The Minister in China (MacMurray) to the Secretary of State
[Received December 18—10:22 a.m.]
626. My 622, December 17, 5 p.m.83 Following from American consul general, Hankow:
“December 17, noon. In the course of an informal call on Eugene Chen this morning he stated that the office of Commissioner of Foreign Affairs is now in process of being merged into the office of the Minister for Foreign Affairs and that actual merging will shortly take place. He stated further that his government is now known to be definitely national in scope and will soon be much more so. As a national government he will shortly request that in order to conduct the affairs of the government on a basis of some semblance of diplomatic regularity, all correspondence will necessarily have to be addressed to him by the local American official representative as ‘Minister for Foreign Affairs’ and that the person so addressing him must be clothed with the authority either of a commissioner or possibly ‘diplomatic agent and consul general’. He cited the method of correspondence now employed by the Legation when a subordinate officer, in the absence of the Minister, signs correspondence ‘For the Minister’. I seriously doubt whether this plan is feasible. It seems rather vague and indefinite, illogical, quite irregular and to denote in fact a form of recognition which, as I understand it, the American Government is not yet prepared to extend. Should such an arrangement be deemed advisable, however, Chen stated that he could be addressed direct from Peking, if the need should arise, or by me or some other authorized representative here signing ‘For the Minister’. It would seem far preferable that the representative here both were vested with the authority of commissioner or ‘diplomatic agent and consul general’. The latter probably lacks the sanction of substantive law. Chen is not yet clear in his own mind as to which form would be preferable but stated that the matter would have to be definitely settled soon and he wishes you to give it your prompt and most thoughtful consideration. He said that he wished to have a further talk with me on this and other subjects in a few days, I asked him quite frankly what would be the alternative should it be impossible to work out mutually satisfactory plan of carrying on our relations here, and he said that intercourse would necessarily cease until such a plan could be evolved, intimating that short of recognition itself relations could not be continued under the new order of things unless one of the three suggestions are adopted.
In the course of the conversation Chen remarked that the American Government is often too technical in matters of this kind and that it overlooks the practicalities of a case.”