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

No. 2604

Sir: I have the honor to enclose copies of a memorandum of a conversation between the Minister of Communications and Mr. C. L. L. Williams. When my reply, dated February 25th,22 to the note in which the Chinese Government attempted to make reservations concerning the Chinese-Eastern Railway had been handed to the Acting Minister, I immediately sent Mr. Williams to talk over the matter with the Minister of Communications. The results of his conversation are given in the enclosed memorandum.

The important matter is—Mr. Tsao Ju-lin accepted the note of February 25th as final.

I have [etc.]

Paul S. Reinsch
[Page 603]

Memorandum of an Interview between the Chinese Minister of Communications (Ts’ao Ju-lin) and the American Second Secretary of Legation (Williams), February 26, 1919

Mr. Williams called on the Minister of Communications by appointment to present to him a copy of the Legation’s reply to the Foreign Office dated February 25th, 1919, in reply to the suggestion of the Foreign Office that in the Technical Board operating the Chinese Eastern Railway the Chinese Delegate should have equal rank with the Chairman of the Board. Under the instructions of the American Minister in handing the Legation’s reply to Mr. Tsao, Mr. Williams stated first, that the Board would assume control only of those functions hitherto carried out by the Russian authorities, and that the pre-existing Chinese rights in this railway were in no way affected by the present proposals; second, that while the American Government recognized fully the special interest of China in this line and sympathized with her desire to take a prominent part in the temporary management thereof now proposed, it was an essential feature of the general plan of the operation of the Siberian railways made necessary by the exigencies of the Siberian situation, that the Chinese Eastern Railway should be operated as an integral part of the Siberian railway system, and that therefore any special and individual control arrangements for this line were impractical. Mr. Williams added that the Legation felt sure that in view of the special Chinese interests in the line, Mr. Stevens and the Technical Board would consider favorably the employment of the maximum number of qualified Chinese as Technical Experts under the Board. In reply, Mr. Tsao reiterated the Chinese view that inasmuch as the Chinese Eastern Railway is a joint Sino-Russian undertaking, if the Russian partner should prove unable to carry on his functions under the contract, the Chinese partner would naturally assume them until the Russian partner was again in a position to do so, and asked if the Legation’s present reply was to be considered final. Mr. Williams replied that while the negotiations were not directly in the hands of the Legation at Peking, and while any special considerations which Mr. Tsao might care to bring forward could be submitted to the government at Washington, there was no reason to believe that the decision to include the Chinese Eastern Railway under the general scheme of control would be modified.

Mr. Tsao thereupon appeared to accept the matter as a fait accompli. He asked if Mr. Williams’ remarks in regard to the employment of Chinese technical men were to be taken as a promise by the Legation. Mr. Williams replied that the Legation was not in [Page 604]a position to make any definite promises in this regard as this question would have to be dealt with by the Technical Board; his remarks were to be taken simply as representing the attitude of the American Government representative on that Board. Mr. Tsao thereupon expressed the hope that there would be no interference with the Chinese right to guard the railway, and asked that this point be brought to the attention of the American Government. He added that in the past the expenses of the railway guards had been met out of the revenues of the line and requested that this practice be discontinued.

In the course of the conversation Mr. Tsao explained that the Chinese Government had no desire to take advantage of Russia’s present weakness to seize the Russian rights in the line; the sooner Russia again became in a position to assume her duties under the Chinese Eastern agreement, the better pleased China would be; it was simply that [because?] Russia at the present moment is not able to carry out her duties, China feels that it is her right and duty to assume them.

  1. Not printed.