500.A 4 e/374: Telegram

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

282. Your 425, October 1, 7 p.m.

As stated in my No. 248 of September 12, 4 p.m., I am prepared to approve the acceptance of a proposal such as that outlined in your No. 388 of September 10, 11 a.m., which I consider a “reasonable proposal” such as the Powers have by their identic notes of [Page 855]September 466 told the Chinese Government they were willing to consider at the forthcoming Conference. I fail to perceive objection to proposal under heading A of provisional agenda quoted in your No. 418 of September 25, 8 p.m., as it stands, including explanatory formula, which I regard as a friendly gesture which the Powers should accept. In view of present widespread national feeling I believe that any arrangements for the abolishment of likin which may be coupled with arrangements looking to the foreseeable relinquishment of treaty restrictions upon China’s right to regulate its tariffs [will be?] far more likely to meet with the cooperation of the provinces that is necessary to its successful accomplishment than will one that is linked with the arrangements or surtaxes called for under the Treaty of February 6, 1922.
As stated in my written instructions of September 9 to you and to Mr. Strawn I desire at this Conference to avoid the conclusion of any understanding which will fail of execution as did the 1903 treaty because of unpopularity in the provinces, whose support, because of their dependence upon likin as a source of revenue, is absolutely necessary to the successful solution of this question.
You should not leave your colleagues in any doubt about my attitude upon these matters. We are going into the forthcoming Conference seriously to cooperate with the Chinese in arriving at some workable solution of the question of Chinese tariff, which will go as far as it is fair to go in satisfying the nationalistic aspirations of the Chinese and yet insure American trade freedom from unequal or discriminatory treatment. If we cannot do this in cooperation with the other Powers at this Conference we must then negotiate separately.
As I stated in my No. 198 of August 10, 5 p.m., I would have preferred to have our Delegation go into the Conference on the simple basis of the joint note of September 4, and the terms of the Treaty of February 6, 1922, but as the Chinese Government has offered a provisional agenda in response to the suggestion of the Senior Minister which, in the light of recent extreme agitations which have swept China, I consider reasonable and friendly, I feel it should be accepted. I feel that much can be accomplished both in the discussions which the Diplomatic Body is now having with the Chinese Foreign Minister, and later in the Conference, if emphasis is laid upon our sincere desire to cooperate rather than dictate to the Chinese in these matters. A new tariff treaty embodying (a) a renunciation in principle of our present treaty right of restricting China’s freedom of action in tariff matters, (b) a guarantee to American commerce of most favored nation tariff treatment and [Page 856]providing against discriminatory or unequal action, (c) the acceptance on behalf of the United States of a Chinese general tariff, as applicable to American goods for a specified period and (d) providing for a decision at the end of that period on the questions of the continuance or revision of said general tariff, or of the complete restoration to China of tariff autonomy, would, in my opinion, be acceptable to this Government as a solution of this question.
I have no objection to inclusion of discussion of Board of Reference in the agenda of the Conference.
  1. Ante, p. 831.