893.512/404: Telegram

The Chargé in China (Mayer) to the Secretary of State

456. My 449, October 2 [3], 7 p.m.

Following telegram dated October 5th has just been received by Acting Inspector General of Customs from Commissioner of Customs, Canton:

“Urgent. Mandate will be issued tomorrow as follows: Temporary internal tax on consumption or production of articles of trade between Liang-Kwang Provinces61 and other provinces in China and foreign countries to come into effect 11th October or as near that date as possible. Half usual Maritime Customs and native customs tariff duties on general articles and full tariff duty on articles of luxury, i. e., silk, toilet articles, fur and leather, articles of decoration, gems and precious stones, et cetera. Cigars, cigarettes, imported wine, kerosene, gasoline, being already subject to special taxes, are exempt from this tax. Minister of Finance will collect ‘at or near respective Maritime Customs and native customs barriers’. Minister for Foreign Affairs writes me Minister of Finance would prefer if possible to borrow rooms customhouse for use of a small staff to carry on collection. I solicit instructions or any early indication of policy and probable action.”

Acting Inspector General of Customs gave me a copy of this in confidence preliminary to his reporting the matter to the Senior Minister and the Peking Government for its information and action. He asked me whether our Government would support the Customs in the event that the Canton regime attempt to force it to collect the taxes. I stated that I could not give him an answer but would report the matter immediately to the Department.
Edwardes stated that he will probably direct Commissioner of Customs at Canton not to associate himself with the new taxes in any manner whatsoever. Whether this attitude is maintained depends of course upon the decision of the powers concerned either to oppose the new taxes by force if necessary or to acquiesce in them.
It is obvious that these taxes whether collected through the agency of the Customs or otherwise will constitute a direct imposition on American traders of additional customs levies by the unilateral act of the Cantonese authorities, being in effect the nullification of fundamental treaty rights. This will be all the more flagrant, in appearance at least, in the event that Customs refuses to participate, since then the application of force by the Cantonese directly against American firms seems necessarily implied.
There will doubtless be a meeting of the Heads of Legations in [Page 873] the immediate future. If possible I should greatly appreciate an early indication of the line the Department would wish me to follow.
  1. Kwangtung and Kwangsi Provinces.