The Consul General at Canton (Jenkins) to the Minister in China (MacMurray)17

No. 495

Sir: I have the honor to report that your telegram of July 24, 2:00 a.m., was received in this Consulate General on the morning of July 26. It was immediately decoded and embodied in a note which was delivered to Mr. Chen by special messenger about 4:00 o’clock that afternoon. As it was not convenient for me to call at the same time, I sent a personal note to Mr. Chen to inform him that I would call to see him the following morning in respect to your communication.

When I saw Mr. Chen at 11:00 a.m. the next day, I endeavored to let him understand as you instructed that his original note might serve a useful purpose but that this value would probably be lost if he indulged in further communications for propaganda purposes. Mr. Chen frankly said that he would have to reply to the American Minister’s message because “it furnished too good an opportunity to be missed”. Mr. Chen added, however, that he would take the precaution to couch his views in more restrained language than in the past, and he hoped the Consulate General and the Legation would appreciate the attitude of the Nationalist Government.

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Mr. Chen drew my attention to the fact that the Legation had evidently given publicity to the Minister’s instructions to the Consulate General on July 24, whereas he (Chen) had not received the Consulate General’s note until the afternoon of July 26. I explained to Mr. Chen that this was undoubtedly due to the Legation’s failure to realize how slow telegraphic communication was in these times and that the Minister was evidently under the impression that the message would reach me much sooner than it actually did. In this connection, the Legation will doubtless be interested to know that Reuter’s telegram conveying the verbatim text of the Legation’s message was published in the Hongkong Morning Post of July 26 (before the telegram had been delivered to this Consulate General) and actually reached Canton an hour or two earlier than the Consulate General could deliver its note to the Canton Foreign Office.

The Consulate General is just this moment in receipt of Mr. Chen’s reply dated July 28, which has doubtless been published in the Cantonese newspapers this morning. Copy of Mr. Chen’s note is enclosed and the Legation’s particular attention is invited to the final paragraph which contains a threat against the United States and other Powers concerned in the event of a resumption of the Tariff Conference and the perfection of arrangements for a loan to the Peking régime based on customs receipts.

There has been considerable talk in the local newspapers of late in advocacy of a declaration of tariff autonomy by China. Mr. Chen has not alluded specifically to this in his conversations so far as I can ascertain, but he has intimated on more than one occasion, as he does in this note, that the so-called Nationalist Government will take drastic measures of some sort should the Powers arrange for a loan to the Wu Pei-fu–Chang Tso-lin group.

As previously reported in despatches from this Consulate General, the Cantonese regime seems to be confident of the success of its military expedition against the North and Mr. Chen has assured the writer of this despatch that not only would the Cantonese armies soon reach the Yangtze River, but that there would be a real government in Peking in the near future with which the United States and the other Powers could deal. Political leaders down here seem to anticipate important changes in the affiliations of military leaders in the Yangtze Valley although they have mentioned no names and given out no details. It is felt, however, that the situation is full of grave possibilities and that the Legation should be prepared for far-reaching changes in the North in the near future. The Southerners may possibly meet with an overwhelming defeat but if they should be successful in attracting other powerful leaders to their cause, the predictions of the Cantonese may materialize more speedily than now seems possible.

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In conclusion may I express my hearty approval of the intimation contained in the Minister’s telegram to the effect that further discussion with Mr. Chen is not desired … I am still of the opinion, however, that if our Government could permit the Legation to publish a statement more clearly defining the attitude of the United States in relation to China, the results might be beneficial.

I have [etc.]

Douglas Jenkins

The Chinese Acting Minister of Foreign Affairs at Canton (Chen) to the American Consul General (Jenkins)

Sir: I have the honour to acknowledge the receipt of your letter, dated July 26, in reply to my note of protest against the resumption of the Special Tariff Conference at Peking. In no querulous sense do I draw your attention to the fact that the text of your reply was handed to Reuter’s Agency in time for publication in Peking and elsewhere on July 24—48 hours before it was delivered at this Ministry. While I do not wish to stress this lapse in procedure, you will, I do not doubt, agree that its repetition should be avoided in the future.

