893.05/341: Telegram

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

279. Reference Shanghai’s despatches to Department Nos. 8354 of June 24, 2357 of June 27, and 8383 of July 6,1 and Legation’s despatch No. 1605 of July 7.

These despatches were not before the Department when it prepared its telegram No. 224 of July 25, 5 p.m.2 After study of these, despatches, however, the Department is still inclined to the view expressed in its telegram of July 25, paragraph 2, section a. The Department of course would like to see an improvement in the Chinese courts at Shanghai. It recognizes the present shortcomings in those courts. The Department is not convinced, however, that a revision of the existing agreement would insure a more satisfactory [Page 639] administration of justice as it appears that the unsatisfactory record of the courts is due principally to the incompetence and weakness of the judiciary and it does not seem probable that a revision of the agreement could be expected to effect a material improvement in this respect in view of the existing situation in China. Moreover, the Department doubts whether it would be wise at this time to reopen the whole question of those courts and thereby afford the Chinese an opportunity to contend for the inclusion of certain provisions which would likely be less satisfactory than the provisions of the present agreement. Also, as the question of the Chinese courts at Shanghai will come up for further consideration in connection with any further discussion of the question of extraterritoriality, it would seem of doubtful expediency to endeavor now to reopen to discussion the terms of the present agreement with regard to the Chinese courts at Shanghai.
With regard to bringing about improvements in the administration and organization of these courts, the Department suggests that thought be given to the practicability of endeavoring to effect this by means of additional exchanges of notes, such as those forming part of the 1930 agreement, or by unilateral declaration by the Chinese authorities. This would leave the present agreement intact and would restrict discussion to a minimum. It might be possible by this means to take care of such matters as guaranteeing permanent tenure and adequate remuneration for the judges of the court, matters mentioned in the last paragraph of Shanghai’s despatch of July 6. In addition, the Department believes that some useful results might be achieved if the interested Ministers and Consuls General would, in a friendly and informal manner, bring to the attention of the Chinese authorities on appropriate occasions and with appropriate constructive suggestions material complaints against the functioning of the courts.
In view of the constantly changing situation in China and of the fact that the present agreement does not expire for some months, the Department’s expression of views on this matter is not intended to be final but is set forth for your consideration and as a basis for discreet discussion between you and your most interested colleagues and between the interested Consuls General at Shanghai. If the representatives in China of the most interested Governments, who are in closer touch with the situation than is the Department, feel that the negotiation of a new agreement more favorable than the present one appears to be practicable, the Department would not wish to stand in the way of a successful negotiation of such a new agreement.
The Department desires that you examine this matter carefully [Page 640] in the light of the above and that you keep the Department informed of your views and of developments.
  1. None printed.
  2. Ante, p. 182.