The Minister in China ( Reinsch ) to the Acting Secretary of State
[Received April 1.]
Sir: In connection with my despatch No. 2361 dealing with the Shantung railway, I have the honor to forward copies of the exchange of notes made at Tokyo on December [September] 24, 1918 between the Japanese Minister for Foreign Affairs and the Chinese Minister to Japan.83 It will be seen that the reports [sic] sent in by the Consul at Tsinanfu, enclosed in my despatch No. 2361 was substantially correct, although the Consul’s report also includes the two railways newly granted to the Japanese as part of the concession under this arrangement.
In connection with this agreement it must be noted that the exchange took place immediately before the change of Government at Peking from President Feng to President Hsu. It was so timed that President Hsu, upon his accession, would find himself with action already taken. In Japan, too, the change from the Terauchi to the Hara Ministry was impending. The method of getting these agreements with their attendant financial considerations out of the way at this time would then enable Premier Hara to treat them as commercial arrangements made at the time of his predecessor, responsibility for which he had inherited. It is generally here asserted that the Chinese Minister at Tokyo acted only upon informal instructions from the Minister of Communications, Tsao Ju-lin, on the supposition that this was a matter to be controlled by the Railway Department. The facts about this are not known to me nor the time [Page 571] at which the Chinese Foreign Office at Peking was informed about the matter. Needless to say the entire procedure was most extraordinary; Governments do not ordinarily accord important concessions or give away valuable rights by action of their Ministers in foreign capitals. Now that the actual provisions of this agreement have become known in China, the opinion among the Chinese seems to be crystalizing that this exchange of notes cannot claim validity as an international agreement which it could only have after ratification by the national Parliament. It is also believed that the rights affected by this exchange are not for Japan and China to dispose of without previous consultation with the other Allies.
I have [etc.]
- See also Foreign Relations, 1918, p. 205. The Department is advised by the Japanese Government that the original text of the note of the Japanese Minister for Foreign Affairs was rendered in Japanese and that of the Chinese Minister to Japan in Chinese.↩