893.01/132: Telegram

The Chargé in China (Mayer) to the Secretary of State

439. 1. Your 272, November 6, 6 p.m. At diplomatic body meeting November 5th French in concert Belgian Chargé d’Affaires proposed that, first, all Chiefs of Mission should at their initial call upon new Minister for Foreign Affairs make reserves in respect of new regime, bringing to Dr. Wang’s notice that despite solemn promises the recent administrations in China had not kept faith or carried out treaties, agreements, etc.; and that, secondly, the powers concerned should obtain some form of guarantee that China would observe her treaties and agreements before recognizing the new President when elected.

2. Italian Minister concurred but several others dissented especially regarding any making of reserves at first call on Dr. Wang. I stated I would not feel authorized to do so without instructions from my Government and British Minister spoke to same effect. Matter of reserves dropped but agreed that representatives should communicate with respective Governments in regard to advisability of demanding guarantees in the event of election of new President. Several ministers stated that they considered present situation merely as a Cabinet change and not therefore raising the question of recognition, [Page 418] etc. This has been exactly my opinion. I have not believed that entering into relations with Dr. Wang amounted to anything more than carrying on with a new Minister for Foreign Affairs. I felt that this demand by French and Belgian Chargés in which Italian Minister concurred was possibly primarily a bid for the diplomatic body’s support in gold franc case.40 I have reason to believe several other ministers of same opinion.

3. The present administration is of course not strictly constitutional since it fails to fulfill the requirements that a new Premier be nominated by President and approved by Parliament. The appointment of an Acting Premier is not authorized by the constitution except when Parliament; is adjourned which is not the case now. However, the constitution does clearly provide that when the offices of the President and Vice President are vacant the Cabinet shall perform the duties of Presidential office. It may be borne in mind that there has not been a strictly constitutional government in China for years.

4. If point of view accepted that there is only Cabinet change and constitution’ observed in the main then question of recognition not now involved and so no opportunity to withhold same with a view to forcing Chinese Government to give satisfactory assurances of readiness to fulfill obligations to powers.

5. However, it may be that events will take a decidedly unconstitutional turn when the French proposition would apply, either through not recognizing a new government or withdrawal of recognition from present Government. I consider either course of very doubtful expediency unless other factors are introduced which might demand a different decision.

6. If it is a fact, as French Chargé d’Affaires stated at diplomatic body meeting, Central Government is only sustained by recognition of the powers, it would seem necessarily to follow that withdrawal of recognition would result in break-up of Government into several separate entities each composed of a group of provinces—a definite disintegration of the Central Government’s authority and hence liability each entity would most likely deny obligation for past debts and not afford a very safe or promising prospect for future business or negotiation. …

. . . . . . . . . . . . . .

  1. See section entitled “Concurrence by the United States in the contention by certain powers that the Boxer Indemnity payments should be made in gold currency,” pp. 559 ff.