. The French fleet encountered Liu Mingchuan in Taiwan and fled in confusion. The French army attacking Zhenjiang was also severely damaged.
On land, France also ran into a tough guy named Feng Jikai. In 1885, Qing court appointed Feng Zicai as head coach. Although Feng Zicai was old, he was a rare well-known general of late Qing Dynasty, and also a strong general. He took measures of active defense and stubborn fighting, striving for a decisive battle with French army. In March of same year, French army attacked Qing army in three ways. Feng Zicai ordered that "anyone who retreats will be punished", and he must fight French army desperately. This time, French army suffered a complete collapse, which went down in history as "Victory at Zhennanguang." News of failure spread across France thousands of miles, leading to fall of her cabinet, Jouffery.Thirdly, no one can prevent Li Hongzhang from signing treaty.
The Sino-French War was only major war in which China won a direct confrontation with great powers of late Qing Dynasty. In this war, countless soldiers went forward and died on front lines; in this war, both Qing Army and Black Banner Army put aside their past grievances and confronted external enemies together; Yongfu, Feng Zicai, Liu Mingchuan and some other national heroes who can sing and cry. This war, no matter from what point of view, should be pride of Chinese people.
After war, international reputation of France, known as second country in world, plummeted, while China's international status and reputation improved. France's failure has made Western countries think that China is no longer as tame as it used to be. The British Foreign Secretary once said: "Any victory by China will generally have serious consequences for Europeans." Also on March 30, French Parliament voted 306 to 149 against refusing to fund Expeditionary Force. This means that France will not return.
At this time, Li Hongzhang ordered army to retreat in all directions. He said, "Take advantage of Lan Song's victory and sign a contract with Lan Song, and entity won't ask for it again." When front-line soldiers heard name of withdrawal, they all gritted their teeth, trying to tear Li Hongzhang to pieces. Feng Zicai bluntly wrote a letter saying, "A person who discusses world", Zuo Zongtang scolded Li Hongzhang, "For Qing Dynasty, ten French generals are not as good as one Li Hongzhang. bad things", "Li Hongzhang made a fool of himself and he will be infamous forever", even Zhang Zhidong opposed peace talks, advocating taking advantage of victory to stop them. . However, so many people still couldn't stop Li Hongzhang from betraying his country. In June of same year, Li Hongzhang signed "Vietnam Treaty between China and France" with France, which recognized France's control of Vietnam, opened border between China and Vietnam, and France also received railway privileges in China.
After war, Southwestern China came under French influence. Of course, Sino-French war is also a victory for Haiphong faction, because they can get more support. After that, China stepped up construction of Beiyang navy, strengthened Taiwan's coastal defenses, and established Taiwan Province. However, Haiphong faction was, after all, a group of weak and incompetent people. Under leadership of Li Hongzhang, China was still defeated by Japan in Sino-Japanese War of 1899–1995. The Beiyang navy was destroyed, and Korea and Taiwan fell. The Serbian Defense Faction defended Xinjiang with little financial support, but Haiphong Faction did nothing.
The Sino-French War made foreign countries see China's weakness. At this time, Western countries entered era of second industrial revolution. France, Germany, Italy, Austria-Hungary and Japan rose, and China began to be reduced to a foreign partition object. By end of 19th century, great powers were feverishly carving up China.