The Department of State to the Chinese Legation
The Department of State has been glad to receive the Aide-Mémoire under date of June 30 in which the Chinese Legation communicated certain views of its Government, in supplement to the note which the Minister for Foreign Affairs of China had addressed on June 16 to the American Minister at Peking in reply to the latter’s note of May 3, making reservation of this Government’s rights in reference to the Chinese Eastern Railway. This fuller and more friendly exposition of the views of the Chinese Government appears to reveal a confusion which this Government had not anticipated could exist in view of its well known attitude and activities with respect to the Railway. The interest felt by this Government in the Railway has been such as was prompted by a realization that the legal and economic status of that line of communication must have a direct and important bearing upon the administrative integrity of China and upon the principle of the equality of opportunity in China; and the steps taken by this Government in that regard—in refusing recognition to the political and administrative powers asserted by the Railway; in taking an initiative in constituting the Inter-Allied Technical Board (in which the Chinese Government participated) to maintain and operate the [Page 505] Railway during the war; and in supporting the Chinese claim, at the Washington Conference, to have the Chinese Government recognized as trustee for those interested in the Railway—were motivated by the policies above indicated, and taken with what appeared to be the full and sympathetic approval of the Chinese Government.
These steps are not and have not been made the basis of any claim by the Government of the United States to any right of control or other interest merely in its own behalf. This Government does, however, possess and assert a direct right as a creditor of the Chinese Eastern Railway Company for a principal amount of $4,177,820.06, which it advanced to the Inter-Allied Technical Board for the purpose of saving the Railway from breakdown and deterioration at a time when its operations were of necessity conducted at a loss. That debt from the Railway Company to the American Government was among the obligations which the Chinese Government, in assuming the responsibilities of the trusteeship recognized by the Conference upon the understanding set forth in Resolution No. XIII, undertook to preserve and safeguard. The Government of the United States does not consider that the Chinese Government, in devolving that trusteeship upon another party, without consultation with others in interest and without any reservation of their rights, can have divested itself of the responsibilities incidental to that trust.
The American Government has therefore felt it necessary, in order to safeguard its position in any eventual adjustment of the affairs of the Chinese Eastern Railway, to renew the reservation made in the American Minister’s note of May 3 last to the Minister for Foreign Affairs.