893.512/524: Telegram

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

58. Department’s telegram No. 14, January 18, 7 p.m., and last paragraph Legation’s 43, January 18, 9 a.m.

1. At meeting yesterday Japanese Minister stated his Government was opposed to the surtaxes and while anxious to have an exchange [Page 376] of views at the meeting he wished to state that his Government was now ready to make known to the Chinese Government its ideas in opposition to the surtaxes independently of the other powers. It seemed evident that the Japanese Minister was about to address note of protest to the Wai Chiao Pu. Yoshizawa furthermore affirm[ed] that his Government was pleased to observe that the Chinese Government desired to resume the Conference, with which proposal the Japanese Government was in entire agreement.

2. In connection with Minister MacMurray’s suggestion in paragraph 2 of the Legation’s 43, January 18, 9 a.m., and the idea expressed in paragraph 8 thereof, I have become more and more convinced that we should avoid any formal reply to the Wai Chiao Pu accepting the surtaxes in so many words not only for the reason advanced in Legation’s number 43 but also in order to avoid appearing to discriminate against the Nationalists in favor of the Peking regime. It will be recalled that when former instituted the ill-advised taxation at Canton we protested.27 To acquiesce in and thus condne a similar illegality on the part of Peking authorities could not but seem discriminatory in the eyes [of] Southerners.

3. At meeting therefore I proposed that, instead of a joint reply or identic reply to the Wai Chiao Pu’s note in question, an effort in particular [be made?] to agree upon a declaration by the powers concerned assenting in general terms to the imposition of the Washington surtaxes in the sense of paragraph 2 of the Legation’s 43. A copy of such a declaration could be sent to the Wai Chiao Pu for its information which would serve as a reply to its note of January 13. Although the Japanese Minister expressed himself as almost inevitably unable to concur in such a declaration, repeating the necessity of his protesting formally with the Wai Chiao Pu against the new surtaxes, it was the sense of the meeting that an attempt should be made to draft such a declaration which a committee consisting of the Netherlands, the French Minister and myself have drawn up to the following effect:

“The representatives in China of the powers signatory and adhering to the Washington Treaty of February 6, 1922, relating to Chinese customs tariff have noted the fact that the surtaxes determined upon and promised to the Chinese Nation at the Washington Conference have been put into effect or are about to be put into effect in various parts of the country.

In view of this widespread indication of the desire of the Chinese people that these surtaxes should be implemented at once, the representatives of the powers concerned, consistent with their intention to carry into effect that [the?] promises made to China at Washington, consider it their duty to declare that they have no objection to the immediate and unconditional imposition of the Washington surtaxes at all treaty ports throughout China.

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The interested diplomatic representatives assume that on grounds of convenience and efficiency arrangements may be made for the collection of these surtaxes through the medium of the Maritime Customs Administration.”

4. While it was my original intention to try and devise a formula to which the Japanese could agree, the drafting committee decided that this would be impossible and it would be preferable to proceed in an effort to draw up a draft which would be acceptable to the rest of the colleagues with the hope that [in the] last analysis Japanese would come in rather than be isolated by refusal to concur. It was believed advisable not to make collection by the Maritime Customs appear as a condition precedent to agreement with the surtaxes since in effect we had no means of enforcing this condition and since we desired to present the surtaxes to the Chinese people with no strings tied to them.

5. While I assume from the Department’s 14, January 18, 7 a.m., that it would approve of such a declaration, I respectfully request telegraphic instructions to this effect at the earliest moment practicable in particular reference to my joining in such action without the concurrence of the Japanese or even should only several of the powers such as Great Britain, France, Italy and the like agree with us thereto.