File No. 1571/31.
Minister Calhoun to the Secretary of State.
Peking, June 23, 1910.
Sir: I have the honor to refer to Mr. Fletcher’s dispatch No. 1288, dated November 10, 1909,1 on the subject of the Whangpoo conservancy, and to inclose herewith for your information a copy of the reply made on December 14 last, by the dean of the diplomatic body to the Wai-wu Pu’s note of October 26, 1909, a copy in translation of which was forwarded with Mr. Fletcher’s dispatch mentioned above. The department will note that the foreign representatives not only refused to acquiesce in the claim of the Wai-wu-Pu that “China has met all her obligations under the special Whangpoo conservancy agreement and other nations should not have any criticisms to make,” but also unequivocally stated their determination to hold China to the provisions of the final protocol of 1901.
As predicted by Mr. Fletcher in his No. 1301 of November 23, 1909,2 the dredging work was resumed on November 25 with the aid of the 300,000 taels furnished by the Imperial Government in accordance with the promise contained in their letter of October 16 to the dean. (Vide Mr. Fletcher’s No. 1288.)
In January it became common knowledge in Shanghai that the imperial high commissioner, Viceroy Jui Cheng, together with Viceroy Chang Jenchun, had memorialized the Wai-wu-Pu to inform the foreign powers that China “was neither willing nor obliged to spend further money on the conservancy work.” The Shanghai General Chamber of Commerce formally protested to the consular body and requested that the matter be brought to the attention of the diplomatic body. I inclose a copy of the chamber’s letter of protest to the consular dean.
In view of the fact that the main features of the conservancy work—namely, the closing of the ship channel and the opening of the Astrea channel—would probably be completed by next September, and further considering that the money in hand is nearly exhausted and no definite arrangement has as yet been made for obtaining the necessary funds for finishing the whole conservancy scheme, which included de Rijke’s plans for the removal of Pheasant and Pootung Points as well as work on the upper reaches of the river, the conservancy board deemed it advisable for the sake of economy to give M. de Bijke notice of the termination of his engagement on November 30 next, six months before the expiration of his contract, the directors of the board being of the opinion that the work of maintenance of the Astrea channel could safely be intrusted to a junior engineer. Upon being informed of the action of the conservancy board, the dean of the consular body made a strong protest and requested that the letter of dismissal be withdrawn. A similar protest was made by the chamber of commerce to the consular body. Copies of the various letters concerning M. de Rijke’s dismissal were [Page 354] forwarded by the consul dean to the dean of the diplomatic body, copies of which are respectfully forwarded herewith.
At a recent meeting of the diplomatic representatives of the respective Governments directly interested in the project—i. e., Great Britain, Germany, France, the Netherlands, and the United States—a general discussion of the situation was had. The suggestion was received with favor, that doubtless the adverse attitude of the Chinese authorities toward the continuation of the work was in part influenced by the want of money, and that foreign interests would have to take into consideration some method for providing the money if the work was to be continued, especially so if it is to be continued under the protocol of 1901.
The further suggestion was made that the diplomatic representatives were without information as to just how much of the work had been completed, how much remained to be done, and particularly as to how far the unfinished work was essential to the protection of what had been done, and to the realization of the benefits originally contemplated. To obtain this information expert investigation and advice was necessary, and such service was not within the command of the diplomatic representatives.
It was also stated that, at the instance of the Shanghai commercial interests, a survey of the work done had been made, and a report as to the same, including soundings and other data, had been furnished some expert consulting engineers in London, with a view of obtaining their opinion as to both the efficiency and sufficiency of the work done, and what, if anything, was necessary to be further done. It was stated that a report from the London engineers could not be expected until some time in the fall.
It was also stated that the Imperial Government had some kind of a report from the imperial high commissioner upon the subject, the nature and extent of which were not known. For the information of the diplomatic representatives it was decided that the dean should again address a note [copy inclosed] to the Imperial Government with a special view of obtaining a copy of the report aforesaid and that the intention of the Imperial Government might be ascertained.
In this same connection I beg to report that the dean, in a private conversation I had with him, expressed the opinion that the powers interested would doubtless have to take some affirmative action to have the work continued, either under Chinese administration, or under the administration originally contemplated by the protocol of 1901. Also that in either contingency some steps would have to be taken by foreign cooperation to raise the additional money required. He asked me what authority I had, if any, to confer with our colleagues directly interested, with a view of reaching some agreement on the subject. Having in mind the last instruction on the subject received by this legation from the department—to wit, the department’s instruction, Serial No. 658, dated November 2, 19091—I said I might join in such a conference for the consideration of a proposition to raise money for the imposition of a surtax upon riparian lands, trade, and navigation, but not upon commerce. I beg to inquire if there is any objection to my joining in such a conference [Page 355] for the consideration of devising plans to raise money, provided that such plans shall only be tentative and must be first submitted to the department for approval before becoming operative, etc.
I have, etc.,