861.77/2408a: Telegram

The Secretary of State to the Minister in China ( Schurman )56

22. Repeat to Vladivostok and have Harbin furnish to Caldwell at Chita by most expeditious, practicable means, wireless statement concerning Conference deliberations on Chinese Eastern Railway.57

These deliberations revealed unanimity among Powers other than China as to immediate need for more adequate protection of railway and impracticability of obtaining financial support without effective financial control assuring economical operation of the railway. Chinese delegates did not seriously oppose these views in private discussions but insisted upon necessity of vindicating Chinese sovereignty and placating Chinese public opinion. With more time possibly a solution would have been found but it is felt that in any case a good deal has been accomplished, first, in securing general recognition of the continuance in effect of the 1919 Agreement, second, in preparing way for any necessary amendment of this Agreement through diplomatic exchanges, and third, in directing attention to China’s shortcomings with respect to the railway and serving notice on the Chinese Government that it will be held responsible internationally under the trusteeship which it took upon itself by reorganizing the management of the railway under the terms of the purported contract of October 2, 1920,58 and by other acts.

The Department is pointing out informally to the Chinese delegates here, and you should do the same within your discretion at Peking, that the present is a most opportune moment for the Chinese Government to make, spontaneously and without diplomatic pressure, a manifest and sincere effort to provide more adequate protection for the railway and its personnel and to improve the situation of the Russian population of the zone especially in respect to the administration of justice. A practical and effective course would be for China to organize a special police or constabulary for the railway zone under the command of a competent neutral foreigner such as Munthe.59 The Chinese Government might also be well advised to take the initiative in the diplomatic interchanges which will ensue as a result of the Conference resolution by requesting at once cooperation by the other Powers parties or adherents to the 1919 Agreement in maintaining the railway. China would greatly strengthen thereby its position in the matter of future reclamations by Russia and other [Page 883] stockholders, bondholders and creditors of the railway. These claims may run into many millions.

You may in your discretion discuss the foregoing with your British colleague and enlist his cooperation.

Advise Tokyo of foregoing confidentially by mail.

Hughes
  1. See last paragraph for instructions to advise Tokyo.
  2. Infra.
  3. For text of agreement, see Foreign Relations, 1920, vol. i, p. 713.
  4. Apparently Lt. Gen. Johan Wilhelm Normann Munthe, commandant, Chinese Legation Guard at Peking.