893.00/5029: Telegram

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


200. Department’s telegram no. 100, June 4.94

Reference third paragraph Department’s no. 97, June 1. I am reliably informed that it would be a mistake for foreign forces to occupy the Tientsin-Pukow Railway unless such occupation becomes necessary in order to secure the release of foreigners still held captive. This is a contingency which I do not consider probable although I will be sure to discuss it with General Connor when he returns. The occupation of the railway would doubtless provoke Chinese resentment and might not only create antiforeign sentiment but also lead to acts of hostility against unprotected foreigners both in Shantung and elsewhere. Also it would surely cause difficulties and dissension among the powers occupying the railway, which would largely offset any advantages that could reasonably be expected to be derived from it. With respect to the suggestion that the railway might be used as a base for exterminating banditry in southern Shantung, I call attention to the facts that all the provinces are cursed with banditry and that the problem is not alone one of making an initial suppression of the bandits, but of permanently freeing the country from this evil. The Chinese themselves must therefore solve the problem.
Europeans in China, and especially the British, generally favor the idea of foreign-supervised railway police. I had long, separate conferences yesterday with my British and French colleagues and told them that I felt that the most hopeful means of permanent improvement was to stimulate the Chinese themselves to protect their railway service and property. My French colleague was in favor not of controlling officers but of foreign inspectors, and “inspectors” is the word [used?] by the representatives in China of the Consortium in their telegram of May 23. I asked my British colleague whether he favored having the officers chosen from the Great Powers equally or from the small European nations. In reply he suggested that they might be appointed from the countries of the bondholders.
The Chinese unaided have not been able to provide the effective police force which is necessary in order to protect the service, property, [Page 654]and collection of revenue of the railways. Probably foreign inspectors would give the Chinese sufficient help, but if it is thought necessary to have foreign controlling officers, now is a good time to secure their appointment. If a time limit were set, I believe that the Chinese would make no serious objection as far as the Tientsin-Pukow Railway is concerned, but there is a need for foreign-trained police, not only on that railway but on all Chinese Government-controlled railways. In my opinion an effort should be made now to induce China to accept at least plans for foreign inspectors.
A general like … could loot the treasury of a railway in spite of a police force under foreign inspection or supervision. Such a force could, however, protect railway property from raids of neighboring bandits and lawless groups, obtain the revenues collected, and insure regular service of trains, if it had good information service and proper concentration points along the railway line. Just as [on?] one railway line police detachments could be sent from the nearest concentration points wherever needed, so if all the railways had the improved police system, reinforcements could, if needed, be transferred from one line to another. Only a relatively small mobile force with good information service regarding bandit movements near the railway lines would thus be needed to protect the railways.
6 [sic].
It is believed that an adequate, reorganized police force with foreign inspection or supervision could be supported with the funds already allocated to the railways for police purposes. These funds are now wasted on a multitude of useless officers, soldiers, and policemen.
The Chinese railway police force should be under the supreme control from Peking of either a foreign officer or a Chinese officer with a foreign inspector associated with him. This central authority should not only exercise supreme authority over the force but should also be responsible for paying the officers and men and furnishing them with material.
  1. Not printed.