Treaty of the Month: What historic international treaty has amused me this month?

This month: The Boxer Protocol
(also known in western countries as Treaty of 1901, Peace Agreement between the Great Powers and China. The full name of the protocol is: Austria-Hungary, Belgium, France, Germany, Great Britain, Italy, Japan, The Netherlands, Russia, Spain, United States and China—Final Protocol for the Settlement of the Disturbances of 1900, reflecting its nature as a diplomatic protocol rather than a peace treaty at the time of signature)

Who, when and where:

The Boxer Protocol was a protocol signed on September 7, 1901 between the Qing Empire of China and the Eight-Nation Alliance that had provided military forces (Austria-Hungary, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Russia, the United Kingdom, and the United States) plus Belgium, Spain and the Netherlands (quite a sexy line up) after China's defeat in the intervention to put down the Boxer Rebellion at the hands of the Eight-Power Expeditionary Force.
Prince Qing and Li Hongzhang signed the protocol on behalf of the Qing Empire, while Bernardo de Cólogan y Cólogan, Alfons Mumm (Freiherr von Schwarzenstein), Ernest Satow and Komura Jutaro signed on behalf of Spain, Germany, Britain and Japan respectively. At the time, Spain had no territorial concessions in China, but Bernardo de Cólogan was the eldest diplomat of the Foreign Compound


450 million taels of silver were to be paid as indemnity over a course of 39 years to the eight nations involved. Under the exchange rates at the time, 450 million taels was equal to US$ 335 million gold dollars or £67 million, approximately equal to US$6.653 billion today.
The Chinese paid the indemnity in gold on a rising scale with a 4% interest charge until the debt was amortized on December 31, 1940. After 39 years, the amount was almost 1 billion taels (precisely 982,238,150).
The sum was to be distributed as follows: Russia 28.97%, Germany 20.02%, France 15.75%, United Kingdom 11.25%, Japan 7.73%, United States 7.32%, Italy 7.32%, Belgium 1.89%, Austria-Hungary 0.89%, Netherlands 0.17%, and Spain, Portugal, Sweden, and Norway 0.025%? Also, additional 16,886,708 taels was paid at local level in 17 provinces. By 1938, 652.37 million taels had been paid. The interest rate (of 4% per annum) was to be paid semi-annually with the first payment being the 1st July 1902.
The Qing government was also to allow the foreign countries to base their troops in Beijing. In addition, the foreign powers had placed the Empress Cixi on their list of war criminals, although provincial officers such as Li Hongzhang and Yuan Shikai defended her, claiming that she had no control whatsoever over the whole escapade. She was later removed from the list, though she was to step down from power and discontinue any participation in the affairs of state.


This event also further marked the increased decentralization of power in China, from the central government to the provinces. This is as both Li Hongzhang and Yuan Shikai had delayed and then disobeyed orders from the Qing Government to join the Boxers in the Boxer Rebellion. These two provincial officers had in their hands very powerful armies, namely the Beiyang Army and the New Army, which were later merged under Yuan Shikai after Li Hongzhang's death. Lastly, the defeat in the rebellion and the severity of the protocol initiated the Late-Qing Reforms, which were basically a follow-up of the Hundred Days' Reform, and led to the 1911 Revolution.

The indemnity of 450 million taels of silver was a large burden on the Chinese, who had to foot it with increased taxes. It is estimated that the entire Qing government income was only about 250 million taels at the time,  making the indemnity without interest worth almost two entire years of government revenue. Principal repayments and interest combined over the 39-year duration of the loan, this more than doubled.

The Boxer Protocol was a further blow to what little integrity the Qing government possessed. Some people in China were already dissatisfied with the corrupt and inefficient Qing government, and this only proved that their sentiments were well founded. They had become convinced that the Qing government was utterly incapable of ruling their country, and believed that a revolution was the only way the country could be restored to peace and prosperity.

Why it has amused me:

Everybody suddenly became very philanthropic. On December 28, 1908, the United States remitted $11,961,121.76 of its share of the Indemnity to support the construction of Qinghua University in Beijing.
When China declared war on Germany and Austria in 1917, it suspended the combined German and Austrian share of the Boxer Indemnity, which totalled 20.91 percent. At the Paris Peace Conference, Beijing succeeded in completely revoking the German and Austrian shares of the Boxer Indemnity.
The history surrounding Russia's share of the Boxer Indemnity is the most complex of all the nations involved. On December 2, 1918 the Bolsheviks issued an official decree abolishing Russia's share of the Indemnity (146). Upon the arrival of Lev Karakhan in Beijing during the Fall of 1923, however, it became clear that the Soviet Union expected to retain control over how the Russian share was to be spent. Though Karakhan was initially hesitant to follow the United States' example of directing the funds toward education, he soon insisted in private that the Russian share had to be used for that purpose and during February 1924, presented a proposal stating that the "Soviet portion of the Boxer Indemnity would be allocated to Chinese educational institutions."
On March 14, 1924, Karakhan completed a draft Sino-Soviet agreement stating "The government of the USSR agrees to renounce the Russian portion of the Boxer Indemnity." Copies of these terms were published in the Chinese press, and the ensuing positive public reaction encouraged other countries to match the USSR's terms. On May 21, 1924, the U.S. Congress agreed to remit to China the final $6,137,552.90 of the American share. Ten days later, however, it became apparent that the USSR did not intend to carry through on its earlier promise of full renunciation. When the final Sino-Soviet agreement was announced, it specified that Russia's share would be used to promote education in China and that the Soviet government would retain control over how the money was to be used, an exact parallel to the U.S. remittance of 1908.
On March 3, 1925, Great Britain completed arrangements to use its share of the Boxer Indemnity to support railway construction in China. On April 12, France asked that its indemnity be used to reopen a defunct Sino-French Bank. Italy signed an agreement on October 1 to spend its share on the construction of steel bridges. Holland's share paid for harbour and land reclamation, and the Belgian funds were earmarked to be spent on railway material in Belgium. Finally, Japan's indemnity was transferred to develop aviation in China under Japanese oversight
Once these countries' approximately 40 percent of the Boxer Indemnity was added to Germany's and Austria's combined 20.91 percent, the United States' 7.32 percent, and the Soviet Union's 28.97 percent share, the Beijing government had accounted for over 98 percent of the entire Boxer Indemnity. Hence, by 1927, Beijing had almost completely revoked Boxer Indemnity payments abroad and had succeeded in redirecting the payments for use within China