The Secretary of State to the Minister in China (Schurman)
97. Your telegram of May 26, noon, was referred to President Harding and he fully endorses the view that any attempt to bring comprehensive or general armed pressure to bear upon China would be useless. He agrees that the task would be too great and that it would arouse opposition likely to involve foreign interests in danger wholly out of proportion to the amount of protection afforded. The President also is in accord with the view that the undertaking could only be entered upon with such cooperation from other powers as might involve difficulties and compromises in the policies of this Government and might be the occasion for the entrenchment [Page 651]of other nations in a position which would facilitate ultimately their control over the economic and political development of China. The only condition under which serious consideration could be given to the subject of general intervention in China would be such a degree of disorder and chaos as would be a definite threat to the whole system of foreign interests and residence in that country.
The above statements are not incompatible with the possible use of force limited strictly to an objective so clearly defined that it will not afford any opportunity for its purpose being misconstrued or any pretext for the eventual enlargement of its character and scope for ulterior purposes. The principal reason for any such display of force would be to attempt to restore and increase foreign prestige in China by impressing upon the Chinese people and Government the necessity of respecting foreign nationals and property.
I have had occasion in connection with the Lincheng outrage to consider the feasibility and the possible usefulness of foreign occupation of the railroad from Tientsin to Pukow in an analogous manner to the occupation of the line from Peking to the sea. The purposes of such an occupation would be as stated in the preceding paragraph as well as to guard this line of communications and to form a possible base for foreign cooperation with Chinese forces should it become necessary to demand that banditry in southern Shantung be exterminated. I am not at all convinced that such action is desirable. I would, however, like to have you frankly give me your views on this question and also upon the suggestion made by your British colleague that a railway police be established to give adequate protection to foreign nationals and interests, this force possibly to be under international supervision and paid from railway funds under international control. I also wish your opinion regarding the possibility of placing other trunk lines under the protection of such a police force to guard against bandit raids and also to keep local authorities from unwarranted tampering with the railway revenues or facilities.
The proposed establishment of garrisons along the coast and on the Yangtze River seems to be only the first step toward general intervention. Unless the suggested use of foreign forces to bring about the disbandment of Chinese troops involves only the giving of technical military assistance in carrying out a program of disbandment which is agreed upon, the proposal would imply impossible belligerent support to the faction controlling at Peking.
While I frankly distrust both the political effects and the efficacy of any attempted exercise of general foreign control over the finances of China, I would also be pleased to receive your comment on the possibility of inducing the Chinese Government to accept and carry [Page 652]out a proper system of budget under the control of an impartial international auditing board.