File No. 893.00/1548a.

The Acting Secretary of State to the Secretary to the President.

Dear Mr. Hilles: Referring to our conversation by telephone this morning regarding the request of Dr. Butler for information upon the question of the recognition of the Republic of China, I beg to make the following observations, setting forth quite fully the views of the Department on the subject.

In the recognition of the changes of form of administration in foreign governments, the policy of this country for nearly a century and a half has been to apply the de facto test and be satisfied that the new authority in power exists with the acquiescence of the governed and is in a position to discharge all international obligations pertaining to the state. It has also been the policy to enter into practical relations with the temporary government of such a state, pending final organization. On February 13, 1912, the Foreign Office at Peking notified the American Legation that China had entered upon a formative period and that the Provisional United Government had decided to continue the foreign minister accredited to the United States under the temporary designation of “Provisional Diplomatic [Page 93] Agent.” On February 14, 1912, the Chinese Minister officially informed this Government1 that the Emperor in abdicating had vested Yuan Shih-Kai with power to adopt and establish a Republican form of government and that pending the establishment of such a government, the diplomatic and consular officers of China abroad are and continue in the discharge of their functions. Pursuant to established policy, the Chinese Minister was promptly admitted to full relations with this Department and the American Minister at Peking was permitted to continue in the exercise of his office. The two countries are therefore practically in full relations during the formative or provisional period.

The Provisional Government has called a Constituent Assembly to frame a constitution, and if the result be to change the existing Provisional Government into a permanent constitutional government with the assent of the governed, the claims of such a government to recognition would, of course, be promptly and sympathetically considered. In the meantime, the diplomatic intercourse of the two countries is complete as far as China has gone, and the United States is in full relations with the Government which announces itself to exist provisionally in virtue of an imperial decree and to be formative only, looking to the eventual establishment of a republican form of government.

It was upon these grounds that the President in his annual message stated that

During the formative constitutional stage and pending definitive action by the Assembly, as expressive of the popular will, and the hoped-for establishment of a stable republican form of government, capable of fulfilling its international obligations, the United States is, according to precedent, maintaining full and friendly de facto relations with the Provisional Government.

This is the view of the situation taken by the other leading powers and no government whatever has as yet accorded formal recognition to the Republic of China. Under the circumstances it is difficult to see what further action could consistently be taken until the Constituent Assembly has actually met.

Trusting that the above statement contains the desired information, I am [etc.]

Huntington Wilson.