500.A 4e 1/53: Telegram

The Secretary of State to the Minister in China (Schurman)

60. The Department is informing London of the substance of your Nos. 77 March 13, 4 p.m. and 83 March 18, 5 p.m.

Commenting upon the identic telegram, the Department states in substance that

1.
This recommendation while not approving of the proposed preliminary conference, apparently favors a preliminary discussion of matters which are essentially for determination by the Conference. Such a discussion could not, therefore, in the opinion of this Government be distinguished from the proposal made by the Chinese Government for a preliminary conference.
2.
This Government might find difficulty, from the administrative standpoint, in arranging for its suitable representation in a preliminary conference ancillary to the Special Conference for which definite authority exists and for which appropriations have been made.
3.
Inasmuch as the foreign delegates to such a preliminary conference would presumably be without plenipotentiary powers it is believed that they might find themselves at a tactical disadvantage in that they would be unable to carry on effective negotiations, impose any conditions, or give any assurances; and their activities would therefore of necessity be limited to expressions of views and formulation of preparatory plans which might possibly serve to prejudice and embarrass the work of the Special Conference itself.
4.
In view of the widespread disregard of treaty rights by Chinese officials in the provinces, even in those professing allegiance to the Peking Government, as instanced by the Kiangsu cigarette tax; and in view of the growing attitude of irresponsibility on the part of the Peking Government itself as evidenced by the imposition of discriminatory [Page 517]railway rates, and by numerous instances of failure to accord prompt satisfaction in cases of outrages upon foreigners, this Government questions whether it is not now inopportune and even dangerous to assume a responsive attitude toward requests from the Peking Government which are not based upon any definite right.
5.
In furtherance of the cooperation with the British Government in this matter which was initiated by Mr. Wellesley’s conferences with the Department a year or so ago,33 it is desired that the Embassy consult informally with the British Foreign Office and explain this Government’s views as above outlined, and inquire concerning the attitude of the British Government toward the proposed preliminary conference.

Hughes
  1. Mr. Victor Wellesley, head of the Far Eastern Department, British Foreign Office, conferred with officials in the Department of State in January 1923.