893.00/9801: Telegram

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

160. Department’s telegram No. 80, March 5, 6 p.m.

1. The following represents the Minister’s views as well as mine in reply to your telegram aforementioned:

“It seems probable that the Nanking regime in cooperation with Feng Yu-hsiang and Yen Hsi-shan will commence offensive in the [Page 312] near future against the North. Edwardes84 brings the opinion from Shanghai where T. V. Soong85 told him that the Northern expedition would soon be undertaken and that Nanking regime was in complete agreement with Feng Yu-hsiang to this end; that no consideration could now be given to the question of tariff arrangements since military would not permit, being entirely concerned with question of expedition. Chiang Kai-shek’s published interview in North China Daily News is to this effect, that all arrangements have been made for the expedition which would proceed according to the program on a date which could not now be divulged. Northern troop movements tend in this direction. In the premises and with reference to the Minister’s telegram of March 4, 7 p.m.86 and the Legation’s 18 [135], March 2, 4 p.m., it is considered that with civil warfare again imminent on a large scale this is not an appropriate time for reducing our naval, marine or military forces in China or in Far Eastern waters; that if situation becomes sufficiently defined later in the year either through success or defeat of Southern attack or its failure to materialize, the Legation can be counted upon to recommend to the Department that protection of American life and property in China no longer requires presence light cruiser force if such happily is the case. It is also submitted that the withdrawal of light cruisers, instead of being a gesture which it might be expected the Chinese would construe as an evidence of friendliness, would actually be considered by them as a sign of weakness or of indulgence at a time when our standing firm might avert disastrous consequences toward which evidence of a contrary nature would contribute.”

Since the receipt of Department’s telegram 80 I have had the following from the commander in chief:

“007. Light cruiser division 3 by order of the Bureau of Operations will sail from Shanghai to arrive Honolulu prior to 12th April. Division will sail from Shanghai about 1st April. The question of return to Asiatic station will be decided later. 1048.”

If it is impossible to reconsider withdrawal of light cruisers we believe they should at any rate be held available for immediate return to China in case of emergency.

As a result of telegraphic inquiry to Shanghai and Hong Kong, discussions with the chief of staff of British forces at Tientsin, and our military attaché’s consultation with his British colleague here, correct estimate of British forces in China including Hong Kong appears to be as recently reported to the Department (see Legation’s 36, January 18, 4 p.m., based upon military attaché’s report to M. I. D. 7200 of January 19th)87 less a battalion of Coldstream [Page 313] guards and some 500 men whose service, has expired, the latter probably now having been replaced.

This makes total approximately 11,000, of which principal figures are Hong Kong 4,500; Shanghai between 4,000 and 4,500; Tientsin 1,600 odd.

As of interest in this general relation I submit following recapitulation furnished by naval attaché’s office of British naval forces in Chinese waters to which should be added 5 of latest light cruisers (10,000 tons) to replace older light cruisers, the former by end of March: 3 light cruisers, 15 gunboats, 17 destroyers, 2 submarine depot ships, 3 sloops, 3 converted patrol boats, 3 aircraft carriers, 2 surveying vessels, 2 mine sweepers.

  1. Telegram in three sections.
  2. A. H. F. Edwardes, Officiating Inspector General of Customs, Peking.
  3. Minister of Finance in the Nanking Government.
  4. Repeated to Department in telegram No. 138, March 5, from the Chargé in China, p. 309.
  5. Not printed.