Memorandum by the Chief of the Division of Far Eastern Affairs (Johnson)

  • Conversation
    • Mr. Sao-Ke Alfred Sze, Chinese Minister.
    • The Secretary of State.
    • (Mr. N. T. Johnson present.)

Subject: The Chinese Situation.

The Chinese Minister called upon the Secretary today. He stated that it was his understanding that the instructions given to the American Navy in going to China were that they were there for the purpose of protecting American life and property. The Secretary stated that the Minister understood the matter correctly; that it was our purpose to do everything possible to afford the protection to American citizens which the Chinese seemed unable to give.

The Minister stated that he thought that the actions at Foochow against missionaries were those of northern soldiers. (The Secretary was out of the room to attend a press conference for a moment and during this interval Mr. Johnson informed the Minister that the Department had been informed by its Consul at Foochow that the attacks on missionaries there were by soldiers presumably under the control of the Nationalist authorities and that the Consul had attempted to see the Nationalist commander and get him to do something to protect Americans but that the Nationalist commander had [Page 52] refused to see him or to make any promises of protection. The Chinese Minister stated that he thought that undue importance was given to these matters and stated that he himself here in Washington was constantly being pressed by excited Chinese who were complaining of ill treatment of immigration officers in the United States.)

When the Secretary returned to the room the Chinese Minister stated that he had sent a personal telegram to Eugene Chen at Hankow urging him to take measures to see that the agitations against missionaries were stopped. He said that he did not know what effect his telegram would have but that he hoped it would have some effect. The Chinese Minister stated that the Chinese were very much confused as to the policy of the United States; that he felt that the United States should make some statement as to its policy with regard to China. The Secretary stated that he had not had time to consider this matter as we were more preoccupied with the question of protecting American citizens. He asked the Chinese Minister whether he knew what was going to happen at Shanghai or what the attitude of the Nationalist authorities at Shanghai was. The Chinese Minister stated that he did not know; that he did not believe that there would be any trouble at Shanghai. He said that the situation at Shanghai was complicated because the northern leaders at Shanghai intended to collect surtaxes on foreign trade and that, inasmuch as 40 per cent of the foreign trade of China passed through Shanghai, this meant a very large increase of funds for the use of the partisans who were opposed to the Nationalist cause. He was afraid that this would make for trouble. The Secretary stated that we were making every effort to maintain a neutral attitude toward this conflict. The Chinese Minister again referred to the question of a statement of policy and the Secretary stated that he would like to talk to the Minister about that sometime and that he would like to see the Minister some day and talk about the subject. The Chinese Minister said he would be very glad to have this opportunity so to talk. The conversation here ended.

N[elson] T. J[ohnson]