500.A 4 e/374: Telegram

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

425. My telegram number 418, September 25, 8 p.m.

1. Minister for Foreign Affairs informs me that the “provisional agenda” was prepared by the commission recently appointed by the Government to deal with matters in connection with the Special Conference and was informally submitted in response to the senior minister’s intimation that it would be desirable that the Chinese Government give some indication of its purpose in the conference and afford some opportunity for our Governments to consider and possibly make suggestions regarding agenda.

2. The Chinese proposals were informally considered at a meeting of the interested diplomatic representatives Tuesday. There was general tendency to assume that the placing of “tariff autonomy” in the forefront of the agenda is a mere face-saving device and that the Government will be even glad to skim over that heading with a high-sounding declaration. For my own part I disagree with that viewpoint and consider that the administration in power will for the sake of additional revenues be prepared to put up hard fight and appeal to nationalistic agitation to support its claims. I therefore pointed out that the creation of an immediate issue in regard to the question of “tariff autonomy” and the association of the likin question with that issue rather than with the provisions of the customs treaty presuppose a basis entirely different from that of the treaty; and having in mind your telegram number 198, August 10, 5 p.m., as well as the [Page 853]uncertainty in which we are left by the failure of the Chinese Government to live up to its obligations and to deal loyally with us in the Federal Wireless case62 as a test of the principle of the open door, I declared myself unable to express any views on the subject of the proposed agenda without instructions.

3. The interested representatives then decided to send to their respective Governments the following identic telegram (in translation from the French):

“In communicating to their respective Governments the draft programme given below, drawn up by the Chinese Government for the Special Conference for the Revision of the Customs Tariff, and which was submitted to them unofficially, the representatives of the interested powers wish to make the following remarks: The question of tariff autonomy, being only a question of principle concerning which the primary purpose of the Chinese is to formulate a vœu, should be mentioned alone under the heading A in the following form: ‘the Chinese Government, referring to the declaration made by its delegation at the Washington Conference, proposes to submit to the Special Conference the question of tariff autonomy’; the explanatory formula which follows would disappear.

The abolition of likin would figure under the heading B; heading C would include the temporary measures at present indicated under paragraph B, to which would be added the two ‘related matters’.

Finally, a heading D would refer to the board of reference provided for in resolution IV of the Washington agreement.63 These modifications are intended (1) to give to the Chinese Government reference to autonomy the value of a wish only, which will not commit the foreign governments; (2) to separate the question of likin from that of autonomy to which the Chinese apparently wish to link it; (3) to mention the board of reference which did not figure in the Chinese draft. The interested representatives request their Governments to authorize them to continue on these bases the unofficial conversations begun with the Chinese Government for the definite drawing up of the programme.”

4. I concur in the advisability of the modifications suggested and feel that the agenda as thus modified might be adopted if it were made clear in the terms of acceptance that the determination of the question of “tariff autonomy” is not to be made a condition precedent to the consideration of the matters for which provision was made by the treaty, but will be considered in connection with those questions.

5. I request your instructions.

6. Repeated to Tokyo for the information of the Embassy and of Strawn.