I note that Mr. MacMurray views my Government’s strong opposition to the resumption of the Conference as evidence of “a disheartening lack of unanimity amongst the Chinese people in respect to the efforts of the Government of the United States jointly with the other friendly Powers concerned to carry out its purpose of bringing into effect certain re-adjustments in its treaty relations with China.” But what seems to Mr. MacMurray to be a “disheartening lack of unanimity” in understanding and appreciating the policy of the United States is, in truth, a convincing proof that that policy is wrong at once in conception and in application.

The policy is wrong because it is an expression of American failure to realise that the Chinese situation is fundamentally a Revolutionary situation and that, therefore, a Revolutionary i. e. a fundamental solution is necessary as opposed to a solution involving a series of socalled “evolutionary” re-adjustments. And the situation is Revolutionary because the principle of change implicit in the Revolution of 1911–12 has not yet been worked out in the life of the Nation, particularly in its politico-economic aspect, owing to the constant interference and intervention, direct and indirect, of certain Foreign Powers who (to cite some signal instances) first supported Yuan Shih-kai in his attempt to destroy the Chinese Republic and financed him with the Re-organisation Loan of 1913, next supported Tuan Chijui in his Anfu days and financed him with the Nishihara and other [Page 852] loans, then supported Wu Pei-fu and financed him with Customs and Salt surpluses, and are now contemplating the support of a composite strong man in the diversified persons of Wu Pei-fu and Chang Tso-lin and the financing of this brace of militarists with the proceeds of a loan to be secured on the promised Tariff surtaxes.

Persistence in such a policy makes not only for Chinese disorder and what is called “chaos” in this country but for the intellectual confusion and moral bankruptcy of the diplomacy of the Powers. And naught but a “disheartening lack of unanimity” will manifest itself whenever the Government of the United States is moved to apply its “evolutionary” policy to the Revolutionary facts of the Chinese situation.

Nationalist China insists on a fundamental solution of the group of issues known as the Chinese question. Internally, this means that the new military and political technique which has enabled the Nationalist Government to unify the Liang-kuang militarily, fiscally and politically must be applied on a national scale in order that the Chinese people may work out their own salvation in the interests of themselves as a whole and not to subordinate the same to such alien interests as foreign high finance and foreign trade. And externally, the dominating feature of a fundamental solution of the Chinese question is that America should revise its present policy of “bringing into effect certain re-adjustments of its treaty relations with China” and, recognising the necessity of a General Re-adjustment of such treaty relations instead of readjustments on the instalment plan, satisfy the demand of Nationalist China for the substitution of the unequal treaties by other treaties consistent with the real independence and sovereignty of China. This is a policy that has been definitely brought within the range of practical politics and proved to be both practicable and expedient by the bold statesmanship of Soviet Russia.

In view of the fact that “at the moment there exists no central government supported by all sections of China and recognized by the interested Powers with which to deal on a basis of mutuality of responsibilities”, it would be proper and pertinent for Mr. MacMurray to ask with whom is America, either alone or in conjunction with other Powers, to negotiate regarding a general re-adjustment of China’s treaty relations with Foreign Powers. The Foreign Powers can only negotiate, in the interests of all concerned, with a National Government of China whose authority and power is a reality.

As there is not such a government at the moment, I have the honour to repeat the warning that the Nationalist Government, whose authority is now extending to Central China, will repudiate all and every loan to be concluded with the agents of Wu Pei-fu and Chang Tso-lin in Peking, and to add that the resumption of the Special Tariff Conference will be viewed by my Government as a deliberate attempt on the [Page 853] part of the United States and the other interested Powers to convert the Chinese Maritime Customs from a politico-fiscal organ into an engine of war-finance and foreign intervention in China’s civil or rather Revolutionary wars. In this event the Nationalist Government will be compelled to take certain defensive measures.

I have [etc.]

Chen Yu-jen
  1. Copy transmitted to the Department by the consul general as an enclosure to his despatch No. 612, July 29; received Sept. 2.