The British Ambassador (Howard) to the Secretary of State

My Dear Mr. Secretary of State: In accordance with the request which you made to me at the close of our conversation this morning, I send you herewith an aide memoire setting forth the views of my Government in regard to current problems in China, as communicated to you verbally by me today.

I have this afternoon received a further telegram from the Foreign Office according to which Dr. Wang Fu49 recently informed the British Consul-General at Nanking that reliable information had reached him from Shanghai to the effect that the United States Government had agreed to the establishment of Embassies at Washington [Page 439] and Peking. Dr. Wang Fu stated at the same time that he had not heard from Washington that this step had been decided on.

Believe me [etc.]

Esme Howard

The British Embassy to the Department of State

Aide Memoire

In their relations with the Nationalist Government in China His Majesty’s Government are most anxious to adopt a really constructive policy. They feel that the problem is one which must be dealt with progressively and that they must proceed step by step. They feel that the most urgent question at present is that of the tariff. They are therefore dealing with that question first.

In December 1926 His Majesty’s Government declared themselves as in favour of tariff autonomy for China.50 In these circumstances they feel that if they were now merely to sign a tariff autonomy treaty with China with a most favoured nation clause this would in actual fact imply hardly any practical advance from the position at the time when their abovementioned declaration was made. They feel too that if any real progress towards Chinese Tariff autonomy is to be made, a successful outcome of the negotiations now in progress between China and Japan must first be promoted. If this could be secured the actual coming into force of an increased Chinese tariff, after friendly agreement, at an early date would be facilitated. This is the immediate problem on which His Majesty’s Government are concentrating all their energies and they are inclined to think that it would be wiser to postpone dealing with other outstanding questions until this most urgent tariff question, which includes de jure recognition of the Nationalist Government, has been settled.

With regard to the appointment of Ambassadors at Peking, His Majesty’s Government feel that it would be preferable if the principal Powers took simultaneous action in this matter. His Majesty’s Government themselves will not in any case make any definite change until there has been a full and frank interchange of views with the other interested Powers, including the United States, Japan, France and Italy. For the present, however, they feel that this question, while it doubtless will arise in due course, is as yet altogether premature.

As regards the question of the extraterritorial status of foreigners in China the United States Government will recall that on January 27th, 1927, His Majesty’s Government made a definite offer to [Page 440] the Chinese. That offer was made by Mr. O’Malley51 to Mr. Eugene Chen52 at Hankow on January 27th, 1927, and by Mr. Lampson53 to Dr. Wellington Koo54 at Peking on the following day. The text of the proposal in question is given in the appendix to this aide memoire. This offer has been the subject of considerable discussion with the Chinese Government and still stands on record as concrete evidence of readiness on the part of His Majesty’s Government to continue these discussions and to take such practical steps in agreement with the Chinese Government as present conditions may allow. The very great practical difficulties which attend any attempt to solve this most difficult problem have so far prevented this offer being carried into full effect; but His Majesty’s Government doubt whether an international conference would provide the best method of solving these difficulties or indeed carry matters any further than His Majesty’s Government are already prepared to go. His Majesty’s Government also doubt whether an international conference would be welcome to the present rulers of China since the latter have repeatedly made it clear that they are determined in these matters to deal with the Powers separately.


Text of Proposals for the Waiver of Treaty Rights Communicated by Mr. O’Malley to Mr. Eugene Chen at Hankow on January 27th, 1927, and by Mr. Lampson to Dr. Wellington Koo at Peking on January 28th, 1927

His Majesty’s Government are prepared to recognise the modern Chinese law courts as the competent courts for cases brought by British plaintiffs or complainants and to waive the right of attendance of a British representative at the hearing of such cases.
His Majesty’s Government are prepared to recognise the validity of a reasonable Chinese nationality law.
His Majesty’s Government are prepared to apply as far as practicable in British courts in China the modern Chinese Civil and Commercial Codes (apart from the Procedure Codes and those affecting personal status) and duly enacted subordinate legislation as and when such laws and regulations are promulgated and enforced in Chinese courts and on Chinese citizens throughout China.
His Majesty’s Government are prepared to make British subjects in China, as far as practicable, liable to pay such regular and legal Chinese taxation, not involving discrimination against British subjects or British goods, as is in fact imposed on and paid by Chinese citizens throughout China.
His Majesty’s Government are prepared as soon as the revised Chinese Penal Code is promulgated and applied in Chinese courts to consider its application in British courts in China.
His Majesty’s Government are prepared to discuss and enter into arrangements, according to the particular circumstances at each port concerned, for the modification of the municipal administrations of British concessions so as to bring them into line with the administrations of the special Chinese municipalities set up in former concessions or for their amalgamation with former concessions now under Chinese control or for the transfer of police control of the concession areas to the Chinese authorities.
His Majesty’s Government are prepared to accept the principle that British missionaries should no longer claim the right to purchase land in the interior, that Chinese converts should look to Chinese law and not to the treaties for protection, and that missionary, educational and medical institutions should conform to Chinese laws and regulations applying to similar Chinese institutions.
  1. Refers apparently to C. T. Wang, who succeeded Huang Fu as the Nationalist Minister of Foreign Affairs.
  2. See note No. 816, Dec. 23, 1926, from the British Ambassador, Foreign Relations, 1926, vol. i, p. 923.
  3. Owen St. Clair O’Malley, then acting counselor of the British Legation in China.
  4. Then Minister of Foreign Affairs in the Hankow Government.
  5. Sir Miles W. Lampson, British Minister in China.
  6. Then Minister of Foreign Affairs and Premier in the Peking Government.