893.00/8138: Telegram

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

72. Following from Hankow:

“Undated, filed January 23, 3 p.m. Minister of Foreign Affairs issued the following statement today:82

‘The leading assumption in all British and other foreign declarations of policy regarding China is that she is unable to look after her own interest[s] and that, in pursuance of the spirit of the Washington Conference, Great Britain and other powers must enter into self-denying ordinances respecting her in order to safeguard her integrity and independence, promote her political and economic development and the rehabilitation of her finances. This is not true of Nationalist China. Today this new China is strong and is conscious of its power and its ability by economic means to enforce its will on Chinese soil against any power. The question then is not what Great Britain and [the] other powers may wish to grant to China to meet the legitimate aspirations of the Chinese nation but what Nationalist China may justly grant to Great Britain and other powers, whose regime of international [control is now definitely sharing the fate of all historical] systems of political subjection. These words are used advisedly. The system of international control in China known as foreign imperialism has necessarily involved such a limitation of Chinese sovereignty, economic, judicial and political, that anything like real and full independence has not been enjoyed by China since England imposed on her the treaty of Nanking83 which inaugurated the systems. In [a] very real sense therefore it is historically true to state that the British, having defeated China in the Opium War[s], deprived her of independence. Englishmen of the present generation born since that dark transaction [may not remember]; but Nationalist China with the old [iron] of defeat in her flesh must need remember. This is the Nationalistic view and unless it is grasped one of the dominant aims of the Chinese Nationalism will not be understood. What is this dominant aim? It is the recovery of Chin[a’s] full independence which was lost as a result of defeat at the [hands] of the British. And until this act of historical justice is done there can be no real peace between China Nationalism and British Imperialism. [Before the emergence] of Chinese Nationalism in its revolutionary phase there was, it [is] true, [a] state of seeming peace between [the Chinese] and the British; but it was no more real and enduring than similar phenomena of peace that one finds recorded on every page of the history of conquest. A nation that is not dying can never be at peace with its conquerors. It will strike at the selected moment. The selected moment of Chinese Nationalism came when [Page 347] British-controlled rifles were ordered to shoot to kill Chinese students on China soil on May 30, 1925, at Shanghai;84 and the movement of liberation found its instrument of power when, following the further killing of Chinese students [and] others by foreign machine guns on June 23rd off the [Shameen] at Canton,85 the economic weapon was forced [forged] by Chinese Nationalism in [the South], The struggle has spread and continued to spread and continues to spread; and because it is waged by an awakened nation fighting to be free it will not cease until [complete] independence is won. Great Britain or any other [power] has nothing to fear when China, under [Nationalist] leadership, recovers her lost independence. It is not to revert to the methods of barbarism of a Chang Tsung-chang or to reintroduce the feudalism of a Chang Tso-lin or to maintain and perpetuate the mediaevalism of the [mandarinate] in Peking that [Nationalist] China wants independence. This is desired and is being [fought] for because a modern state must be set up in China if the Chinese people are not to suffer the fate of a dead nation. But [if] such state [is] to be built by Chinese hands, then China must be mistress of her own household. This means independence. A modern state in China implies the [existence of] a Government which will rule, administer, and tax China as the common possession of the Chinese people and not as the private property of some feudal or mediaeval [gang] in control of Peking; and generally [it connotes an ideology] and technique that will cause antisocial characters like Chang Tso-lin and his allies to be thought of [and] dealt with [in] terms of the conception of outlawry as defined in the books, and [will] subject individual British and other alien adventurers who aid and abet them to plunder China to punishment as international brigands. The Government whose existence is implied by a modern state in China will necessarily, since it will be a modern government, work [out] specific foreign issues involved in the recovery of China’s full independence along lines [which], while asserting and informing [enforcing] Chinese authority and preserving vital Nationalist interests, will not [disregard] consideration[s] of right and justice due to foreign nationals. But [in] this connection a great, impressive fact must be grasped. Today the effective protection of foreign lives and property in China does not [stand] and cannot longer rest on foreign bayonets and foreign gunboats because the arm of China Nationalism—the economic weapon—is more [puissant] than any [engine] of warfare that the foreigners can devise. And the British in particular must now understand that the forces of the present revolutionary situation are [handing] over the protection of foreign life and property [to a] Government that derives its authority from [those] in whose hands [is centered] the power that can paralyze the economic life of foreign nationals in China. It is however the view of the Nationalist Government that the liberation of China from the yoke of foreign imperialism need not necessarily involve any armed conflict between Chinese [Nationalism] and foreign powers, for the reason that the Nationalist Government would [Page 348] prefer to have all questions outstanding between Nationalist China and the foreign powers settled by negotiations and agreement. It is in this sense that the Minister for Foreign Affairs indicated the policy of the Nationalist Government to the American Minister when the latter visited Canton in the autumn;86 and the same policy has again been indicated to the new British Minister, to [the] Japanese representative and to a representative of the American Minister. In order to prove that this is no idle [statement] of policy the Nationalist Government hereby declares their readiness to negotiate separately with any of the powers for the settlement of treaty and other cognate questions on the basis of economic equality and mutual respect for each other’s [political] and territorial sovereignty. Despite misleading reports, the new status quo in the Hankow British Concession [has] involved no real departure from the [foregoing statement] of policy; and the Nationalist Government has categorically to repudiate the imputation that events leading to the new status quo—including the bayoneting of several Chinese, two of whom seriously—were deliberately planned and staged in order to bring about the [violent] and forcible [capture] of the Concession. The extension of Nationalist control to the Concession has been due less to the entry of armed Chinese forces (which took place with British consent) than to the landing in the first instance of armed British marines in circumstances [inevitably] calculated to provoke, and which did provoke, a [bloody] clash with [a] patriotic Chinese crowd and to the abdication by the British Municipal Council of its powers (which, together with the unnecessary evacuation of British women and children, was the result of too lurid an interpretation of the situation by the British) with the consequent establishment of the present Nationalist commission for the administration of the Concessions. Finally the Nationalist Government have to emphasize [that] the British trade and other interest[s] lie preponderantly along the Yangtze and in South China, which are all subject to the Nationalist Government; almost the whole of China south of the Yangtze [together] with large areas in the north, including all the territory under the Kuominchun, is under Nationalist control; and if a plebiscite were taken in the territory under Chang Tso-lin, Chang Tsung-ch’ang, and Sun Ch’uan-fang, an overwhelming vote would be cast in favor of the Nationalist Government. But the [most] decisive argument of all is [that] the Nationalist Government represents the real spirit of awakened China and is [the] instrument of power and achievement of a revolutionary movement with which foreign imperialism must come to terms. No power incurs any risk in coming to terms with [a] Government which derives its authority and sanction [from] and is supported by Chinese Nationalism because Chinese Nationalism is indisputable and is an [indestructible] and invincible force.


  1. Telegram in two sections.
  2. Garbled text corrected on basis of statement printed in the China Year Book, 1928, p. 762.
  3. Signed Aug. 29, 1842; British and Foreign State Papers, vol. xxx, p. 389.
  4. See Foreign Relations, 1925, vol. i, pp. 647 ff.
  5. See ibid., pp. 749 ff.
  6. See telegram No. 449, Oct. 3, 1926, from the Chargé in China, Foreign Relations, 1926, vol. i, p. 866.