893.01/144: Telegram

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

472. 1. My 468, December 3, 3 p.m.,55 especially paragraphs 5 and 6. Informal meeting this morning of British, Japanese, French, Italian, Belgian, Netherlands representatives and myself decided to recommend our Governments to authorize us at earliest possible moment to despatch following note to Chinese Government and to give same widest publicity.

“The representatives at Peking of the United States of America, Belgium, Great Britain, France, Italy, Japan, the Netherlands and Portugal declare in the names of their Governments that, taking note of the communication addressed to them on November 24th by the Wai Chiao Pu announcing the assumption of office by the Provisional Chief Executive and of the mandates issued by the new Chief Executive on the same date, they will lend their full support to the Provisional Government in Peking under the present Provisional Chief Executive and that they have entered into de facto relations with the same on the understanding that this Provisional Government has been constituted with the concurrence of the nation for the purpose of taking charge of the affairs of the Chinese Republic pending the establishment of a formal government representing all the provinces and parties in the Republic and on the understanding that it is the intention of the Provisional Government and of any formal government that may hereafter be established to respect all treaties, conventions, and other engagements entered into by the former Manchu and Republican governments and all rights, privileges, and immunities enjoyed by foreigners in China by virtue of such international engagements until such time as these international engagements shall be modified by mutual consent of the contracting parties. They further declare that on the above understanding their Governments are willing and anxious to proceed as soon as possible with the carrying out of the measures contemplated in the Washington treaties and resolutions.”

2. I make this recommendation for following reasons: First, I have believed for some time that we should combat Bolshevik attack in China in particular reference to so-called “unjust treaties” by an announcement that we were ready and willing to discuss treaty revision at earliest moment practicable. Second, I have considered that we have been and are severely handicapped by inability to initiate action under Washington Conference agreements and resolutions owing to French attitude. I believe that if nothing more eventuates from the effort to have the powers concerned agree upon [Page 432] proposed statement, such effort will at least bring pressure upon French Government toward ratification of Washington treaties. I deem this is in line with Department’s attitude and desire as expressed in its 294, November 26, 3 [2] p.m.,56 and 293, November 25, 6 p.m.57 Third, a statement similar to above may be of great assistance to conservative element in China. As couched I do not believe it can do harm. Should Sun in cooperation with Feng overthrow Tuan administration after proposed statement is made we would at least be on record as continuing to entertain toward a government in China, to whom we could at least accord de facto recognition, the same policy of cooperation and mutual accommodation as embodied in the decisions with respect to Chinese affairs adopted by Washington Conference. We would have a base from which to project further efforts to defend ourselves against Bolshevik propaganda. If and when Tuan or some other conservative government would replace Sun regime we would be in the greatly [sic] superior position than if proposed statement had not been made.

3. Both British Minister and myself after careful consideration believed it wise not to include any direct statement to the effect that powers concerned would not recognize or have truck with any administration which might be set up in Peking by political leaders hostile to us. This would be two-edged weapon. Point impliedly covered in proposed statement.

4. I would have preferred to have strengthened statement by definitely stating in so many words that the powers concerned would take up with a formally established Chinese Government the subject of treaty revision at the earliest moment practicable, thus turning this phase against those who now using it to our disadvantage. Statement as adopted this morning’s meeting by implication puts us on record as desirous to this effect.

5. Both British Minister and myself fearful that further strengthening our proposed statement might prevent French and Italian Governments from associating themselves therewith, the chances being that these two Governments would even oppose statement as now drafted.

6. Japanese Minister stated he had reason to believe Feng and Sun Yat-sen contemplate another coup in the very near future. Impossible to know Feng’s attitude as Tuan may be simply playing him off against foreigners demanding immediate treaty revision or cancellation. It would be difficult for us to issue proposed statement which Sun could then make to appear as result of his threats.

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7. For above reasons I most earnestly recommend that if Department approves proposed statement I be instructed to this end at very earliest possible moment.

8. I venture to add that I consider the making of a statement similar to that proposed of so great importance at this time that I would favor its being made to present Chinese Government even if only by Great Britain and the United States; with Japan, the Netherlands and Belgium if possible. If necessary, however, I believe Japanese Government would be willing to join in such a statement even if all powers concerned would [not?] agree thereto. Possibly more danger of playing into Japanese hands by proposed statement is less than that of ill-advised agitation for treaty revision in my opinion. Of the two it goes without saying I greatly prefer to assist the Japanese. I would much appreciate simultaneous instructions on this point should the Department approve proposed statement in principle. British Minister of same opinion and is requesting similar instructions.

9. Repeated to Tokyo with request to hand copy to Minister Schurman.57a

  1. Ante, p. 405.
  2. Not printed; this telegram quoted text of memorandum of Nov. 25 to the French Embassy, p. 426.
  3. Not printed; this telegram quoted text of telegram no. 434, Nov. 24, to the Ambassador in Great Britain, p. 423.
  4. Jacob Gould Schurman, Minister to China, temporarily absent from Lis post.