393.1123 Lincheng/90: Telegram

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

176. 1. Following from Davis and Philoon:

“May 23, noon. An investigation shows that troops made several retreats and that yesterday those nearest Paotseku were distanced five miles. There was no fighting yesterday. Three representatives of the gentry went in yesterday [to] urge bandits to make reasonable terms. Bandits showing indications of a desire to negotiate. Morale of prisoners becoming lower. Yesterday they endeavored to get chief state his terms to them with a view to themselves sending these out. Treatment and communications are as before, but they write sanitary conditions are very bad. Anderson returning this afternoon.”

2. Tien, Military Governor Shantung, accompanied by Roy Anderson arrived Peking evening 21st from Lincheng. Minister Communications, Wu Yu-lin, also returned. Tien had conference with President immediately after arrival and with Cabinet 22nd. Wu called on dean and American, British, French, Italian and Mexican Ministers afternoon 22nd, talked long time, answered briefly questions we put to him but replies and statement very unsatisfactory. I had three hours’ conference with Anderson night of 21st and shorter conference 22nd just before he left for Lincheng on afternoon train. Tien still here. All Chinese notables have [apparent omission] Lincheng.

3. Present situation is as follows: No negotiations with bandits for some days, no fighting though occasional firing which led diplomatic body 21st to protest to Government against non-withdrawal of troops as condition laid down by bandits indispensable to negotiation and (previously) accepted by Government. Military Governor Tien believes force should be applied to bandits and would fight but for danger to foreign captives. That being an international issue, he has come to Peking for instructions. He states that his dilemma [is] as follows: (1) Fight the bandits and foreigners may be killed; [Page 645] (2) withdraw troops to points designated by bandits and confederate bandits will pour in from the three neighboring Provinces of Honan, Kiangsu and Anhwei, and together take possession of southwestern Shantung. Government cannot resolve this dilemma and commander of Shantung forces prolongs his visit here.

4. During first week or ten days Peking Government and all Chinese authorities were energetically bent on effecting release of captives. Reaction has set in with procrastination, talk, explanations, and mutual recriminations. Near the end of conference mentioned in paragraph 2 Minister Communications intimated diplomatic body had hindered action by Government and expressed a hope they might now have a free hand. I retorted that they had always had a free hand and that they alone were responsible and intimated that the world was appraising the will, ability, and sense of responsibility of Peking Government in discharging its international obligations by its conduct in this affair. When, in another connection he observed that they needed more troops to complete their broken cordon round the bandits, I inquired blandly if they desired the cooperation of foreign troops, he replied in the same tone that they did not at the present time.

5. He remarked with the air of one revealing confidences that he [apparent omission] there was politics in the business. From many concurrent indications I am convinced this is true. The politicians quickly perceived in the work of bandits valuable material for their purposes. Little Hsu83 and his Anfu supporters and the agents of Chang Tso-lin84 are using the outrage to discredit the Chihli Party, Peking Government which it largely controls, and its leader Tsao Kun who has been hopeful candidate for the Presidency. In this enterprise they are seeking the cooperation of Sun Yat-sen who has been fighting with success Wu Pei-fu’s forces in Kwangtung and if I may judge from long conversations with C. C. Wu, Sun Hung-yi and Tang Shao-yi85 in Shanghai last week this cooperation is assured. Meanwhile, the criticism of the Chihli Party has given President Li Yuan-hung new hopes of official life and he comes out with the characteristically Chinese statement that he desires a Presidential election so that he may retire from office.

6. The terms and policy of the bandits are now probably inspired by these anti-Chihli politicians. And they are likely to play the game up to the limit of foreign endurance. On the other hand, Chihli Party politicians want the President, Cabinet and Peking [Page 646] Government generally as well as the Shantung authorities to share with them the responsibility and the blame. If these parties are left alone, I imagine there will be prolonged negotiations among themselves, endless talk, party compromises, display of military force, satisfaction of bandits and saving everybody’s face.

7. The objection to this solution from the foreigner’s point of view is that during the time required for its realization some of our fellow nationals on the top of Paotzeku may die of exposure, starvation or disease. The bandits would probably not kill the foreign captives for they are of no value to them when dead but their lives would nevertheless be in danger if the bandits are fiercely or continuously attacked by the Chinese forces or if an attempt is made to starve the bandits out.

8. Americans and Europeans in China greatly stirred up over situation. American Chamber of Commerce, Shanghai, demands foreign negotiations direct with bandits and use of foreign troops to effect release of captives, but I am still of the opinion that we must work through the Chinese authorities and bring pressure to bear upon them whenever they relax their efforts. I have thought it would produce a good effect if the diplomatic body sent an international commission as was provided on my motion last fall for the release of the captured missionaries in Honan and which proved most effective, only in this case I would have commission composed of the commander[s] of the China expeditionary forces in Tientsin. I have summoned General Connor86 to Peking for a conference this afternoon on this proposal and on the suggestions that have been made for the use of foreign military force which I recognize might conceivably become a necessity in the end but which, as I have already said, I should think a grave mistake at the present time. I have not thought it necessary to call Admiral Anderson who is now on the upper Yangtze into this conference especially as he is to be with me here on June 9th.

9. My own policy is to keep hammering at the Chinese Government for the immediate and safe release of our nationals and to hold up to them their exclusive responsibility. In that connection I will again remind them as I did Minister of Communications yesterday that foreign nations will form their opinion of the nature, character and efficacy of the Peking Government by their action in this case. And I would have it to be [apparent omission] Peking Government alone to determine which means they should adopt to comply with our demands.

[Page 647]

10. The safety and proper care of the captured foreigners is the subject of our constant solicitude. Shanghai American Chamber of Commerce has done splendid work in sending and organizing relief. But voluntary contributions may fail. And I therefore pledged $2,500 gold yesterday from the United States Government in case it was needed for the purchase of food, bottled water, supplies, etc., about to be delivered to the top of Paotzeku for the captives to whom I also sent seven marine corps tents. Up to the present time it is the Americans who have furnished all the supplies to all the foreigners. Chinese have offered money which I have given instructions to refuse. Chinese, however, are feeding the Paotzeku bandits and that is why our food is not entirely stolen.

11. I have the honor to request that I be given a credit of $2,500 gold as a “captives subsistence, supplies and emergency fund” with instructions regarding payments and vouchers.

  1. Hsü Shu-cheng, formerly commander of the army of the Anfu faction in control of the Peking Government which was overthrown in 1920.
  2. In actual control of the government of Manchuria, although in 1922 the Peking Government had issued an order removing him from office.
  3. Leaders in Sun Yat-sen’s party.
  4. Gen. William D. Connor, commanding American forces in China.