Memorandum by the Assistant Secretary of State (Johnson)

The Chinese Minister told me that he had had a conversation with the Chief of the Far Eastern Division regarding the raising of our [Page 206] legation to the status of an embassy and that the Chief of the Far Eastern Division had told him the Secretary was discussing this matter. He said he had hesitated to report to the Nationalist Government at Nanking that we were discussing the matter with the other governments as they would feel somewhat disturbed as they are quite certain that the different powers would not be disposed to take the proposed action and it was their hope that we would not wait upon them. The Minister went on to say that in the history of this question it had come as a proposal to Wellington Koo, then Chinese Minister at Washington,20 directly from President Wilson at a time when the question of the raising of legations to status of embassies was up in this country, President Wilson having told Wellington Koo that if China desired this to be done, he was quite prepared to do it.21 The Minister stated that at that time he was in London and had been one of the chief objectors to the proposal on the ground that it would merely add a financial burden to the chief of mission and would not accomplish anything of value.

The Minister stated that some time later when he came to Washington Congressman Burton22 had asked him his reasons for objecting as he, Congressman Burton, proposed to introduce the bill into the Congress raising the status of our legation at Peking to that of embassy. The Minister stated he had furnished Congressman Burton with a memorandum of the pros and cons on the subject.

The Minister stated that subsequently when the Chinese Government had conveyed the opinion that they desired to raise the legation to the status of embassy he had taken the matter up with Secretary Hughes who had discussed it with Mr. MacMurray who had proposed that the matter be discussed with the powers and that, of course, the matter fell through at that time because there were objections on the part of Great Britain.

I told the Minister that the Secretary felt he should communicate the matter to the powers for the purpose of ascertaining their views on the subject; that the Secretary had not decided in his own mind what to do in the matter and that in communicating with the powers he was not binding himself to be guided by what they might or might not do in the matter. The conversation here ended.

N[elson] T. J[ohnson]
  1. Vi Kyuin Wellington Koo was Chinese Minister at Washington from December 1915 to March 1921.
  2. No record of this statement has been found in Department files.
  3. Representative Theodore E. Burton of Ohio.