The Chargé in China (Mayer) to the Secretary of State
[Received January 22—11:45 a.m.]
61. 1. Following from Hankow:
“January 20, 6 p.m. Your January 18, 7 p.m.,1 was received this morning and I called in person on the Minister of Foreign Affairs at once and read to him a careful paraphrase of the telegram quoted from Foochow and of your instructions to me and asked in the latter regard that he give me a categorical reply to your inquiries. As a preliminary I stated that you had been for some time, as I had also, greatly concerned for the personal safety of Americans in the Yangtze Valley and the region south and that you had reached the point of seriously contemplating suggesting the immediate withdrawal of all Americans from the territory under Nationalist control. Ch’en replied without hesitation and quite emphatically that he will at once telegraph to Foochow ordering that the most complete protection be given to American life and property and to all foreigners there and in Fukien. He said that he had already given such an order for Hupeh, Kiangsi, and Hunan. He stated also that he will request the governing council of the Nationalist Government at its meeting tomorrow morning to order an immediate and searching inquiry as to the incident at Foochow and he said that if this investigation discloses that American property has been damaged in an outrage for which the Nationalist Government can be held properly responsible, adequate and full compensation will be granted to the sufferers. He again assured me that the Foochow incident will be settled at once and to the satisfaction of the American community. He said he wished you to know that he appreciated your bringing directly to his attention complaints of this kind and that in every case, when complaints are communicated to him, he will take steps immediately to remedy the situation of which complaint is made. He added that he will shortly issue a statement explaining particularly the policies of the Nationalist Government vis-à-vis foreigners; that this statement will probably be issued in the next 48 hours and that it will also explain the incidents leading up to the taking over of the [Page 250] British Concession. He stated that the Nationalist Government is not committed to the employment of force to recover concessions; all such matters he stated will be settled by negotiation. He said also that he desired to emphasize that in [sic] matters involving unequal treaties could and would be amicably settled through diplomatic negotiation.
With reference to concrete evidence of whether the Nationalist Government is capable of affording protection he cited the manner in which the British Concession at Hankow is now being administered and the order which is being maintained in the Concession by the Nationalist authorities.
Your warning created a deep impression upon him. I had also communicated a similar warning recently on my own responsibility and he had assured me that every possible protection would be afforded Americans in territory under Nationalist control. In the course of the conversation he stated that in spite of what has happened he asked very earnestly that you refrain from suggesting to the Americans to withdraw from the region under Nationalist control; he said that such a course would be a most regrettable act which would be wholly unwarranted and if carried out he ventured to suggest would have most unfortunate results as it might be interpreted as having been taken to promote British interests or as an act identifying American interests with the British. Ch’en is much disturbed over the gradual withdrawal of Americans and the prospect of further withdrawals. When I spoke with him on this subject recently he was very insistent that American life and property would be fully protected and that no real reason for withdrawal existed.
My telegrams of the last few days will indicate to you a tenseness of the present situation. The prospect of an amicable adjustment of the British Concession question here soon is not promising; unless the representatives of the two Governments approach this question in a spirit of conciliation it cannot possibly be settled and I greatly fear that the Chinese intend to insist upon concessions which the British will not be prepared to yield.
The general situation today remains unchanged and is full of possibilities. [Paraphrase.] The first time I brought the Foochow situation to the attention here of the Foreign Office was on January [omission], at the request of Consul Price, and I was given assurance that the lives and property of Americans would be protected. The measure of protection to be expected was indicated by the outbreak Sunday. To promise protection is simple enough but actually to provide it when there is mob rule prevailing, as has recently been the case here, and evidently at Foochow also, is a very different thing. As to any improvements in conditions I see absolutely no prospects, and I feel you would have complete justification for advising withdrawal [of American nationals?] from [apparent omission] and points up the river. [End paraphrase.]
2. For the immediate present and with a view to awaiting if possible concrete evidence of what Ch’en can accomplish in affording adequate protection to American citizens in areas under Nationalist control, I purpose to withhold any general warning to American citizens to evacuate such areas.[Page 251]
3. I am however telegraphing consul at Chungking to expedite evacuation of all Americans from his district as quickly and as quietly as possible and to American consul general at Hankow to follow the same course with respect to portions of his district from which speedy evacuation would be difficult. I am at the same time instructing consuls concerned to refrain until further notice from giving out that there is any general evacuation from these areas on the ground of their being under Nationalist control.