861.77/2431: Telegram

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


60. Department’s telegram of February 3, 7 p.m. I lost no time in arranging a provisional consultation with the Minister for Foreign Affairs, Dr. Yen, which was intentionally rather vague on my part. I laid particular emphasis on the fact that it was agreed [Page 887] among the Powers at Washington that the Chinese Eastern Railway was not exclusively an affair of China, as is maintained here, but is also their affair, and that the Powers had all recognized the fact that the 1919 agreement must continue in force and through diplomatic exchanges might be amended. The British Minister was informed of the facts in a conference which I had with him later. This week he received instructions from his Government, for which he had desired time to cable. While he was told to cooperate with me, he was given a general warning of the danger which might ensue should the Japanese Minister get the idea of being isolated, which was declared to be a very real danger since the Washington Conference.

My British colleague and I have just returned from a conference with the Minister for Foreign Affairs, having made a special appointment. The British Minister and I set forth the points in the Department’s instructions and earnestly reinforced them by arguments which we had discussed beforehand. We placed particular stress on the advantage to China and the wisdom of the Chinese Government’s assuming of its own accord the initiative in immediately asking the other Powers to cooperate in handling the railway problem. Special issues were raised by Dr. Yen including the question of the future membership of the Technical Board. He inquired whether the Ussuri Railroad was included or ought not to be and also whether China could expect the interested Powers to advance funds.

We told Dr. Yen that the very questions he raised showed the need for China to begin soon discussions with the Powers in which all these details could be arranged. We said that certain fundamentals were now clear; in the first place, that the Chinese Eastern was in a deplorable condition and a remedy was needed, and, secondly, the recognition given at the discussions in Washington to the interest of the other Powers. We told Dr. Yen that we thought the remedy to be mutual consideration and cooperation by China and the Powers and for that reason we urged his Government to voluntarily take the lead in inviting such consultation and cooperation. I said to Dr. Yen that the Powers would deplore using pressure against China and I therefore hoped that China would voluntarily request cooperation. I also remarked that at Washington China had seen the advantages to itself of meeting the other Powers around a council table.

Finally, Dr. Yen said he would have to wait until he could confer with the Minister of Communications who, I presume because of loyalty to his friend the Prime Minister, has gone to Tientsin. He also said he desired to consult with Wang Ch’ung-hui63 before replying. Wang is now returning from Washington. Dr. Yen also considered [Page 888] it necessary for him to see the resolutions on the subject adopted by the Washington Conference and requested me to furnish him with copies in case we should receive them by radio. Although I have no results to report, I believe that at least we obliged Dr. Yen to realize that there is substance to the case which we set forth.

  1. Member of the Chinese delegation at the Washington Conference.