793.003/1a: Telegram

The Acting Secretary of State to the Commission to Negotiate Peace

338. For the Secretary. With the prospect that there will come before the Peace Conference the question of the abolition of extraterritoriality in China and the possibility that it may be granted, or at least some modification adopted, I should like to call your attention to the situation that will result if foreign consular jurisdictions were abolished or limited. I understand the status of legal reform in China to be as follows: the Chinese Government has adopted and put into operation a criminal code and laws of civil and criminal procedure based on the Japanese and continental systems. It has organized its newly established judiciary on the continental plan and is now preparing a civil code on the Japanese and continental basis. It is apparent that if China does adopt civil and commercial codes based upon the continental system, as in Japan, the rights and extensive commercial interests of American merchants and residents in China would suffer as compared with the adoption of a system based on the English common law.

It is believed that the foreign power which first makes an effort to so remove extraterritoriality as to be in keeping with modern events and to meet the views of China will largely control the movement to adopt a code. It would be most desirable that the role of adviser in this matter, if it materializes, should fall to the United States.

Under the circumstances, do you not believe that it would be well to enter into quiet conversations with the Chinese Government to the end that provisional steps may be taken to insure the adoption [Page 681] of a code based upon the common law? It is believed that Dr. Koo would be sympathetic and might be instrumental in bringing his Government to a favorable point of view, and I suggest that if you approve the general idea you mention the matter to him.

The priority of the United States once secured in these negotiations would develop naturally. May I call your attention to Article XV of Treaty with China of 1903?7

If the matter meets with your approval and you will so advise me, I would like to make a suggestion for procedure.

  1. See fourth paragraph of the subenclosure supra.