The Minister in China (MacMurray) to the Secretary of State
[Received August 18—9:45 a: m.]
331. 1. I was approached yesterday in behalf of the nominal Minister for Foreign Affairs by a member of the Foreign Office, Wei, who informed me that the Soviet Government has been notified by this administration that Karakhan no longer is persona grata as Ambassador from Russia, but that his recall is likely to be refused by Moscow. Demands have persistently been made by Moscow that information be given to it of the reason alleged against him. The Peking authorities, while convinced Karakhan has abused his diplomatic status by meddling in Chinese domestic politics and by indulging in subversive propaganda, have refused to state their grounds for desiring that he be recalled or transferred and so make the question a matter of debate.
2. Wei had been sent to me, and to the Senior Minister and the British Legation, to inquire what view we would take of the matter if the Chinese Foreign Office gave Karakhan his passport and, in case the Ambassador refused to leave the security he has in his Embassy in the Diplomatic Quarter, insisted on dealing with his staff instead of with him.
3. My reply was that it must not be assumed from the fact that my Government had no official relations with the regime of the Soviets [Page 1098] that we are hostile to Russia. We are merely aloof. So far as I as American Minister am concerned, I do not have any relationship with Ambassador Karakhan except in his capacity as dean of the diplomatic body, which he is in consequence of his acceptance as Russian Ambassador by the Chinese. If his functions as such were to be terminated by the Chinese, the question for us would be equally determined by that act. His status is a matter wholly between the Chinese and the Russians. We are completely unconcerned, even though we may deplore the fact that an attitude of active hostility has been taken openly by the Soviet representative in regard to what we deem our just rights in China.
4. A rather outspoken conversation followed, in the course of which I intimated that in case the Chinese attempted Karakhan’s removal by force, it was ironical that we who uphold the Boxer protocol97 would have to give protection to Karakhan, for he has proclaimed that protocol iniquitous and obsolete although he insists occasionally upon participating in the privileges conferred by it.
5. In addition I made reference to the possible position of the Russians that the present Peking regime lacked competence to declare a diplomatic representative to be persona non grata. Wei said it was not impossible that the Russians might take such a position but he thought they could not do so consistently, not only in view of their Manchurian interests but of the attitude they have adopted hitherto. I intimated that, whatever attitude toward the present Peking regime we ourselves might have, it might well be, if in fact the Russians had dealt with that regime as the Government of China, that any questioning by them of the competence of the regime to dismiss the unwelcome Russian Ambassador might be considered as estopped.
6. I trust you approve of my views in this matter.
- of September 7, 1901; Foreign Relations, 1901, appendix (Affairs in China), p. 312.↩