893.05/345: Telegram

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

1017. Department’s 279, August 23, 3 p.m.

In latter part of July I conferred on several occasions with my British colleague regarding Shanghai courts and we were in agreement that we should quietly endeavor to have the old agreement extended, our views in the matter coinciding in general with those expressed in the Department’s telegram under reference. On July 28th British Chargé d’Affaires telegraphed his Foreign Office the substance of his views and 3 days later received reply stating that British Government’s views agreed in general with those of the State Department but that the question of the court was still under consideration and a definite conclusion would not be reached for some weeks, also that the British Government’s views would be communicated to the American Government as soon as possible. British Legation is awaiting further instructions and has asked British Consul General [at] Shanghai for his considered views in the light of recent developments.
From informal conversations with Nanking officials and from recent Chinese press reports it appears that Chinese intend to press for cancellation of certain, if not all, of the safeguards introduced into existing agreement after much difficulty. It is probable therefore [Page 641] that in not far distant future the Chinese will request appointment of delegate to discuss revision of existing agreement. I am inclined to believe that it would be a mistake for interested foreign powers to open the discussion and would suggest that Peck be instructed to refrain from broaching the subject but that if Chinese should bring it up Peck should point to the publicly expressed dissatisfaction of foreign community with the functioning of the court as evidenced inter alia by speeches of Chairman of the Shanghai Municipal Council and of Shanghai General Chamber of Commerce and invite attention to fact that foreign interests [are demanding] establishment of an international court. Peck might then observe that although he is impressed by this dissatisfaction on the part of foreign interests he considers it would be most unfortunate to reopen this vexed question at present time and that it appears infinitely preferable that an agreement be quietly and inconspicuously made for extension of present agreement and that we might trust to friendly constructive suggestions to secure improvements in the actual functioning of the courts.
If, however, the Chinese interests are reopening the question foreign interests would, I believe, have to press for such amendments as will meet the criticisms which are being directed against the courts, this action in all likelihood precipitating a most unfortunate controversy.
I sincerely trust that matter may be adjusted to permit of extension for 2 or 3 years of present agreement.