File No. 861.77/488
The Chargé in China (MacMurray) to the Secretary of State
[Received September 20, 2.52 a.m.]
Upon receipt of your telegrams September 13, 6 p.m.,2 September 14, 6 p.m.,3 I communicated to the Minister for Foreign Affairs a summary of them and of your August 30, 4 p.m.,4 received through Tokyo. He seemed himself wholly favorable to the project and expressed some hope that it would be accepted by the Chinese Cabinet.
I also explained other [orally?] and gave copies of the same summary to the British, French, and Russian Ministers and Italian and Japanese Chargés. They were all noncommittal except the Russian Minister, who at first objected that the proposal to associate [Page 260]Chinese commissioners with Stevens infringed the concession contract and Article 19 of the statutes of the Chinese Eastern Railway Company enacted thereunder.
Upon my explaining to him, however, that the object of our proposal is to disturb as little as consistent with efficient operation the existing equilibrium of Chinese and of Russian public and private interests therein and ultimately to restore this railway to the status quo ante, he acknowledged himself heartily in favor of the project although [as] the sole representative of Russian interests in China, without any authority to waive any portion of his trust in respect to them, he felt obliged to call attention to what appeared to him at least technically a violation of Russian rights.
He has now left with me the following translation of a telegram which he is addressing to the Russian Ambassador at Washington:
American Chargé d’Affaires has communicated to the Allied Ministers, including myself, copy of a memorandum handed by him to the Chinese Government concerning the intention of his Government to take over, for the time of the intervention in Russia, the de facto administration of the Trans-Siberian and Chinese Eastern Railways.
He informed me simultaneously that Stevens would act in the name of Russia and safeguard her interests and that management of railways by him does not pursue [sic] the creation of a precedent or of any rights whatsoever in favor of America or any infraction to the existing treaty rights of Russia with regard in particular to the Chinese Eastern Railway. As for the latter “it is proposed that commissioners chosen by the Chinese Government in consultation with Stevens should manage this railway.” The decision of America having evidently already been sanctioned by the Allies, including Japan, and being based on the agreement between America and the last all-Russian government concerning the engagement of engineer Stevens, we can but submit to it in so far, however, only as it does not infringe with regard to international relations the status quo established by treaties [omission] yet the quoted phrase contains such an infringement; according to the contract of 1896, all the rights of China with respect to administration of railway have been ceded to the board of directors of the railway, the president only being appointed by Chinese Government; this post is at present filled by Mr. Ku[o] Chung-hsi. Appointment by the Chinese Government of commissioners for the administration of railway is an extension of the rights of China, creates a precedent in favor of the latter and infringes, accessibly [although?] temporarily, the contract. It will be my duty, as legal and—in the absence of the government—sole defender of the interests of Russia in China and keeper of her treaty rights, to protest against such an infringement. It would be possible to avoid such protest, undesirable for our relations [with] America, if we could receive, with your assistance and through your intermediary, a corresponding declaration of the United States Government. Practically the question could be solved by Stevens’s engaging commissioners or supplementary commissioners [Page 261]not through the Chinese Government but through the board of directors of the society of the railway as he has the intention of doing to judge by the sense of the order to managers of the Russian railways. With regard to additional explanations of the American Government, it is desirable:
- That it should confirm in writing the promise of the American Chargé d’Affaires stating that after the work of the American engineer’s mission has been finished, status qua ante would integrally be restored on the Chinese Eastern Railway.
- That the American Government should promise in virtue of their declaration to support before the Chinese in case of any infringement by the latter of the 1896 contract our protest against such an infringement. Appointment of commissioners confined [chosen by?] Chinese Government and not by the board of directors representing such an infringement and this having already been suggested to China by the American Government themselves, it would be desirable that the latter should find in good time means to avoid conflict in question.
An answer to both points is necessary as soon as possible.
Russian Minister explains that his reference in clause second to our supporting protest against any infringement relates only to infringements for which the Chinese might claim precedent in the situation created by the adoption of our proposal. He further asks me particularly to explain that the protest or reservation which he feels obligated to make is not intended to be an obstacle to the realization of the project which he considers highly desirable from the Russian point of view.