893.00/4191: Telegram

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

15. My telegram number 11, January 9, 7 p.m., and 429, December 3, 5 p.m.5 Wu Pei-fu continues attacks on Liang Shih-yi. In [Page 682] telegram dated 11th he declares that “Premier Liang has telegraphed that [to?] the Chinese delegates stating that the demands of redeeming Shantung Railway with Japanese loan and the Sino-Japanese management by the Japanese have been accepted by the Central Government. … I am asking for justice in the name of the people and am willing to act as the vanguard.”

Evening 13th Liang Shih-yi sent a circular telegram to the people of China declaring that he had never advocated or talked with anyone in favor of a Japanese loan for the redemption of the Shantung Railway, that neither he nor the Cabinet office had ever sent any instructions to the three Chinese delegates at Washington regarding Shantung Railway matters, that he had never advocated the transfer of the Shantung negotiations from Washington to Peking, that the Shantung negotiations have been and still are conducted by the Chinese delegates in Washington and no direct negotiations have taken place in Peking. He says: “We have just received telegraphic reports from our three Chinese delegates indicating that England and America fully understand the character of the wild rumors and know that our original policy regarding the Shantung matter has never been changed and that no direct negotiations have been carried on in Peking. The good offices of England and America have been again given to us but the matter is very urgent and the situation is critical. I therefore would like to give two of my personal views regarding this question: 1. Stand firm for the immediate redemption of the Shantung Railway. The method of doing this is for the Chinese Government and Chinese people to provide the necessary cash. 2. In accordance with the above proposal the Shantung Railway must be redeemed immediately without any conditions whatever and without involving the question of employees.”

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Attacks similar to Wu Pei-fu’s have been made on Premier by the Tuchuns of Kiangsu, Hupeh and Shensi and also by organizations, newspapers and individuals. Public sentiment when voiced is strongly opposed to Premier and when silent seems apathetic. Seasons are that public is extremely sensitive on Shantung issue, that Wu Pei-fu is much more popular than Chang Tso-lin6 and that neither Liang’s policy nor policies make much appeal to imagination or judgment of public. Liang has confidence of financial and commercial classes and would make good Minister of Finance.

It is now confirmed that on or about 11th instant although exact date cannot be learned Wu Pei-fu sent a telegram to Peking Government stating that he would give Premier Liang three days in which to resign; if he had not resigned at the end of three days he would [Page 683] give him two more days to resign under threat of force. If his resignation had not been tendered at the expiration of five days he, Wu, would drive him out.

It appears probable that Liang will permit Wu to take military steps threatened since if he does so he will necessarily weaken his widely extended line of defense and enaJble the allies of the Premier to attack Wu more advantageously.

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If Wu expelled present Cabinet it is not likely next Cabinet would be more representative or more stable. If he also drove out President Hsu Shih-ch’ang and put former President Li Yuan-hung in his place to serve out the remainder of his unexpired term, as it is hinted he may try to do, the greatest obstacle to renewal of conference with Southern provinces for reunification of country would have been removed. But in that event North would be divided. For while Wu delegation represent the victorious Chihli party who are now in the cold he would find combined against him Chang Tso-lin and his Fengtien party, Tuan Chi-jui and his Anhwei party, and Liang Shih-yi and the old and new Communication[s] party who in conjunction with President Hsu are responsible for present Cabinet. The price paid for bringing Tuan into this combination was the pardon of the Anfu army leaders which has so outraged Wu Pei-fu. Tuan’s support was deemed valuable not only for his Anhwei following but because of his influence in the South.

After all Wu Pei-fu may not march on Peking to win a barren victory over Liang Cabinet. There is a rumor that he and his Chihli party and Yangtze supporters are considering the establishment of a temporary new national government at Nanking with Li Yuan-hung as President and Tsao Kun7 as Vice President. A pretense of legality would be sought on the plea that Li Yuan-hung would be merely concluding his unexpired term as President. It is hoped by them that this move would gain the support of the so-called Southwestern Provinces and also Kwangtung under Chen Chiung-ming8 loan [sic]. The prospect of this plan is occasioning some anxiety to Premier Liang. …

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Minister of Communication[s] seemed much concerned over the possibility of this Yangtze Government. He wanted American Minister to use good offices with the other Legations concerned to induce them to desist from their present activities which were destined he says to bring about a crisis. He thought that if American Minister would do this tension would be relaxed and the present Cabinet [Page 684] could deal satisfactorily with the existing situation. I have and will do nothing in this matter.

I think British hostile to both new Peking and Canton Governments …, and favorable to Wu Pei-fu, but if separate Yangtze Government materializes it will be due to more fundamental causes. At present there is much division among the Yangtze Provinces themselves.

As regards immediate future it seems probable despite threats of Wu Pei-fu that Liang Shih-yi will remain in power at least until after the Chinese New Year financial settlements haye been made. In virtue of his banking and commercial connections he is generally regarded as the only man who can tide over Government’s financial difficulties. Liang is credibly reported as having expressed intention of offering no resistance in case Wu Pei-fu undertook to expel him by force.

Money, disbandment troops, representative government for united country are categories fundamental needs. Washington Conference provides money through increased tariff. Newspapers report Conference committee will adopt resolution on disbandment troops. I renew further recommendation in reference to number 429, December 3, 5 p.m.11 that Conference urge China to establish political unity of country and put into effect constitutional government with representative institution and lawful elections. I venture to suggest that Conference declare that until these fundamental reforms are in effective operation no Chinese Government can be trusted with additional funds for administrative purposes and that all increases of revenue from tariff channel authorized by Conference shall be used for payment of principal and interest of national debts. A united and representative government is the first and indispensable condition of all other reforms in China and of prosperity of the Chinese people.

  1. Foreign Relations, 1921, vol. i, p. 315.
  2. Tuchun of Fengtien; Inspector-General of the Three Eastern Provinces.
  3. Tuchun of Chihli; Inspector-General, Chihli, Shantung, and Honan Provinces.
  4. Governor of Kwangtung; Commander in Chief of Kwangtung troops; concurrent Minister of War in the Canton Government.
  5. Foreign Relations, 1921, vol. i, p. 315.