793.003/493: Telegram

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

14. Your No. 12, January 8, 1 p.m.,9 especially paragraph 4.

In order that the Department’s view and objective may be clearly understood, Department submits the following:

Please note again contents of the Department’s 452, December 31, 6 p.m.,10 and memorandum of December 27 to Chinese Legation.11
Department does not feel that either side should be regarded as petitioners” in this matter. The American and the Chinese Governments have agreed to negotiate and are negotiating with regard not to future concessions but to disposal to be made of rights actually in existence.
The Department believes that the time factor is now of importance. Department’s recent communications to London have been intended in part to cause the Foreign Office to realize that this Government believes prompt action and offer of some concessions desirable. The Foreign Office has expressed to London Embassy in informal conversations virtual concurrence in the views expressed by Department. [Page 718] Absence of British Minister from China makes it difficult to cooperate through other than Washington-London channel. Department, adhering to the principle of cooperative but independent action, perceives no method by which the Powers can, in reasonably near future at least, “join hands and agree upon a minimum of safeguards”.
While the factors discussed in paragraphs 3 and 4 of your telegram under reference have an important bearing upon the extraterritoriality negotiations and therefore must not be overlooked in deciding our future course of action in regard to those negotiations, the Department is decidedly of the opinion that they should not be allowed to confuse, delay or hasten our course of action. The Department has committed itself to negotiations and no ground should be given to the Chinese Government, particularly at this stage, which could be utilized in making it appear that we are in any way responsible for a deadlock or failure which may be the ultimate fate of the negotiations.
The Department feels that the plan of action outlined in the third and fourth paragraphs of its telegram No. 452 of December 31, 6 p.m., should be followed. The Department’s new draft will be ready shortly. This draft will be communicated to the British Foreign Office through the Embassy in London,12 and after conference Department expects to communicate new proposals to Minister Wu here13 and to the Minister for Foreign Affairs through you.14 Possibly the British Government will also be prepared to submit similar new proposals at the same time. This would be desirable, but not necessary.
If the Chinese Government finds the proposals next submitted unacceptable the Department will then expect to consider naming its maximum concessions. If the British Government then concurs, it may be that the two Governments can communicate identic notes in regard thereto. This is a line of procedure which, it would appear from the remarks contained in paragraphs 2 and 4 of your telegram under reference, both you and Lampson have in mind; but the Department does not believe that this step should be taken until after our new proposals have been communicated and been given consideration, since the submission of a statement affirming or implying that we will make no further concessions may lead to an attempt at unilateral action on China’s part.
The preparation of modified proposals at this time is a part of the effort which this Government had made and will continue to make to show itself responsive to China’s aspirations while at the same time seeking to solve the problem presented by the conclusion of an agreement [Page 719] which will be mutually satisfactory and will reasonably safeguard the interests of all concerned.
In the absence of the British Minister from China, the Department feels compelled for the time being to carry on the effective phases of the discussion in so far as British Government is concerned through the London Embassy.
In exchanging views with the British Legation you should have the above in mind.
Please give the Department by telegram, for its early consideration, your conception of the “minimum of safeguards” upon which this Government might stand.

  1. Not printed.
  2. Foreign Relations, 1930, vol. ii, p. 505.
  3. Ibid., p. 500.
  4. Instruction No. 640, January 20, 1931, to the Ambassador in Great Britain; not printed.
  5. See statement to the Chinese Legation, February 7, 1931, p. 726.
  6. Instruction No. 374, January 19, 1931, to the Minister in China; not printed.