393.1123 Lincheng/61: Telegram

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

170. My 161, May 16, 3 p.m. and 168, May 18, 10 a.m. As regards a naval demonstration I think it unnecessary at the present time and also likely to delay the release of the captives. It is unnecessary because all Chinese Government officials are doing their utmost to effect the release of the captives which is also in their own self [interest?]. A naval demonstration would operate to delay the release of the captives because it would exaggerate in the minds of the bandits (who read the newspapers) the importance of the capture they have made and induce them to demand higher terms for their release with the result of prolonging negotiations.

To bring about a speedy release it is necessary to bring pressure or influence to bear not upon the Chinese Government but upon the bandit chiefs. This pressure or influence cannot be exerted by foreigners, only the Chinese Government can exert it. If foreign governments discredit the Chinese Government they weaken it in dealing with the bandits. Without any indication of my own sentiments I very confidentially inquired of Philoon and Davis evening 17th whether a demonstration by foreign navies would expedite the release of foreigners. They both answered in the negative and were strongly of the opinion such demonstration would be a mistake.

The foregoing portion of this telegram was written early this morning but I have held it till I could consult with my British and [Page 643]French colleagues this afternoon. After presenting my views separately to each I find each in perfect accord with me. The French Minister said that the idea of a naval demonstration was not his proposal, that it had come from the dean (who is the Portuguese Minister) and that it had been pressed by the ministers whose governments had no naval forces in Chinese waters. The British Minister recognized the soundness of my contention that a naval demonstration would have the effect of strengthening the bandits and weakening the Chinese Government and he showed no desire to have such a demonstration made. Though he has not reported the matter to his Government I am strongly opposed to making naval demonstration or seeking authorization to make one in the future in connection with the release of the foreign captives so long as the attitude of the Chinese authorities in this matter remains what it is today.

Some radical step by the foreign powers for the protection of the lives and property of their own nationals and for the establishment of peace and order in China may become necessary in the future. The Lincheng outrage, the kidnapping in Honan, and other violations of foreign rights80 are sporadic phenomena arising from the collapse of government in China and the usurpation of control by irresponsible militarists who may be provincial tuchuns, local commanders, or bandit chiefs.

Schurman