Memorandum by the Assistant Secretary of State (Johnson)

Mr. Frank W. Lee, of the Nationalist Government at Nanking, called on Mr. Johnson, Assistant Secretary of State, at 3 P.M.99 Mr. Lee said that he supposed Mr. Johnson had been wondering what had taken place in Nanking. Mr. Johnson said that he had heard that something violent had taken place there and that there had been a number of resignations. Mr. Lee replied that he had recently received two telegrams from Nanking. The first one had informed him of the resignation of Dr. C. C. Wu, from the portfolio of Foreign Affairs, and the second, relayed to him over the long distance telephone from New York, had said that Dr. Wu had been requested to remain as Minister for Foreign Affairs and that a mandate had been issued appointing him, additionally, as a delegate of the Nationalist Government to come to America to conduct negotiations for treaty revision. Mr. Lee said that Mr. T. V. Soong would take the place of Mr. Sun Fo as Minister of Finance, and the latter would be Minister of Reconstruction.

Mr. Lee described the political situation at Nanking somewhat as follows: He said that it still remained for the plenary session of the Kuomintang to confirm the appointment of General Chiang Kai-shek1 as commander in chief. He said that the “Western Hills” faction seemed to be opposing Chiang and it would be necessary for the latter to win the support of the Kwangsi group of generals. He thought that Chiang could do this as he would consent to act with a Military Council. Mr. Lee expressed the opinion that the Nationalist Government controlled the South solidly, including Canton and Hankow.

Mr. Lee said that he wished to come to the principal subject in interest, namely the formation of the Chinese delegation to negotiate with representatives of the American Government regarding treaty revision. He inquired how the appointment of Dr. Wu as a delegate, or as the chief delegate of the Southern delegation, would be regarded by the American Government. Mr. Johnson replied that the proposed Chinese delegation must be the spontaneous creation of the Chinese themselves and he did not wish to express any opinion about the eligibility or desirability of any particular person. Mr. Lee asked whether Mr. Johnson would not express a personal opinion, pointing out that if the Nationalist Government sent its Minister [Page 402] for Foreign Affairs this was evidence of the serious purpose of the Nationalist Government. Mr. Johnson observed that, of course, if either of the Governments sent its Minister for Foreign Affairs it would be evident, without any comment from him, that the Government concerned regarded the matter seriously.

Mr. Lee said that he thought there was no doubt that the Nationalist Government represented the South, but it might be considered that there was a question whether Chang Tso-lin2 represented the North. He had heard that Generals Chang Tsung-chang3 and Sun Chuan-fang4 were getting very powerful. Mr. Johnson remarked that after the delegation should be formed the American Government would, of course, examine it to ascertain whether it was truly representative, as claimed. He said that the result of the negotiations would have to be submitted to the Senate and the Senate would be unwilling to ratify an agreement unless it were concluded with an entity capable of enforcing it.

Mr. Lee, toward the close of the conversation, remarked that a question had been raised whether the negotiations should take place in China or the United States. He expressed the view that the Nationalist Government would prefer the negotiations to take place in the United States, but that the Peking Government would prefer China. Mr. Johnson said that he personally favored holding negotiations in China. As in the case of the Special Customs Conference,5 the American Government felt that the Chinese people would know much more about it, if it were held in China. Moreover, the proposed negotiations would be conducted by the Chinese delegates on behalf of several different principals and communication with the latter would be much easier if the Conference were held in China. Mr. Lee said that it would be difficult to select a suitable place. Either Nanking or Peking would be objected to, for obvious reasons, and when Mr. Johnson said that he thought the negotiations should be held at Shanghai Mr. Lee commented that in that case the claim would be made that the Conference was dominated by the commercial interests. Bather illogically Mr. Lee, in discussing the representative quality of the proposed Chinese delegation, said that he thought it would be a good thing to have on it a representative of the Chinese Chambers of Commerce.

Mr. Lee inquired what Mr. Johnson thought would be the scope of the negotiations, whether they would be limited to tariff matters and [Page 403] extraterritoriality, which had been specifically mentioned in the Secretary’s January statement,6 or would include a wider range of subjects. Mr. Johnson expressed no categorical opinion in regard to this, but in reference to the subject of extraterritoriality he pointed out that the January statement set forth certain conditions precedent to the renunciation of extraterritorial rights.

Mr. Lee said that he was returning to New York the same evening but that he would inform Mr. Johnson if he received any important news of action taken at Nanking. He inquired whether he might direct a letter to Mr. Johnson and the latter said that he could write either to him, or to Mr. Caldwell or to Mr. Peck. It would be all the same. Mr. Lee said that he felt confident that an agreement had been arrived at during the Conference at Nanking and that there would be no split.

N[elson] T. J[ohnson]
  1. Mr. J. K. Caldwell and Mr. W. R. Peck, of the Division of Far Eastern Affairs, were also present.
  2. Former commander in chief of the Chinese Nationalist armies.
  3. Generalissimo of military and naval forces under the Peking Government.
  4. Military Governor of Shantung Province.
  5. Nominal overlord of Kiangsu, Kiangsi, Chekian, Fukien, and Anhwei Provinces.
  6. See Foreign Relations, 1925, vol. i, pp. 833 ff; ibid., 1926, vol. i, pp. 743 ff.
  7. For the Secretary’s statement of Jan. 27, 1927, see telegram No. 28, Jan. 25, 1927, to the Chargé in China, Foreign Relations, 1927, vol. ii, p. 350.