The Minister in China ( MacMurray ) to the Secretary of State
[Received December 18—7:04 a.m.]
625. 1. Wu Tsing, the representative of Chang Tso-lin whose call on me on the 16th was referred to in 5th paragraph of my number 621, December 17,81 called again the following day and rather insistently sought to ascertain what view the American Government would take if Chang were to come to Peking and establish, under his authority as leader of Ankuochun,82 a government with somewhat pretentious program of reforms. I assured him we were anxious to witness the establishment of a real government representative of the people of China and possessing the will and the power actually to govern and to live up to its obligations, but that we must have a satisfactory state of facts to act on and cannot assume in advance that a particular action by some exalted personage will convert the present sham government into a reality.
2. He said that before undertaking this task Chang wanted to be reassured of the attitude of ourselves and other powers on two questions, [Page 686] the first relating to finance and the second to our attitude toward treaty revision.
3. As to the first it appeared that he had in mind prospects of being permitted to levy surtaxes which the Special Conference had had under consideration. I recalled that we and the other powers had persevered in those negotiations up to the time that there ceased to be any authority in China capable of carrying out its part of any of the reciprocal obligations necessarily involved. I said we would welcome possibility of continuing such negotiations whenever any substantial and responsible government of China might be established.
4. With regard to question of treaty revision he said that while of course all patriotic Chinese aspired to status of international equality for their country, Chang did not approve of Nationalist attempt to attain that aspiration by tearing up treaties; he realized that actual conditions do not justify complete relinquishment of all special rights of foreigners in China; he expected only that powers would be prepared to negotiate in reasonable spirit for such modifications as the present state of progress might warrant in the interest of both Chinese and foreigners. In reply to my inquiries he said that Chang had in mind no particular points as requiring immediate revision in the “unequal treaties” and particularly stated that it was well understood that the foreigners could not be expected to give up extraterritoriality until the state of Chinese judicial institutions may enable the country to assume that responsibility. He said that primarily to satisfy that very considerable section of Chinese opinion which demands revision of the treaties, Chang wants to be in a position to give the assurance that powers would meet him in a spirit of reasonableness and good faith. I assured him that we are for our part always ready to discuss with any actually competent Chinese authorities such modifications of our treaty rights as may be consistent with the real state of affairs.
5. It is not unlikely that Chang will shortly set up here an administration of his own and seek the recognition of the powers. It would in any case have authority over only a portion of the country, and I doubt whether it would have any but military support and whether it would have any degree of permanency. Should the question be presented I trust I have your approval for an attitude of expectancy not antagonistic but insistent upon the actual demonstration of its substantial representative character and of its willingness and ability to govern.