File No. 763.72119/461

The Secretary of State to the Minister in China ( Reinsch)

No. 576

Sir: The Department acknowledges the receipt of your despatch No. 1335 of January 10, 1917,1 concerning the possible representation of China in any conference of the present belligerents for the re-establishment of peace.

The Department has considered very carefully the several suggestions made by you as to possible courses of procedure to secure for China the protection of her interests.

The American Government is deeply concerned for the continued preservation of China’s territorial integrity and administrative entity and the maintenance of the open door for trade and equality of opportunity for all nations in the commerce of China. This Government naturally, therefore, desires the Chinese Government to have such representation in any conference of the present belligerents as the hostilities conducted by them within the boundaries of China entitle it to receive. It seems to the Department that China would do well to await the further development of events. This may indicate the proper course to take. It is not impossible that China may itself become a belligerent before any such conference is held and thus have an undoubted right to the representation desired. The Department, at present, however, is not disposed, in the event of hostilities between the United States and Germany, to urge China to declare war also on Germany. The course of events may make such a course advisable, but it is evident that the United States would not be able to give China the assistance proposed in your telegrams of February 6, 1 p.m., February 6, 11 p.m., and February 7, 6 p.m.,2 if serious opposition should be offered to such assistance. Attempt to override that opposition might precipitate the very aggression which China fears. … The greatest caution, therefore, should be exercised by the Legation in the present situation of affairs lest China through our advice should become involved in difficulties from which we shall be unable to extricate it.

I am [etc.]

Robert Lansing
  1. Ante, p. 404.
  2. Ante, pp. 401, 402, 403.