493.11/962: Telegram

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

44. 1. Protocol circular of January 18th submitted proposed draft of note from dean of the diplomatic corps, acting in behalf of all the powers signatory to the protocol of 1901,92 to Minister of Foreign Affairs, concerning execution by Chinese Government of Sino-Belgian understanding of February 15 [5?], 1918, respecting Boxer Indemnity payments referred to in my telegram no. 15, January 10, 11 a.m. [noon?].93 After rehearsing the negotiation of the undertaking and that up to now no payments have been made, or funds set aside to cover such payments, the draft note contains a concluding paragraph as follows:

“The representatives of the powers above mentioned (protocol powers) are of opinion that under these circumstances the obligations [Page 560] arising from the final payments of 1901 with regard to the indemnity have not entirely been met and consequently they wish me to request Your Excellency to be good enough to instruct the Inspector General of Customs that, as the payments due to the Belgian Government for the refunding of the suspended indemnity installments have—together with the other indemnity payments and the services of the loans concluded previous to 1900—priority before all other payments out of the customs funds, he should make the necessary arrangements accordingly.”

2. I indorsed observation on circular to effect that this arrangement did not appear to have been communicated to the American Government and since United States was not signatory to the Allied Powers’ joint memorandum of that year relative to method of effecting individual arrangements for the payment of the suspended portion of the indemnity, I desired to hear from my Government before taking action in the matter.

3. In requesting telegraphic instructions whether I should participate in supporting the Belgian Government in this matter, I venture to direct the Department’s attention to the fact that it would appear from the joint memorandum of 191894 referred to in my observation that each of the powers signatory, namely, Belgium, France, Great Britain, Italy, Japan, Portugal and Russia, are at liberty to effect individual arrangements with the Chinese Government as to the method by which the suspended portion of the indemnity shall be paid. Therefore, if we now assist the Belgian Government in securing execution of its preferential treatment arrangement with the Chinese authorities, a precedent will be established for our acting similarly in the event of any other of the afore-mentioned of having made or making such individual arrangements with the Chinese Government possibly in terms especially advantageous to the respective powers. Likewise, it is to be observed that thus far we have made no arrangement ourselves with the Chinese Government regarding the payment of the suspended portion of the indemnity. While the desirability of perfect unanimity among the protocol powers in all that relates to the execution of that instrument is evident, I venture to suggest that disadvantages may arise from our associating ourselves with the other signatories in invoking the protocol to support an arrangement like the present one. I am not convinced that the obligation of China to pay the suspended Belgian indemnity at a particular time and in a particular manner is an obligation of the same order [Page 561] as the obligations arising from the final protocol of 1901 with regard to the indemnity generally.

4. I am informed by the Belgian Minister that he has addressed a formal note to the Chinese Government requesting the payment in question to which no reply has been received and I also have it on good authority that the Inspector General of Customs states that he has no money with which to liquidate the Sino-Belgian undertaking.

  1. Foreign Relations, 1901, Appendix (Affairs in China), p 312.
  2. Not found in Department files.
  3. For correction of date, see Minister’s no. 51, Feb. 2, p. 561.