711.93/116 a: Telegram

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

28. The following is the text of a statement regarding this Government’s policy concerning China which will be given to the Press for publication in those papers appearing after 12:01 A.M., eastern standard time, Thursday 27th instant.

You may release on the equivalent of this hour. Repeat to Shanghai and Hankow.

At this time, when there is so much discussion of the Chinese situation, I deem it my duty to state clearly the position of the Department of State on the questions of tariff autonomy and the relinquishment of extraterritorial rights.

The United States has always desired the unity, the independence and prosperity of the Chinese nation. It has desired that tariff control and extraterritoriality provided by our treaties with China should as early as possible be released. It was with that in view that the United States made the declaration in relation to the relinquishment of extraterritoriality in the Treaty of 190390 and also entered into the Treaty of Washington of February 6, 1922, providing for a Tariff Conference to be held within three months after the coming into force of the Treaty.91

The United States is now and has been, ever since the negotiation of the Washington Treaty, prepared to enter into negotiations with any Government of China or delegates who can represent or speak for China not only for the putting into force of the surtaxes of the Washington Treaty but entirely releasing tariff control and restoring complete tariff autonomy to China.

The United States would expect, however, that it be granted most favored nation treatment and that there should be no discrimination against the United States and its citizens in customs duties, or taxes, in favor of the citizens of other nations or discrimination by grants of special privileges and that the open door with equal opportunity for trade in China shall be maintained; and further that China should afford every protection to American citizens, to their property and rights.

The United States is prepared to put into force the recommendations of the Extraterritoriality Commission92 which can be put into force without a treaty at once and to negotiate the release of extraterritorial rights as soon as China is prepared to provide protection by law and through her courts to American citizens, their rights and property.

The willingness of the United States to deal with China in the most liberal spirit will be borne out by a brief history of the events since making the Washington Treaty. That Treaty was ratified by the last one of the Signatory Powers on July 7, 1925, and the exchange [Page 351] of ratifications took place in Washington on August 6, 1925. Before the treaties finally went into effect and on June 24, 1925, the Chinese Government addressed identic notes to the Signatory Powers93 asking for the revision of existing treaties. On the first of July 1925, I sent instructions to our Minister in Peking,94 which instructions I also communicated to all the other Governments, urging that this should be made the occasion of evidencing to the Chinese our willingness to consider the question of treaty revision. I urged that the Powers expedite preparations for the holding of the Special Conference regarding the Chinese customs tariff and stated that the United States believed that this special tariff conference should be requested, after accomplishing the work required by the Treaty to make concrete recommendations upon which a program for granting complete tariff autonomy might be worked out. The Delegates of the United States were given full powers to negotiate a new treaty recognizing China’s tariff autonomy. At the same time, I urged the appointment of the Commission to investigate extraterritoriality, with the understanding that the Commission should be authorized to include in its report recommendations for the gradual relinquishment of extraterritorial rights. Prior to this, the Chinese Government urged the United States to use its influence with the interested Powers to hasten the calling of the Conference on Tariff Matters and the appointment of the Extraterritorial Commission and for each Government to grant to its representatives the broad power to consider the whole subject of the revision of the treaties and to make recommendations upon the subject of the abolition of extraterritorial rights. This was in harmony with the views of the United States. Accordingly, on September 4, 1925, the United States and each of the other Powers having tariff treaties with China evidenced their intention to appoint their delegates to the Tariff Conference. By a note which has been published, the Powers informed China95 of their willingness to consider and discuss any reasonable proposal that might be made by the Chinese Government on the revision of the treaties on the subject of the tariff and also announced their intention of appointing their representatives to the Extraterritorial Commission for the purpose of considering the whole subject of extraterritorial rights and authorizing them to make recommendations for the purpose of enabling the governments concerned to consider what, if any, steps might be taken with a view to the relinquishment of extraterritorial rights. Delegates were promptly appointed and the Chinese Tariff Conference met on October 26, 1925.96

