The Minister in China (Schurman) to the Secretary of State
[Received April 17.]
Sir: I have the honor to report that during a visit which Rear-Admiral W. W. Phelps, commanding the Yangtze Patrol Force of [Page 742]the United States Asiatic Fleet, paid to Peking in November last he laid before me certain views with regard to the tranquilization of the situation on the Upper Yangtze River in Szechuan, which situation, as the Department is aware, has given rise to much anxiety within the past two years. As a result of these conversations, Admiral Phelps requested Rear-Admiral Kobayashi, of the Imperial Japanese Navy, the Senior Force Commander of the Yangtze, to call a conference of the force commanders (representing The United States, Great Britain, France and Japan) to consider the question. This conference was held in Shanghai last month, as a result of which my British, French and Japanese colleagues and I each received a communication from the four senior naval officers transmitting a copy of a communication which they proposed to forward through their respective legations at Peking and the consular officers in Szechuan to the Chinese authorities and all commanders of district troops who have or may have in the future any connection with strife in the Province of Szechuan.
At a conference of my British, French and Japanese colleagues and myself the substance of the senior naval officers’ communication was approved, but it was decided to alter its form to that of a memorandum which was to be transmitted by the respective Consuls to the appropriate Chinese civil and military authorities in Szechuan.
This course was adopted as it was felt that while the views of the senior naval officers should be communicated to the local authorities the communication should reach the latter from the consular officers of the Powers as being more in consonance with usage and with the duties and dignity of the consular officers, rather than from the naval officers direct.
The form of joint communication from the four Consuls at Chungking to the local authorities was also decided upon, as well as a form of identic despatch to the four Consuls at Chungking instructing them in the premises.
It was also decided to address a note to the Waichiao Pu transmitting a copy of the naval officers’ memorandum and requesting that the Chinese Government, who must be held ultimately responsible for conditions on the Yangtze, should pay most serious attention to this communication and should take the necessary steps to accomplish the object in view, namely, the cessation of attacks on and interference with foreign shipping by Chinese soldiers on the Upper Yangtze.
I have received a despatch No. 57, dated February 27, 1923, from the American Vice-Consul in Chargé at Chungking, copies of which I understand he has forwarded direct to the Department of State,62 in which he expresses quite groundless fears that the prerogatives [Page 743]and dignity of the Consular Body would be ignored in the communication to be addressed to the authorities of Szechuan. My communication of March 19th to Mr. Spiker, which forms Enclosure No. 463 to this despatch, will, I am confident, remove his anxiety on this score.
I have [etc.]