893.00/8420: Telegram

The Minister in China ( MacMurray ) to the Secretary of State


239. Your No. 96, March 18, 10 a.m.8

Your authorization to me to use Mayer9 as personal representative and official observer with the Nationalist authorities at Hankow [Page 4] is greatly appreciated. Quite possibly circumstances may come about in which making use of the discretion thus vested in me would be most helpful. However, I do not feel that to avail myself of it in the present conjuncture would be opportune.
Although the recent progress of the Kuomintang cause has been amazing, still its final success and even the permanence of its hold on the gains made thus far are problematical. Even though, as I am disposed to believe, [garbled groups] loyalty, coherence of action and comparative vitality of purpose will assure the eventual dominance of the Kuomintang Party throughout China, nevertheless there is as yet no certainty whether that dominance will be achieved in any near future, without reverses, or with the controlling group at present in power. At the present time the immediate future of the Hankow group is in the balance as regards both its position relative to the rival Northern organization and the factional contest inside the Nationalist Party.
If a representative of the Legation were to take up residence at this time in Hankow, not under stress of some need for dealing immediately with a concrete urgent question but for the general object of setting up closer relations with the so-called Nationalist regime now functioning there, it would appear as a positive act which was designed to give moral support and countenance to the Southerners as opposed to the Northerners and to the radical Russianized element of the Nationalists as opposed to the moderate and the more truly National elements which it seems are more or less definitely separating from the extremest influences that center at Hankow. At the present juncture such a gesture would create an impression that it was our wish to cast our influence on the side of those maintaining that reformation of China’s foreign relationships can come about only by a form of revolution which is destructive of rights and institutions now existing. Consult my No. 237 of March 22.9a
I do not assume to foresee how or when there may again arise a contingency which would make timely the Legation’s availing itself of such suggested representation for the purpose of de facto dealing with those who are actually exercising authority in the various regions of political jurisdiction in China as was recommended in my No. 325 of August 14.10 I feel that for the time being there is neither opportunity nor necessity for what was suggested then. Subjectively the Kuomintang are too elated to deal on a regional basis; objectively they are not in a position as yet to deal on a national basis. Meanwhile I do not find any inadequacy in the procedure for [Page 5] taking up current matters through the consular officer at hand. It is doubtless realized by the Department that the consul is regarded in China as a political agent, considered locally no less a representative of the Minister than is a member of the staff of the Legation. Even though some months ago Ch’en11 made a bid (see my No. 626 of December 1812) for the institution of diplomatic representation in some form, which would be for his regime an entering wedge for recognition as the Government of China, he does not seem, unless indirectly, to have found a renewal of that [effort] [garbled group] expedient; in fact he accepts representations in my name from Lockhart as being quite as authentic as anything would be that could be conveyed through a member of my staff. For my part, I am equally satisfied with whatever assurances he presents to me through Lockhart. Bearing in mind in addition that the Nationalist dominion may recede, with the map of Chinese political influences changing over night, I have doubts of the expediency of lending ourselves to an idea that our consuls are not capable of speaking for their diplomatic chiefs authoritatively; and reserving the matter of questions in regard to which designation by the Legation of some special representative plight be desirable to deal with a particular problem, it is my feeling that if we were to establish the precedent of superseding consular officers by specially detailed representatives from the Legation staff we should risk impairment of our consular organization’s excellent morale and, amidst the confusion of Chinese political developments, needlessly limit our available means of procedure.
Since there is no actual government in China but instead a hurly-burly of aspirants to the functions of government, it is the logic of the situation, which to conform to during an active state of civil war on a large scale would not be timely, that the post of Minister should be abolished and someone appointed High Commissioner to China with the authority to designate as he might consider expedient foreign service officers as commissioners to represent him when occasion might require. The situation is such that I feel it would not be timely to put this suggestion into effect, but nevertheless I venture the remark that were I High Commissioner, for all ordinary purposes I should unhesitatingly designate Lockhart for that purpose as the Commissioner at Hankow rather than as a Legation member.
  1. Not printed.
  2. Ferdinand Mayer, Counselor of Legation at Peking.
  3. Not printed.
  4. Foreign Relations, 1926, vol. i, p. 671.
  5. Eugene Ch’en, Minister for Foreign Affairs in the Nationalist Government at Hankow.
  6. Foreign Relations, 1926, vol. i, p. 687.