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

No. 1422

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.]

Jacob Gould Schurman

The Representatives in China of Japan, the United States, France, and Great Britain to the Chinese Acting Minister for Foreign Affairs

The Undersigned Representatives of Japan, The United States of America, France and Great Britain have the honor to call the most serious attention of the Acting Minister for Foreign Affairs to the outrages repeatedly committed during recent years against the vessels of their respective mercantile marines on the Upper Yangtze by the military forces of contending factions in Szechuan. It will be within the knowledge of His Excellency that these vessels, peacefully plying on the waters of the Upper River between Ichang and Chungking in accordance with their Treaty rights, have again and again, in spite of reiterated protests, been fired on from the shore to the danger of foreign life and property and in violation of the friendly relations existing between China and the Powers concerned.

Although the Chinese Government is responsible for the safety of shipping upon the Chinese rivers, the duty of protecting the shipping of their nationals against these piratical attacks by bands of irresponsible soldiery falls upon the naval forces of Japan, The United States, France and Great Britain stationed on the Upper River for that purpose, and the Undersigned have the honor to transmit herewith copy of a memorandum on this subject, drawn up by the Senior Officers commanding these forces, which the Consuls of the Powers concerned at Chungking have been instructed by the Undersigned to present to the civil and military authorities in Szechuan. It is requested that the Chinese Government, who must be held ultimately responsible, will pay most serious attention to this communication and will take the necessary steps to accomplish the object in view, namely, the cessation of these attacks on, and interference with, foreign shipping by Chinese soldiers on the Upper Yangtze.

  • Y. Obata
  • Jacob Gould Schurman
  • A. de Fleuriau
  • Ronald Macleay

[Page 744]

Memorandum by the Senior Officers in Command of the Naval Forces Respectively of Japan, Great Britain, the United States and France Operating on the Yangtze River

During the last two years our Mercantile Vessels, legally flying our respective flags and legally trading on the Upper Yangtze River, have been repeatedly attacked and fired on from the shore, thereby endangering the lives of our nationals.

Further, these vessels have been boarded and searched by bands of soldiers in spite of the respectful protests of the Masters thereof.

This constitutes an outrage against our respective flags and a violation of the amenities due from one great Power to another.

Against these attacks and indignities our respective Consuls have repeatedly protested without result.

Wherefore viewing the future with great concern we, the undersigned, the present Senior Officers commanding respectively the Naval Forces of Japan, Great Britain, The United States and France operating on the Yangtze River, have mutually decided that the Treaty rights of our Nationals must be maintained in accordance with the usages of International Law and the common courtesies of friendly Powers.

We therefore request with the friendliest of feelings that such orders be issued as will render the recurrence of such episodes impossible in the future.

The Senior Naval Officers in Command of the Naval Forces of the friendly Powers operating on the Yangtze River.
Kenzo Kobayashi

Rear-Admiral, I.J.N.
P. Maclachlan

Rear-Admiral, R.N.
W. W. Phelps

Rear-Admiral, U.S.N.
E. Steva

Capitaine de Frigate, M.F.
  1. Not printed.
  2. Not printed.