The Secretary of State to the Netherland Minister (De Graeff)

The Secretary of State presents his compliments to the Netherlands Minister and has the honor to acknowledge the receipt of his memorandum of December 5, 1924, concerning the political situation in China.

The Government of the United States fully realizes the gravity of the situation in China and is disposed to associate itself with other treaty Powers in adopting an attitude of reserve until there shall have developed a régime warranting a hope of its stability and giving satisfactory evidence of its intention to carry out in good faith the obligations which China has assumed towards those Powers.

But while recognizing the fact that the Chinese Government has of late manifested an increasing tendency to ignore the rights of the foreign Powers, this Government cannot blind itself to the fact that this tendency has found an excuse and an encouragement in the minds of the Chinese by reason of the fact that they conceive the foreign Powers to have abandoned the policy of cooperation and mutual accommodation embodied in the decisions with respect to Chinese affairs adopted by the Washington Conference on the Limitation [Page 435] of Armament. Not only do they observe the fact that the two treaties, with respect to Principles and Policies concerning China, and with respect to the Chinese Customs Tariff, remain unratified, with the result that certain concrete advantages provided by the Conference in favor of China remain unrealized; but they are able to point out that the Resolution regarding Extraterritoriality in China—although an agreement ostensibly binding without any necessity for ratifications or other formalities—has not yet resulted in any action by the signatory Powers with a view to the promised inquiry into the present practice of extraterritoriality and into the laws and the judicial system and the methods of judicial administration in China.

While by no means disposed to extenuate any tendency of the Chinese Government to repudiate or evade its international responsibilities, the American Government feels that it would be ignoring the realities of the situation to overlook the effect produced upon the minds of the Chinese by their conviction that the Powers have on their part failed to give effect to measures adopted by them for the purpose of furthering the aspirations of the Chinese people for the development of their political life. The Powers are thus prejudiced and weakened in their insistence that China should observe their treaty rights in full, unless and until those rights may be modified by mutual consent; and in the opinion of the American Government there is grave danger of the inculcation of a spirit of distrust which might even more seriously attenuate the sense of responsibility of the Chinese with respect to their obligations.

It is therefore the opinion of the Government of the United States that, in order to deal with the grave situation to which the Netherlands Minister’s memorandum refers, it is essential that the Powers should make evident their own good faith and their intention to afford China the opportunity to obtain relief from what her people regard as oppressive restrictions upon their national freedom of action, to the extent that its Government may prove itself willing and able to exercise the normal functions of a Government in its treatment of those foreign interests for which the treaty restrictions were designed to afford a protection not yet available from the Chinese governing authorities.

To that end, the Government of the United States considers it indispensable that the interested Powers, in the course of making clear their view that any régime could expect to enjoy their confidence and cooperation only upon the condition that it gives satisfactory evidence of a willingness to observe existing treaty rights, should be prepared to offer reciprocal assurances of their own intentions [Page 436] towards China, and should in particular be in a position to promise that they will, as soon as possible, proceed with the carrying out of the measures contemplated in the Washington Conference treaties and resolutions. With a view to contributing something towards the amelioration of the present difficult situation in China the representatives at Peking of the United States, Belgium, Great-Britain, France, Italy, Japan, The Netherlands and Portugal have proposed to despatch to the present Government at Peking the following note:

[Here follows text of proposed note reported in telegram no. 472, December 4, from the Chargé in China, printed on page 431.]

The Secretary of State ventures to hope that The Netherlands Government will instruct its representative at Peking to join his colleagues in signing the proposed note.