Battle of Shipu, Sino-French War


This is the second engagement in which French torpedo-craft were used to attack Chinese ships. It may be easy to confuse this with the torpedo attack during the Battle of Foochow because in that battle, two Chinese ships (including the flagship which has a somewhat similar name to the Yu Yuen) were sunk in the same way. The name of the place is sometimes transliterated differently, such as "Shei-poo".

The relatively well-armed but unprotected Chinese cruisers Kai Chi, Nan Thin and Nan Shuin (alternate spellings are possible) had been acting as a squadron which also included the two lost ships, the Yu Yuen and Teng Ch'ing. According to the description in Wright's "The Chinese Steam Navy" this moderately powerful Chinese squadron confronted the French squadron that had slaughtered the Chinese at Foochow but was still outmatched. The three more modern cruisers were able to retreat north but the two slower wooden ships anchored at Shipu and were trapped there by a blockading force, before the small French spar-torpedo boats were sent in. The Yu Yuen was sunk by torpedo but the Teng Ch'ing may have been scuttled in the chaos of the attack, not successfully sunk by the French.

The Chinese naval defeats were serious in loss of life, but the ships lost here and at Foochow they were mostly obselete. The Chinese army in the meantime managed to stop the French and force a resolution to the colonial war, although France retained control of Indochina and China continued to be militarily ineffective. The once-mighty empire was still unable to prevent European "gunboat diplomacy" from mandating its policies, just as it had during the earlier Opium Wars and other incidents when British and French military power forced the Chinese to accept the operations of manipulative, ruthless and bigoted Christian missionaries and the importation of illegal drugs (imagine a drug-producing nation forcing the USA to accept cocaine shipments by force! And Al-Qaeda missionaries setting up propaganda-spewing "charities" to bribe or trick people into conversion in every town! Shows the value of never losing technological superiority over your nation's rivals).

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