893.512/524: Telegram

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

23. Your 58, January 21, noon.

Apparently there is no possibility that there can be unanimity of agreement among the Powers on subject of immediate and unconditional putting into effect of Washington surtaxes Japanese Ambassador called upon me on January 21 and outlined his Government’s position as being opposed to proposal to consent to putting into effect of surtaxes by China without due negotiation as provided by the Washington treaty. The Japanese Governments holds that to follow, such a line would amount to formal acceptance of abandonment of Washington Conference treaty by China and is convinced that this would be interpreted by the Chinese as a clear indication that the Powers will accept the unilateral denunciation by china of the tariff and extraterritorial provisions of the treaties.
The Japanese Ambassador called upon the Chief of the far Eastern Division on January 22 and again outlined the views of his Government as set forth above. He added that his Government [Page 378] had instructed him to say that it had been informed of the steps taken in this matter in the meeting of the Diplomatic Body on January 20. He stated that his Government had been informed that the Diplomatic Body proposed to make public the declaration quoted in Paragraph 3 of your No. 58, subscribed to by all but Japanese Minister if Japanese opposition had not been withdrawn when Diplomatic Body meets again on January 27.
The Ambassador stated that his Government knew this Government’s attitude toward the question of the surtaxes but that it felt that there was much difference between the temporary internal taxes imposed by the so-called Nationalist authorities in South China and the proposal of the Peking authorities which was to put into effect throughout China the surtaxes on China’s external trade provided for in the Washington treaty. His Government could not see how the two phases of this tax matter could be covered together under the one term surtaxes in a declaration such as that proposed by the Diplomatic Body.
The Ambassador stated that he had been directed to say that in the opinion of his Government such a declaration at this time when the rights of treaty Powers were being attacked and when it was so necessary that there be cooperation on the part of the Powers would mean the scrapping of the Washington treaties; that the Japanese Government had always abided by the Washington treaties and had been animated by a sincere desire to cooperate with the other Powers in these matters and that if action is taken such as that proposed by the Diplomatic Body Japan would not only be isolated, but it would demonstrate to the Chinese a lack of cooperation among the Powers which could not but have the most regrettable reaction upon international friendship and good faith.
The Ambassador asked whether in view of the most important results which his Government foresaw would follow the action proposed by the Diplomatic Body the Government of the United States still adopted by the Diplomatic Body.
The Department has on several occasions informed you that this Government is prepared to consent to the immediate putting into effect of the Washington surtaxes, its most recent instruction being its telegram No.14 of January 18, 7 p.m., authorizing you to signify to this Chines this Government’s assent to the immediate and unconditional levying of the surtaxes upon the trade of American nationals Department agrees with you that collection should not be conditioned upon collection through Maritime Customs.
This Government does not wish, however, to appear to be favoring one side or the other in the conflict now going on in China. It furthermore believes that every effort should be made to adjust differences of viewpoint with a view to unified action by the Powers on [Page 379] this matter and desires your comments on this point before authorizing you to join in a declaration on the subject which would not include the Japanese, as suggested in Paragraph 5 of your No. 58.
In his conversation on January 21, with the Secretary, the Japanese Ambassador stated that the Japanese Minister at Peking acting under instructions had proposed sometime ago to the Diplomatic Body a resumption of the Special Conference for the purpose of discussing these matters, representatives of the two opposing groups in China being invited to participate with representatives of Chinese business men not connected with politics. I should like to have your comments upon the suggestion as to a possible means of bringing together the contending groups for the purpose of reaching a solution of some of these matters by orderly negotiations.