Memorandum by the Assistant Secretary of State (Johnson)94

  • Conversation
    • Dr. C. C. Wu, Special Representative of the Nationalist Government of China;
    • Mr. Frank W. Lee, a Representative of the Nationalist Government of China;
    • Mr. Nelson T. Johnson, Assistant Secretary of State;
    • Mr. Stanley K. Hornbeck, Chief of the Far Eastern Division;
    • Mr. Willys R. Peck, Assistant Chief of the Far Eastern Division.

Subject: Method of Organization of the Nationalist Government of China.

An informal dinner party was given by Dr. C. C. Wu on the night of June 22 at the Wardman Park Hotel, the persons named being present.

After dinner Dr. Wu asked Mr. Johnson when he would be prepared to begin discussions regarding treaty revision. Mr. Johnson did not reply to this question but instead asked “Where is the seat of the Government of China?”. Dr. Wu replied that the seat of the Government of China was at Nanking.

Following this Messrs. Johnson, Hornbeck and Peck asked Dr. Wu and Mr. Lee a number of questions designed to elicit specific information in regard to the constitution and mode of operation of the Nationalist Government. The replies made by Dr. Wu were often hesitant and vague, conveying the impression that he was not entirely clear in his own mind on these matters.

Dr. Wu was asked of what the Nationalist Government was composed. He replied that the Government Council was the Government of China. Asked who composed the Government Council he replied that Mr. Tan Yen-kai was its chairman, its members being Feng Yu-hsiang, Chiang Kai-shek, himself and others. He rather thought Mr. T. V. Soong, at present Minister for Finance, had recently been appointed to the Council. He did not know exactly how many members of the Council there were.

Being asked the source from which the Government Council derived its authority, Dr. Wu replied that it was appointed by the Central Executive Committee of the Kuomintang (Nationalist Party). All of Dr. Wu’s statements were made in response to insistent questions by his American guests. He said that the Central Executive Committee of the Kuomintang numbered about 36 and that it was elected by the members of the Kuomintang in annual convention assembled. The last annual convention was held in the spring of 1926 at Canton. Although the convention should be held annually it could be postponed in case of necessity for one year. It was not held in the spring of the present year. In February of the present year the Fourth Plenary Session of the Central Executive Committee of the Kuomintang was held at Nanking, at which time the present Government Council was appointed.

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In regard to a suppositious ease proposed for purposes of discussion Dr. Wu said if the Nationalist Government desired to undertake treaty negotiations the authority responsible for this would devolve upon the Minister for Foreign Affairs or someone appointed by him for the purpose. Closely questioned Dr. Wu said that the document conferring this power would be signed by the Government Council but obviously not by all of the members, since they were too numerous. He thought that the document would bear the signature of the Chairman of the Council and maybe one or two more on behalf of the others. Final ratification would be by the Government Council itself.

At the present time the Government Council of the Nationalist Government is vested with all the powers of government, including that of appointing national and provincial officials. Dr. Wu thought that in the final organization of the Nationalist Government the plan proposed by Sun Yat Sen would be followed, i. e., the “five powers” would be recognized.95 The “five powers” are legislative, executive, the judiciary, examining and censorate.

Dr. Wu was asked particularly what source might be consulted in order to ascertain the specific granting of power to conduct treaty negotiations. In the course of somewhat vague replies it developed that the Kuomintang has a written constitution and the Nationalist Government, likewise, has a written constitution, but neither of these documents appeared to be available. Dr. Wu intimated, on the other hand, that the military period had ended and the period of tutelage had begun, as set down by Sun Yat Sen. He said that a Peoples’ Convention would be held to decide upon the form of Government. It thus appeared that the Nationalist Government as it is now constituted has not assumed its final form. Dr. Wu insisted, nevertheless, that this point should be of no concern to a foreign government willing to conduct treaty negotiations with the Nationalist Government. He pointed out that the essential fact was that obligations assumed by the present Nationalist Government, i. e., the Government Council, would be accepted by its successor, no matter what its form.

This discussion consumed some time and at its close Dr. Wu was informed that his American guests had derived benefit from it, since it cleared up some of the uncertainty they had felt in regard to the organization and mode of functioning of the Nationalist Government of China.

Dr. Wu was especially persistent in trying to discover whether the American Government intended shortly to transfer the American [Page 188] Legation from Peking to Nanking. He strongly urged that this step should be taken. No reply was given to his question.

Mr. Johnson took his departure first. Both when he was leaving and after he left, Dr. Wu returned to the question he had asked at the beginning, that is, when the American Government would be prepared to begin treaty revision negotiations. Mr. Johnson replied that he did not know when this would be. Mr. Hornbeck, when again urged to make some sort of a statement, referred to the statement which he had made to Dr. Wu some two weeks ago to the effect that the logical thing would be first to begin with “conversations”. He thought that progress had been made in the conversation of this evening, in bringing out facts with regard to the organization and functioning of the Nationalist Government. Dr. Wu suggested that it would be well for the first “conversations” to concern themselves with the question of the manner in which negotiations should be conducted.

N[elson] T. J[ohnson]
  1. Prepared by Mr. Peck, but initialed by Mr. Johnson.
  2. See Foreign Relations, 1922, vol. i, pp. 723 ff.