793.00/194: Telegram

The Minister in China (MacMurray) to the Secretary of State


1137. 1. As a result of the recent action of the Peking regime in denouncing the Spanish treaty93 there has been much discussion among the diplomatic representatives in regard to the practicability of the powers manifesting a concerted attitude towards the increasing propensity of the Chinese to repudiate international obligations. With the object of formulating a course of action which might be presented by the Senior Minister (the Dutch Minister) for the consideration of the diplomatic body as a whole, there was an informal meeting yesterday of the Senior Minister with the British, French, Italian, and Japanese Ministers, and myself. It is our suggestion that, having obtained the approval of their several Governments, the various Ministers arrive at an understanding that each of them, when faced with the denunciation of his Government’s treaty, will reply along the line of the following formula A to the Chinese notification, though presumably such reply would be in the third person in his Government’s name:

“Even if it be assumed that you are to be regarded as the other government party to my treaty, I entirely contest any right on your part to denounce the treaty in the way you have done.

I have no intention, however, of discussing with you the question as to whether you are legally entitled to denounce the treaty. Nothing [Page 399] in the treaty gives to you the right to take any such action. You have, moreover, estopped yourself by refusing to have the point determined in the Belgian case by the Permanent Court of International Justice at The Hague,94 despite the fact that the optional clause of the Court’s protocol95 which is applicable to the case had been accepted by you a short time before.

There is entire willingness on my part that the matter of your right to denounce the treaty should be decided by the Permanent Court. Unless, however, the matter is submitted to arbitration, and, pending a decision in your favor, I shall continue to consider that my treaty is in force.

There is no implication in this that my Government is not willing to negotiate a revision of the treaty, but it must continue to be understood that if, in the meantime, you take any action inconsistent with the treaty, I reserve the right to take such steps as I may deem appropriate for the protection of my interests and those of my countrymen.”

2. In view of the fact that the United States is not a party to the Permanent Court, I stated that in submitting the formula for your consideration it would be recommended that in our case all of the third paragraph might be omitted except the words “I shall continue to consider that my treaty is in force” and that the reference to the Court in the preceding sentence might also be omitted. It may be that you would think it appropriate to substitute something analogous, such as a reference to The Hague Court of Arbitration or to a commission under our 1914 treaty for the advancement of peace with China.96

3. The suggestion of the diplomatic representatives contemplates further that in case the treaty of one country is denounced in the manner mentioned, a communication in the terms of the following formula B should be addressed to the Chinese by the representatives of the other countries, or by as many of them as feel themselves in a position to do so.

“The action taken by the Peking Government in regard to the (blank) treaty has been learned by my Government with concern, such action being in their opinion an additional exhibition of a spirit of disregard of international obligations. The communication of (date) by the (blank) Minister, is therefore, endorsed by my Government.”

4. The next treaties which will be denounced are, it is anticipated, the Portuguese in March and the Danish and Italian in July.97 It is [Page 400] felt by all the Ministers here that if the treaty rights of one country after another continue to be set aside by the Chinese without any demonstration of concern on the part of the others, the Chinese soon will be emboldened to force the issue of voluntary repudiation and, therefore, that it is for the self-protection of all of us that we should manifest a concerted attitude toward the Chinese program of treaty denunciation when the terms of the treaties provide for revision by negotiation. I am in entire agreement with the view that the course of action by which the Chinese not only are contravening foreign rights but also are creating very serious perils for the future international relations of China would be very soon halted by the manifestation of disapproval on the part of the powers.

5. It is recommended, therefore, that you authorize me to act favorably upon the above-mentioned suggestions.

  1. This apparently refers to the action of C. C. Wu (then Nationalist Minister of Foreign Affairs) in notifying the Spanish Minister, Nov. 24, 1927, that the Sino-Spanish, treaty of friendship, commerce and navigation of Oct. 10, 1864 (China, Imperial Maritime Customs, Treaties, Conventions, etc., Between China and Foreign States, Shanghai, 1908, vol. ii, pp. 1085, 1104), had expired and become inoperative.
  2. For correspondence regarding the abrogation by China of the Sino-Belgian treaty of Nov. 2, 1865, see Foreign Relations, 1926, vol. i, pp. 984 ff.
  3. League of Nations Treaty Series, vi, pp. 380, 384.
  4. For text of treaty signed Sept. 15, 1914, see Foreign Relations, 1915, p. 41.
  5. For texts of treaties signed on Dec. 1, 1887, July 13, 1863, and Oct. 26, 1866, respectively, see China, Imperial Maritime Customs, Treaties, etc., vol. ii, pp. 1010, 1043, and 1129 (1166), respectively.