The Secretary of State to the British Chargé (Chilton)88

Sir: I have the honor to acknowledge the receipt of your notes Nos. 677 and 682 of July 3, 1925, and July 6, 1925, respectively, with reference to the note recently addressed by the Chinese Government to the Corps Diplomatique at Peking, and to the suggested reply thereto submitted in the form of an identic telegram to their respective governments by the heads of the Legations concerned. In considering the points raised in the Chinese Government’s note of June 24, I have not failed to be impressed with the magnitude of the issues raised therein which include, as you state, the question of extraterritoriality in all of its aspects and the future attitude of the Powers towards the demands of China in such matters as the revision of treaties, the suppression of mixed courts, the retrocession of leased territories and fiscal autonomy.

This Government finds itself in complete accord with the British Government in its opinion that the Chinese Government must be impressed with the necessity of giving some concrete evidence of its ability and willingness to suppress disorders and enforce respect for the safety of foreign lives and property, and I feel that these conditions to any ordered and fruitful discussion regarding treaty revision should be emphasized and placed in the forefront of any reply which may be made to the Chinese Government’s identic note.

This Government feels very definitely, however, that the growing spirit of national unrest in China, which, in this present situation, is being encouraged by radical statements and ideas emanating from those holding revolutionary theories regarding Government and the relations of states must be met by something more concrete than mere promises of action such as were written into the new commercial treaties which followed the settlement of the Boxer uprisings of 1900. It feels furthermore very strongly that this condition in China can best be met by consistent and scrupulous observance by the Powers of the obligations already undertaken by them at the Washington Conference for the alleviation of what the Chinese regard as anomalous inequalities imposed upon them by former treaties. While it might with truth be urged that government in China today is ineffective, it may also be said that little opportunity is given to any section of the Chinese people to make their government effective because of a continued scarcity of funds necessary to the maintenance of [Page 781] good and effective government. In so far as an import tariff can serve to furnish funds for government purposes the treaty Powers cannot escape a certain direct responsibility due to the positive control that they exercise over Chinese customs receipts through the conventional tariffs annexed to the several treaties, and the least that these Powers can do is to agree to an early calling of the Conference on Chinese tariff provided for in the Treaty of February 6, 1922. Public opinion in the United States definitely favors some such course.

As regards the question of extraterritoriality, this Government feels that definite steps should be taken by the Powers in line with the promises made in the commercial treaties which followed the settlement of the Boxer uprising of 1900. At that time the promise was formally made to China by the Government of the United States that, when it was satisfied that the state of the laws of China, the arrangements for their administration and other considerations warranted, extraterritorial rights would be relinquished.89 The most feasible way in which the question can be approached and considered is to send to China the Commission provided for in Resolution V of the Washington Conference,90 in the expectation that the investigations made by that Commission will help to guide the treaty Powers as to what, if any, steps should be taken as regards the possible relinquishment of extraterritorial rights at this time.

You state in your Note of July 3, 1925, that the British Government is somewhat apprehensive lest the Chinese Government interpret a promise to expedite the meeting of the Commission on extraterritoriality as a sign of weakness on the part of the Powers. This Government does not share in that apprehension. It, as well as other Governments which participated in the Washington Conference in the Autumn of 1921, affixed its signature in good faith to the Resolution regarding extraterritoriality in China. It is true that some responsibility for the delay in carrying out the terms of this Resolution must be put to the account of China, which had requested a postponement of one year in calling a conference. However, that year has long since lapsed and nothing has been done to make effective the solemn obligations then assumed. The conditions which now prevail in China differ only in degree from those which prevailed while the Resolution was being adopted and since its adoption. This Government cannot recognize that any such condition prevails which would invalidate its undertakings embodied in the Resolution. This Government cannot believe that a policy which consists in carrying out agreements undertaken in good faith and already overdue can be interpreted as a sign of weakness.

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It was in consideration of the above facts that this Government instructed its Legation at Peking in the terms referred to in your Note No. 682 of July 6, 1925. Because of these considerations and because the terms of Resolution No. V do not call specifically for anything in the way of recommendations, it was deemed advisable that the Powers concerned should agree to instruct their Commissioners to go beyond the mere letter of the Resolution itself and include in their report recommendations upon which a definite program for the consideration by the Governments concerned of the question of extraterritoriality might be based. This Government for its part desires that this be done in order that it can have before it for consideration some feasible plan of action for the future.

I venture to hope that the British Government will find itself so far in agreement with the attitude outlined above as to see its way to join this Government in urging the early calling of the Conference on Chinese Tariff and the sending of the Commission referred to above in order that the Powers may at an early date have before them data upon which they can determine their future course in dealing with these two of the many questions raised by the Chinese note.

I have also received your note, Number 683, of July 7, 1925, with further reference to the situation in China in which you set down the text of a declaration which the British Government proposes should be made public jointly by the nine Powers signatory to the Washington Conference Treaties in regard to China. I note that the British Government is disposed to believe that the making of such a declaration at this time would assist materially in diminishing the dangers of the Chinese situation.

I have given very careful consideration to this proposal of the British Government and feel with it that the situation now existing demands some action on the part of the Powers which participated in the Washington Conference, which will evidence to the Chinese their desire to see the agreements made at Washington carried out. I feel that some such action is necessary to meet the arguments that the contrary is the case which are now being used by agitators among the Chinese. My views as to the best way to meet this agitation have been fully set forth above. I repeat that it is the opinion of this Government that a strict adherence to the Washington Conference programs seems the only safe road. I have been unable to convince myself, however, that the present is an opportune moment for the making of any public statement with regard to conditions in China. I am the more disposed to feel that the Powers should wait in this matter in view of the fact that the representatives at Peking are even now considering the nature of the replies which they will make to the Chinese Government’s identic notes of June 24. I feel that the consideration [Page 783] of those replies should be expedited and that they should form the basis of a statement which the Powers concerned can then make publicly.

As regards the text of the proposed statement quoted in your note under acknowledgment this Government would find itself in hearty agreement as regards the early convocation of the tariff conference. It joins the British Government in considering that such a conference will require to be of a more far reaching and comprehensive nature than was originally contemplated by the Treaty of February 6, 1922. This Government feels, however, that in any reply which is made to the Chinese Government’s note of June 24 and consequently in any statement that may be made to the public the Governments concerned should also indicate their willingness to expedite the sending to China of the Commission provided for in Resolution No. V passed at the Washington Conference.

Accept [etc.]

Frank B. Kellogg
  1. The views set forth in this note were repeated in substance, July 14, to the American diplomatic representatives in Japan, France, Belgium, the Netherlands, Italy, and Portugal to be communicated to the respective Foreign Offices of those countries for their information.
  2. See art. XV of the treaty between the United States and China signed Oct. 8, 1903, Foreign Relations, 1903, pp. 91, 98.
  3. Ibid., 1922, vol. i, p. 289.