Shortly after the opening of the Conference and on November 3, 1925, the American Delegation proposed that the Conference at once authorize the levying of a surtax of two and one-half per cent on necessaries, and, as soon as the requisite schedules could be prepared, authorize the levying of a surtax of up to five per cent on luxuries, as provided for by the Washington Treaty. Our delegates furthermore announced that the Government of the United States was prepared [Page 352] to proceed at once with the negotiation of such an agreement or agreements as might be necessary for making effective other provisions of the Washington Treaty of February 6, 1922. They affirmed the principle of respect for China’s tariff autonomy and announced that they were prepared forthwith to negotiate a new treaty which would give effect to that principle and which should make provision for the abolition of likin, for the removal of tariff restrictions contained in existing treaties and for the putting into effect of the Chinese National Tariff Law. On November 19, 1925, the Committee on Provisional Measures of the Conference, Chinese delegates participating, unanimously adopted the following resolution:

“The Delegates of the Powers assembled at this Conference resolve to adopt the following proposed article relating to tariff autonomy with a view to incorporating it, together with other matters, to be hereafter agreed upon, in a treaty which is to be signed at this Conference.

“The Contracting Powers other than China hereby recognize China’s right to enjoy tariff autonomy; agree to remove the tariff restrictions which are contained in existing treaties between themselves respectively and China; and consent to the going into effect of the Chinese National Tariff Law on January 1st, 1929.

“The Government of the Republic of China declares that likin shall be abolished simultaneously with the enforcement of the Chinese National Tariff Law; and further declares that the abolition of likin shall be effectively carried out by the First Day of the First Month of the Eighteenth Year of the Republic of China (January 1st, 1929).”

Continuously from the beginning of the Conference, our delegates and technical advisers collaborated with the delegates and technical advisers of the other Powers, including China, in an effort to carry out this plan,—viz. to put into effect the surtaxes provided for in the Washington Treaty, and to provide for additional tariff adequate for all of China’s needs until tariff autonomy should go into effect. Until about the middle of April 1926, there was every prospect for the successful termination of the Conference to the satisfaction of the Chinese and the other Powers. About that time the Government which represented China at the Conference was forced out of power. The delegates of the United States and the other Powers, however, remained in China in the hope of continuing the negotiations and on July 3, 1926, made a declaration as follows:

“The Delegates of the foreign Powers to the Chinese Customs Tariff Conference met at the Netherlands Legation this morning. They expressed the unanimous and earnest desire to proceed with the work of the Conference at the earliest possible moment when the Delegates of the Chinese Government are in a position to resume discussion with the foreign Delegates of the problems before the Conference.”

The Government of the United States was ready then and is ready now to continue the negotiations on the entire subject of the tariff and extraterritoriality or to take up negotiations on behalf of the United States alone. The only question is with whom it shall negotiate. As I have said heretofore, if China can agree upon the appointment of delegates representing the authorities or the people of the country, we are prepared to negotiate such a treaty. However, existing treaties which were ratified by the Senate of the United States cannot be abrogated by the President but must be superseded by new treaties negotiated with somebody representing China and subsequently ratified by the Senate of the United States.

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The Government of the United States has watched with sympathetic interest the nationalistic awakening of China and welcomes every advance made by the Chinese people toward reorganizing their system of Government.

During the difficult years since the establishment of the new regime in 1912, the Government of the United States has endeavored in every way to maintain an attitude of the most careful and strict neutrality as among the several factions that have disputed with one another for control in China. The Government of the United States expects, however, that the people of China and their leaders will recognize the right of American citizens in China to protection for life and property during the period of conflict for which they are not responsible. In the event that the Chinese Authorities are unable to afford such protection, it is of course the fundamental duty of the United States to protect the lives and property of its citizens. It is with the possible necessity for this in view that American naval forces are now in Chinese waters. This Government wishes to deal with China in a most liberal spirit. It holds no concessions in China and has never manifested any imperialistic attitude toward that country. It desires, however, that its citizens be given equal opportunity with the citizens of the other Powers to reside in China and to pursue their legitimate occupations without special privileges, monopolies or spheres of special interest or influence.

  1. Art. xv, Foreign Relations, 1903, pp. 91, 98.
  2. Art. ii, ibid., 1922, vol. i, pp. 282, 285.
  3. See telegram No. 412, Sept. 17, 1926, from the Chargé in China, Foreign Relations, 1926, vol. i, p. 979.
  4. Foreign Relations, 1925, vol. i, p. 763.
  5. Ibid., p. 767.
  6. See note of Sept. 4, 1925, from the American Minister to the Chinese Minister for Foreign Affairs, ibid., p. 831.
  7. See ibid., pp. 833 ff. and 1926, vol. i, pp. 743 ff.