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

No. 1592

Sir: Referring to my telegrams No. 567, July 24, 10 pm,3 and No. 569, July 25, 6 pm, and previous telegraphic correspondence, I have the honor to transmit herewith one of the two original signed copies of the treaty regulating tariff relations between the United States and China, concluded on July 25th between Mr. T. V. Soong, Minister of Finance of the Nationalist Government, and myself.4 I also enclose additional mimeographed copies of the English and Chinese texts.

There is nothing of importance to add to such reports on the matter as were included in the telegrams cited above, except to record the fact that I found Mr. Soong, in the course of our negotiations, gratifyingly frank and straightforward and clear-headed, fully conscious of the advantages which the Nationalist Government would derive from the signature of such a treaty (particularly at the present juncture of political affairs), and of the consequences implied in its acceptance of terms constituting the equivalent of a most-favored-nation clause. It will be recalled that the Chinese Government has for some years refused to incorporate any such clause in such treaties as it has concluded, but has endeavored to establish relations with each foreign nation upon an individual basis. It is understood that the Japanese negotiations with the former Peking regime for the revision of their treaty of 18965 have for almost two years centered around this question. … The presence of Mr. Soong in Peking afforded, almost fortuitously, but very fortunately, the opportunity to deal with one of the more influential Nationalist [Page 480] leaders who is sufficiently realistic to concern himself with the actual interests of China…

A word of comment is perhaps appropriate on the use of the new name Peiping instead of Peking. In the several drafts discussed with Mr. Soong, the name appeared as Peking, and elicited no comment from him. Just before preparing the copies for signature, however, I called his attention to it and asked whether he would wish to change it, saying that while for sentimental reasons I personally preferred Peking, I should not wish to insist upon it at the risk of placing him in a false position with those members of his party whose enthusiasm for the cause is so largely identified with changes in terminology. He said that he had noted that the old name was used in the drafts, and had refrained from raising what might appear to be a trifling issue, but that, if I were willing to do so, he would be spared some embarrassment and would therefore be very much gratified, if the new name could be used in the text.

I enclose herewith a copy of the letter, under date of July 24th,6 in which Vice Minister Y. L. Tong, now in Peking, communicated to me the fact that Mr. Soong was authorized to negotiate and conclude the treaty with me.

As stated in the telegrams cited above, Mr. Soong has undertaken to arrange that his formal credentials for this purpose will be sent me for the purpose of record. I take it, from your telegram No. 239, July 4 [24], 7 pm, that corresponding credentials are to be furnished me for deposit with the Nationalist Foreign Office.

At the time of signing the treaty Mr. Soong and I also effected an exchange of notes in which he made, on his part, a declaration of the intention of the Nationalist Government to abolish the likin system. It was understood between us, however, that his declaration was conditioned upon the subsequent approval of the appropriate authorities of the Nationalist Government; that if such approval were given, the exchange of notes would be considered effective as an annex to the treaty, but that it would otherwise be considered void and as though non avenu. Very shortly after signing, however, he sent me a letter, of which a copy is enclosed,7 stating that he had received word that the Nationalist Government did not desire such a declaration to be made in connection with the treaty. A copy of my reply to this letter is enclosed.7 Although the notes thus exchanged are therefore of no effect, I nevertheless quote, as of possible interest to the Department, the substantial portions of them.

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Mr. Soong to Mr. MacMurray.

Recognizing that the system of levying likin and other internal charges and taxes on goods in transit impedes the free circulation of commodities, injures trade, and retards the development commercial intercourse, the Nationalist Government of the Republic of China has long contemplated the abolition of this system together with all of the analogous charges and taxes involved therein. The Nationalist Government purposes to remove in its entirety this obstruction to the growth of China’s foreign and domestic commerce.

I am, therefore, happy to inform you, in connection with the treaty concluded between us this day, that I am authorized to declare, on behalf of the Nationalist Government, that it will immediately set about and, at an early date carry to completion, the permanent abolition of the system which now prevails of levying likin and other internal charges and taxes upon goods in transit.

Mr. MacMurray to Mr. Soong.

I have received your despatch of this date in which you inform me, in connection with the treaty concluded between us this day, that you are authorized to declare, on behalf of the Nationalist Government that it will immediately set about, and at an early date carry to completion, the permanent abolition of the system which now prevails of levying likin and other internal charges and taxes upon goods in transit.

In taking note of this declaration, let me express, on behalf of the American Government, its appreciation of the attitude of the Nationalist Government in this regard, and its hope that the Nationalist Government will carry out at the earliest practicable date the undertakings comprised therein.

I have gathered from Mr. Soong that he was personally disappointed by the unwillingness of the Nationalist authorities to have him make this declaration, as he had hoped that it would strengthen his hand, at the Fifth Plenary Conference8 which is shortly to take place at Nanking, in his effort to centralize financial control and bring about the abolition of likin and other internal charges upon goods in transit.

Copies of the treaty were communicated confidentially on July 26th, to the diplomatic representatives of all countries signatory and adherent to the Washington Treaties concerning China. The text was also given out to the papers at noon on July 27th, as arranged with Mr. Soong.

I have [etc.]

J. V. A. MacMurray
  1. Not printed.
  2. Ante, p. 475.
  3. MacMurray, Treaties and Agreements With and Concerning China, 1894–1919, vol. i, p. 68.
  4. See telegram No. 569, July 25, from the Minister in China, p. 477.
  5. Not printed.
  6. Not printed.
  7. Fifth Plenary Session of the Central Executive Committee of the Kuomintang, Chinese Nationalist Government.