File No. 893.00/1607.

The American Chargé d’Affaires to the Secretary of State.

No. 782.]

Sir: I have the honor to submit the following observations upon the advisability of a recognition of the Republic of China by the United States of America.

In the reports upon the political situation in China recently sent by the Legation the unsatisfactory condition of the present Provisional Government is to some extent set forth.

It must be admitted that the masses of the people of China take little or no interest in the Republic. They are too ignorant to understand [Page 97] the meaning of the word “republic.” * * * Patriotism in China has for the most part been parochial; at best but provincial. Provincial jealousies have been very strong. * * * Recent changes in the organization of the army had created considerable bodies of troops that were serving in their own provinces and thus in sympathy with their fellow provincials as against the Peking Government. Province after province thus broke away from the Empire, with little or no fighting, and declared their independence. By the abdication of the Manchus a reunion of the provinces became possible and a republic was proclaimed. But the brief experience of self-government has awakened, especially in the southern and central provinces, a strong desire to preserve their autonomy, and a jealousy of the authority of the Central Government has developed not unlike that which the American colonies displayed toward the Federal Government at the close of our own Revolution. For this reason the present republican Government in Peking has been left almost without revenue and finds it difficult to enforce its authority when opposed to local interests. * * *

But, on the other hand, it remains a fact that the people, however indifferent to the form of government, are making no resistance to the new order. They are a peaceable people and have shown themselves quick to appreciate any measure looking toward the improvement of their condition by the development of the natural resources of their country, the improvement of communications, the introduction of various new industries, and the opening of schools, and there can be no doubt whatever that, given time, they will show themselves capable of self-government. * * * Parochialism, too, is slowly disappearing with the spread of education and by the extension of railways and steamship lines, which have made intercommunication easier. The encroachments of the foreigner have done much to hasten this recognition of national interests. The coming of the missionary into the remotest corners of the country, bringing with him a broader outlook upon the world, and the intermingling of Christians from all the provinces in the national gatherings that have been held in recent years have aided this tendency in a very marked degree.

Furthermore, the Provisional President has shown marvelous tact in reconciling the conflicting interests of the provinces and strengthening the bonds of the union. The disorders which have occurred in various provinces are, after all, no worse than those which were of frequent occurrence under the Manchus. When it is realized what a great revolution has occurred, it is surprising that order has been so well maintained. * * *

Taking all these facts into consideration, it seems to me that even the most discouraging features of the situation in China are not of a sort to recommend delay in recognizing the new Government.

There is no rival government contending with it for the possession of the country. The Manchus are not offering any resistance to it. It was established, in fact, by the cooperation of the Manchu Government, which abdicated with the object of preventing further civil strife. It has complete possession of all the provinces of China proper and of Manchuria. Outer Mongolia declared its independence before the Republic was formed. Tibet is engaged in strife with the [Page 98] Republic, but Tibet has always been autonomous, as indeed is true also of Mongolia. The elections, just held throughout the 22 provinces, in spite of the delays and deadlocks occurring in some, show that the people who really take any interest in the political situation mean to stand by the Republic. But even if it should prove true that a dictatorship or an empire is to succeed the present Government it would be no more than has happened in the case of other republics recognized by the United States, and there is nothing in the anticipation of such an event to encourage us to withhold from this struggling Republic a sympathetic recognition by the Mother of Republics.

Such a recognition would of itself do much to prevent a return to imperialism. The Chinese have an exaggerated idea of the importance of recognition by the western powers. They have been especially chagrined by the failure of the United States to recognize their new Government. They are confidently expecting that when the National Assembly meets and the President is elected the foreign powers will recognize the Republic.

I believe that our own should be the first government to do so. It will greatly strengthen the good feeling toward us already existing, and it may serve to prevent the making by other governments of such unjust conditions of recognition as have in some cases been proposed. Great Britain has stated that it will not recognize the Republic until China shall have entered into a new convention with it respecting Tibet. Others are suggesting other conditions—some the reorganization of the courts; some the abolition of likin; some the enlargement of foreign jurisdiction in the treaty ports.

I do not believe that any real advantage is to be gained by wounding Chinese pride and arousing the enmity of those with whom we must deal in the settlement of outstanding questions and in the promotion of American interests. There must be mutual respect, if international intercourse is to be of any value.

I have the honor to suggest that, while the cooperation of the great powers has resulted in much good to China, if a continuance of that policy requires us to withhold recognition of the Republic until all are agreed to recognize it, we may injure our interests and merely promote the aggressive designs of others.

I have [etc.]

E. T. Williams.

Note.—On March 24 the Department received a memorandum from the Japanese Embassy the first paragraph of which relates to the Chinese loan; the second paragraph concerns the recognition of the Republic; see pp. 173174.