The Ambassador in Japan (Bancroft) to the Secretary of State
[Received 3:11 p.m.]
314. Shidehara handed me today following statement on Japan’s attitude in China situation which he said had already been prepared at the request of the British Ambassador here:
“It is believed to be generally conceded that no useful purpose can be served by any intervention in the domestic affairs of China. With a long historical background and amidst the surroundings peculiar to the country the Chinese people must be left free to order their own national life in their own way. Such plans as have often been discussed in unofficial quarters aiming at an international control of certain branches of Chinese administration would, in the opinion of the Japanese Government, prove disastrous to the independent existence of China and productive of international complications.
At this time the foreign powers cannot with fairness be called upon to suffer any infringement upon their legitimate rights and interests in China. They are entitled to expect from any government which may be established at Peking both the ability and the readiness to fulfill all the conventional obligations of China and in particular to afford due protection to the persons and property of their nationals. Such aims can hardly be realized however unless the military leaders now maintaining themselves quasi independently in various provinces be brought effectively under the direction the Central Government, at least in matters involving the rights and interests of foreign nations.
It is now known that on November 24th General Tuan Chi-jui provisionally assumed the functions of the Chief Executive of the Chinese Republic in response to the call of a fair majority of the practically autonomous province[s] in China and with the approval of the then existing Government under Mr. Huang Fu. On the same day he announced the formation of a new Cabinet composed of men who have long figured prominently in various factions and provinces. It appears that all these arrangements are intended to be only provisional and that a more lasting regime is reserved for discussion and settlement at a national assembly shortly to be convoked.
The Japanese are not directly concerned in the question who will assume the reins of government in China or what form of political institution the proposed national assembly will adopt. Their chief preoccupation[s] have been in the question whether or not China will soon be provided with a sufficiently strong government to maintain law and order within her borders and to discharge her international obligations.
But it is evident that whatever government may be established in China cannot possibly endure if it fails to find a way out of its pressing financial difficulties. Without funds to meet the expenditure [Page 430] it will be impossible for any government at Peking to organize an effective administration and to carry out the disbandment of troops and other measures of readjustment now urgently needed. Nor in the opinion of the Japanese Government can the destitution of China’s public treasury be remedied without the cooperation of foreign powers. In order to secure stabilization of China it will be necessary for the powers when they [the time?] becomes opportune to take up the question of financial assistance to be rendered to the Chinese Government. Such assistance is to be extended only upon full communication and understanding among the powers and in case it takes the form of a loan it should be undertaken in accordance with the principles that govern the existing consortium.
In all cases the fullest opportunity should be afforded to the Chinese people to work out a practical system of government and to restore peace and unity in the country. It is reported that the Provisional Government just inaugurated at Peking and its supporters are now seriously striving to attain these objects. The powers should watch their efforts with sympathy, toleration and hope”.