500.A4e/627: Telegram

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

301. My telegram number 298, July 24, 3 p.m. [a.m.]

1. Cabinet, whose formation was reported in my number 277, July 7, 5 p.m.,16 was organized upon the insistence of Wu Pei-fu that steps be taken on the Chinese side to compel foreign delegations to continue work of Conference. He was reported at the time (and the report now seems to be adequately confirmed) to have said that announcements made by the foreign delegations as reported in Conference telegram number 47, July 3, 6 p.m.,16a was tantamount to abandonment of the Conference and to have threatened that if foreign delegations should refuse to proceed upon an invitation from new Chinese administration the Chinese should assume tariff autonomy independently. Admiral Tsai thereupon made indirect inquiries through intermediaries as to the position of the several delegations and found them all unwilling to commit themselves to negotiations with representatives of the present exceedingly precarious regime. [Page 848] He therefore issued invitations to informal conference reported in Conference telegram number 51, July 23, 11 p.m. This supposedly informal discussion with Admiral Tsai and his newly appointed colleagues was in fact so conducted as to be palpably an attempt to commit the powers to a recognition of the present regime and compel them to accept it as competent to deal in behalf of China for the purposes of the Conference. Despite the fact that no agreement was reached by the meeting there was a general feeling among the foreign delegations that the Wu faction would exploit as evidence of the recognition of this regime by the foreign powers the mere fact that their delegates had met with the Chinese for a discussion of Conference matters. This apprehension is confirmed by statements in this morning’s press evidently emanating from Chinese delegation.

2. There has meanwhile been apparent a revulsion of Chinese feeling against the continuance of the Conference under present circumstances from which expected financial advantages would accrue to sole benefit of allied Wu and Chang factions. Violent protests have been made to me by Eugene Chen in behalf of the Canton regime and by a spokesman of the Kuominchun. Although previously published in local press, texts of both these protests were in fact received only yesterday afternoon. The following are extracts from Chen’s letter addressed to the consul general at Canton, July 14, for communication to me.

[The extracts have been omitted. For full text of the letter, see page 844.]

3. There seemed to me so great a danger that the present unrecognized Peking regime would misrepresent us as committed to support Wu and the allied factions as against claims of other factions in China, that I felt it was a matter of urgency to offset any such impression of partiality by replying to Chen’s protest, and making public that reply, in terms which would make clear our freedom from commitment to any particular group and emphasize our desire in this and related matters to act for the’ benefit of China as a whole. After consultation with Strawn, I accordingly telegraphed Jenkins as reported in my July 24, 3 a.m.

4. I regret that, under the necessity of taking immediate action to avert our being placed in false light of partisanship towards the military coalition now occupying capital, I was compelled to take a positive position in this delicate matter without the opportunity of obtaining your instructions; and my having done so may indeed result in diminishing chances that this Cabinet might obtain recognition either of our own or of other governments; and it must be realized that there is at the present time no reasonable prospect nor any expectation among representative China [Chinese] of the formation in the immediately foreseeable future of a government commanding [Page 849] the general support of the country. I felt no hesitancy in taking the responsibility of this decision, however, in view not only of known internal dissensions within the coalition and of its apparently hopeless military situation but because I feel that we could not escape popular judgment that we were playing favorites with Wu and Chang if we were to commit ourselves to recognizing and dealing with a regime so adventitiously established, so precarious, and as is generally felt, so cynically regarded even by those who have consented to hold office under it. I trust my action in this matter meets with your approval.

  1. Not printed.
  2. Not printed; it contained a report of the meeting held July 3. For details of that meeting, see pp. 837840.