Memorandum by the Minister in China (Johnson)61

In the course of conversation today I asked Dr. C. T. Wang, the Minister for Foreign Affairs, whether he thought it would benefit or [Page 752] facilitate negotiations between the United States and China if negotiations were transferred to China.

Dr. Wang stated that unless the United States was prepared to concede the three points upon which the two countries now held radically differing opinions, he could not see any value in the transferring of negotiations. He said that he would be very glad at all times to discuss questions relating to negotiations with me if such discussions would assist in making clear to the Department of State the attitude of the Chinese Government, but that as far as facilitating the reaching of an agreement was concerned, he did not see how a mere transfer, of the negotiations to Nanking at this time would help.

He said he thought we were not so far apart on the subject of co-judges, although China could not accept legal advisors who were authorized to function as judges, nor could she consent to the appointment of such legal advisors from a panel drawn up by The Hague. He said they were quite prepared to appoint legal advisors with the qualifications specified for judges of the permanent court and this phraseology they had used in their draft. He said he thought we had asked for special chambers in too many places, but on the other hand, China was prepared to have them at more places than she had originally indicated. He thought there was reason for having such courts at Foochow and at Tsingtao.

In regard to jurisdiction, the United States was contending that civil jurisdiction be given up first and then criminal jurisdiction but we set no time for the giving up of criminal jurisdiction. We merely left it indefinite. China, on the other hand, felt that both civil and criminal jurisdiction must go at once and together.

In regard to reserved areas, China was even more determined not to consent to what we asked. We asked that Shanghai, Hankow, Tientsin, Canton, Harbin and Mukden be reserved as areas within which Chinese jurisdiction should not enter. This amounted to giving China the shadow and reserving the substance. In the interior of China the only Americans who lived there were doctors, missionaries and a few others who were law abiding people. They never had any troubles of a civil or criminal nature but in the ports, and particularly in Shanghai, Tientsin, Hankow, one found large communities of business people where there was constant litigation at law, where criminal laws were constantly being invoked and these areas we were reserving entirely. He said that such a withdrawal of extraterritorial privileges amounted in fact to a joke and China did not particularly enjoy such a joke.

I stated that I had no desire to hamper in any way the work of my friend, Dr. Wu, that it had merely occurred to me that the transfer of negotiations at this point might in some way facilitate [Page 753] matters and I wished to ask the question. I had no idea that my Government was contemplating action of this kind.

Nelson Trusler Johnson
  1. Copy transmitted to the Department by the Minister without covering despatch; received April 28.