The Secretary of State to the Minister in China (Schurman)
340. Your 457, December 21, 4 p.m.45
If favorable opportunity presents for formal and confidential talk with Chang Tso-lin46 please take up Chinese Eastern Railway situation with him along following lines:
The interest of the United States is to maintain the railway as a free avenue of commerce. … If the railway were confided to China at this time as a trustee for Russia, financial control by Japan would certainly ensue probably through the purchase by the South Manchuria Railway of the new issue of bonds which would be necessary. Compare last paragraph of enclosure with Peking despatch No. 1430, July 27, 1921, Legation file No. 877.47 Under existing circumstances and until the situation in China is more stable the railway can be secured against national aggression only by instituting a temporary international conservancy the purpose of which would be to preserve the integrity of the railway and existing rights therein and return it as soon as practicable to those in interest.[Page 875]
There are three phases of the problem, namely, finance, operation and police. The special dangers lurking in the first have just been suggested. To avoid these needed funds must be drawn from several national sources and their expenditure during the period of temporary conservancy controlled by a board of conservators or body representing the national interests which have furnished the money.
- Second. Operation, if so desired by the Chinese and Russians, may be confided to the board of directors and existing staff subject only to the general control of the conservancy in matters of finance.
- Third. Policing of the railway zone such as will assure the integrity of the railway property and general security of life and property is of fundamental importance. To placate Chinese susceptibilities policing may be confided to a special Chinese gendarmery but these [this] gendarmery would have to be paid (and thereby controlled) by the conservancy.
I have the foregoing only tentatively in mind as a possible solution. Chinese delegates at Washington in informal preliminary talks oppose any form of international control as inacceptable to Peking but it has occurred to me that … Chang might lend his support to a plan which like the foregoing would save China’s face in the matter of police and would secure China’s rights and interests as well as those of Russia and of powers such as the United States which seek only equal commercial opportunity in the region which the railway serves.
For a number of reasons it would be imperative that conservancy project be put forward not as a new measure but as a continuance in modified form of the existing supervision. Either the Inter-Allied Committee at Vladivostok or the Technical Board could be discontinued as unnecessary duplication and the one retained installed at Harbin under any desirable name as the board of conservators above described.