Austro-Hungarian Concession

Moritz Freiherr von Czikan, the Austro-Hungarian minister in China 1897-1902, believed that in order to increase trade, the empire ought to establish a settlement in a major Chinese commercial center, and participation in the 1900 Boxer war provided an opportunity to realize this ambition. In 1902, the vice-consul, Karl Bernauer, and the Tianjin Customs Daotai (津海関道) Tang Shaoyi (唐紹儀) signed an agreement for a concession at Tianjin. The total area was 1030 mu (畝), or 69.01 hectares (9.66 km²). This area had been previously occupied by a garrison of German soldiers. Even though it only lasted 15 years, Austria made a great effort to manage its only concession in China. Austrian officials began preparations in late June, 1902, surveying and marking out the concession, and obtaining the necessary documents from Germany.

 Unlike other concessions in Tianjin, which were still wild marshland, this area was already densely populated. Conflicts with the Chinese inhabitants were therefore inevitable when the Austrian authorities began occupying and construction work. Provision of utilities was helped by connection to the mains water network completed in the British concession in 1901. In 1902, the Austrian authorities planned a system of street-lighting. In addition to these works projects, the Austrian authorities also introduced various taxes and a public registry system. The public registration of births, deaths and marriages began in 1907. When the Austrians arrived in 1902, they quickly established four police stations.  The Concession authorities also provided education for Chinese children. In addition to primary schooling, the Austrians offered a two-year professional training course which taught writing, the abacus, mathematics, English (not German), Chinese. A European theater, casino and lottery were added to public daily life during this time.  Ultimately, the concession did not become an important commercial center as hoped, but a comfortable and tidy residential area with distinctively Austrian architecture. The major businesses in the concession were of the traditional Chinese type, and it eventually became known as a place for retired or unsuccessful Chinese officials. It was taken into Chinese administration when China entered the First World War in 1917, and was thereafter administered by the Tianjin municipality as a Special Administrative District. The retrocession was confirmed in the 1919 Treaty of St. Germain-en-Laye and the 1920 Treaty of Trianon. It fell under Japanese control in July 1937, along with the rest of Tianjin municipality.  References

Lee Chinyun (李今芸), Assistant Professor, Department of History, National Chin Nan University

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