File No. 893.00/2588
Minister Reinsch to the Secretary of State
Peking, June 6, 1917, 6 p.m.
Commenting on the message of the Minister for Foreign Affairs communicated in my cipher telegram June 5, 12 p.m., I beg to say that movement of the military governors against the President has gained some strength by reason of the accession of certain more responsible and constructive politicians, such as Liang Shih-yi, yet the Provisional Government set up by them at Tientsin appears incapable of establishing itself, because its reactionary tendency is distrusted by the people in general, but particularly in the south, and because opposition to the existing parliamentary régime is the sole element of coherence, among its factions. Moreover, the movement appears to be controlled by the extreme reactionaries like Ni Ssn-cnung while the wiser leaders like Tuan are less active. Its success [Page 55] in overthrowing the President and ousting Parliament could hardly fail to result in the secession of the southern provinces and a scramble of personal ambitions for the control of the remainder of the country.
While it is a fact that the most mature motives of self-interest have led to the defection of the military governors, it is nevertheless unfortunately true that cleavage between them and the constituted authorities of the Central Government found its occasion in the question of entering the war against Germany and that the reactionaries have had to force the issue ostensibly on that point and have so far succeeded as to have created the general belief that their movement has the tacit approval of the Powers at war with Germany. The issue thus ostensibly presented is in fact fictitious inasmuch as parliamentary party is actually no less sympathetic with the cause, having indeed taken the initiative in associating China with the action of the United States in severing relations with Germany: but it has been reluctant to give a free hand to the military party in the adoption of that policy not only because it distrusted the political use to be made of the situation but still more because it had reason to suspect that the reactionaries had planned to commit this country to participation in the war upon terms that would make China dependent on Japan.
The result of these intrigues has been that the reactionary rebels are making capital of their fictitious identification with the cause of the Allies and that the constituted authorities who are in fact more in sympathy with our aims are on the defensive against us and fearful that in the desire to get China on our side and to stifle German trade, the Allies will sacrifice unity of the country and whatever progress it may have made towards constitutional government. Quite apart from any Chinese domestic question, and with a view merely to the possibility of usefulness of this country to the Allied cause, I venture to state conviction that it will be impossible to count even upon the moral support of China as a nation unless the Allies dissociate China’s interests from those of the military clique and make it evident that participation in the war in their behalf is not to be used as a pawn in Chinese domestic politics.
From conversation with British Chargé d’Affaires I infer that this Government while not itself free to take advantage of, regards apprehensively the [apparent omission]. Allied interests have been perverted by domestic intrigues here and would be glad if our Government would take the initiative in dissociating such interests from the reactionary program. Although the French Minister has heretofore been blindly zealous to involve China in the war at all costs, a recent change in his attitude suggests that his Government is aware of the danger of forcing this country into the conflict at the cost of anarchy. The only nation to profit by disintegration of China would be Japan, which would scarcely oppose the action suggested if agreeable [agreed to?] by Great Britain and France as being not an interference in Chinese politics but an effort to dissociate Allied interests from their unreal admixture with such questions.
The above comment which had already been drafted is sent for your fuller information despite the receipt of your telegram of June 4, 3 p.m., providing for action adequate to the crisis.