611.9331/67a: Telegram

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

230. Department’s 223, July 13, 7 p.m., your 546 and 547, July 17 and previous.

1. I feel that unless we act immediately, the Nationalists will force two issues, first that of negotiating a complete new treaty covering both tariff and extraterritoriality, and, second, that of negotiating in Washington rather than in Peking.

I have given full consideration to your suggestion that, if offered negotiations on lines such as I have proposed, they may take advantage of the offer, for bargaining purposes, but I feel that if we make this offer promptly and openly, before being forced by them to assume a defensive position with regard to the question of discussing extraterritoriality, we will have put our position in a proper light and will have demonstrated that we are willing to do all that the situation warrants. In pursuance of the policy set forth in my statement of January 27, 1927, I do not wish to have this Government put on the defensive. Moreover I wish to dispose conclusively of the idea which some of the Nationalists advocate, that the negotiations should be conducted here.

2. I have considered the draft submitted in your 547 and your comments and suggestions.

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3. I desire that you address and send to the Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Nationalist Government as from you on my behalf a note as follows:

“Events in China have moved with great rapidity during the past few months. The American Government and people have continued to observe them with deep and sympathetic interest. Early in the year the American Minister to China made a trip through the Yangtze Valley region and while in Shanghai exchanged on March 30, 1928, with the Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Nationalist Government notes in settlement of the unfortunate Nanking incident of March 24, 1927.89 In pursuance of the terms therein agreed upon, a Sino-American Joint Commission has been entrusted with the appraisal of damages suffered by the American nationals during that occurrence.

On January 27, 1927, I made a statement of the position of the United States toward China. To it I have often subsequently had occasion to refer in reaffirmation of the position of this Government. I stated therein that the United States was then, and from the moment of the negotiation of the Washington Treaty had been prepared to enter into negotiations with any government of China or delegates who could represent or speak for China, not only for putting into force the surtaxes of the Washington Treaty but for restoring to China complete tariff autonomy. Ever since, the American Government has watched with increasing interest the developments pointing toward coordination of the different factions in China and the establishment of a government with which the United States could enter into negotiations. Informed through press despatches and through official reports which have from time to time been released to the Press, the American people also have observed with eager interest these developments.

In a note addressed by the American Minister to China to the Minister for Foreign Affairs of the Nationalist Government at Nanking on March 30 of the present year, in reply to a suggestion of the latter concerning revision of existing treaties, reference was made to the sympathy felt by the Government and people of the United States with the desire of the Chinese people to develop a sound national life of their own and to realize their aspirations for a sovereignty so far as possible unrestricted by obligations of an exceptional character, and it was stated that the American Government looked forward to the hope that there might be developed an administration so far representative of the Chinese people as to be capable of assuring the actual fulfillment of any obligations which China would of necessity have for its part to assume incidentally to readjustment of treaty relations.

In a communication addressed to me under date July 11, 1928, Mr. Chao-chu Wu informs me that the Nationalist Government has decided to appoint plenipotentiary delegates for the purpose of treaty negotiations and that he is instructed to request that the Government of the United States likewise appoint delegates for that purpose.

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The good will of the United States toward China is proverbial and the American Government and people welcome every advance made by the Chinese in the direction of unity, peace and progress. We do not believe in interference in their internal affairs. We ask of them only that which we look for from every nation with which we maintain friendly intercourse, specifically, proper and adequate protection of American citizens, their property and their lawful rights, and, in general, treatment in no way discriminatory as compared with the treatment accorded to the interests or nationals of any other country.

With a deep realization of the nature of the tremendous difficulties confronting the Chinese nation I am impelled to affirm my belief that a new and unified China is in process of emerging from the chaos of civil war and turmoil which has distressed that country for many years. Certainly this is the hope of the people of the United States.

As an earnest of the belief and the conviction that the welfare of all the peoples concerned will be promoted by the creation in China of a responsible authority which will undertake to speak to and for the nation, I am happy now to state that the American Government is ready to begin at once, through the American Minister to China, negotiations with properly accredited representatives whom the Nationalist Government may appoint, in reference to the tariff provisions of the treaties between the United States and China, with a view to concluding a new treaty in which it may be expected that full expression will be given reciprocally to the principle of national tariff autonomy and to the principle that the commerce of each of the contracting parties shall enjoy in the ports and the territories of the other treatment in no way discriminatory as compared with the treatment accorded to the commerce of any other country. Further, I am happy to state that when the question of the tariff, which is of primary importance to China, shall have been disposed of, I shall hope to discuss with the Government of China other aspects of the treaty relationships between the two countries, with a view to concluding, if the conditions warrant, a new treaty in regulation thereof.”90


4. All previous proposals regarding statements are superseded and canceled by this instruction. Extraterritoriality, you will note, is not expressly mentioned therein. In answering possible questions, I shall say that I desire the tariff question to be disposed of before anything is done about extraterritoriality.

5. I wish the note above to be delivered on July 25 at noon, China time, to the Chinese Minister for Foreign Affairs and at the same time copies of the note to be delivered, confidentially for their information, to your colleagues who represent the powers signatory and adherent to the Nine-Power Tariff Treaty of February 6, 1922. [Page 467] When you have arranged delivery accordingly, you will please immediately inform me in order that I may be simultaneously prepared here to make deliveries confidentially.

6. In delivering the note to the Minister for Foreign Affairs, you will separately state that the Secretary of State proposes that publicity be given by the Minister and by you and by the Secretary 24 hours afterward to the text of the note and that your Legation and the Department of State have been instructed by me to proceed accordingly.

7. When the note has actually been delivered, you will please immediately inform me.

8. I have fully considered the question of giving advance information to the representatives of the interested powers of my intention in this regard and have concluded that considerations against such action outweigh those for.

  1. See telegram of Mar. 30, 1928, from the Minister in China, p. 331.
  2. Concluding sentence omitted from note as sent; see telegram No. 566, July 24, p. 473.