893.102S/1223: Telegram

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

1058. Department’s 298, September 1, 6 p.m., in regard to extra-Settlement road[s] agreement, following from American Consul General at Shanghai: [Page 643]

“September 3, 10 a.m. Since my telegram of August 25 [23?], 5 p.m., considerable activity and interest have developed regarding extra-Settlement road[s] agreement. The Chairman of the Council sought advice of executive committee of British Chamber of Commerce which was given a few days ago and was 11 to 1 in favor of Council proceeding immediately with signing of agreement. American member of Council privately consulted executive committee of American Chamber and they individually expressed the hope that the agreement would be signed at earliest possible moment. Both organizations were informed that the Japanese uncompromisingly opposed the agreement and threatened resignation should it be signed without publication.

2. There is considerable speculation concerning the action of the Japanese should the agreement be signed and the Japanese members carry out their threat to resign from the Council. There is no general agreement as to what might happen but I am decidedly inclined to opinion that Japanese authorities will not permit special Chinese police force to function in Northern District. The most likely development will be, in my opinion, to sign a decree [for the] taking over of complete policing of that district by Japanese. Not repeated to the Department.”

On August 22 Mr. Fessenden informed the secretary of the Mayor of the Councilors’ proposal to publish the agreement and notify ratepayers that the Council intended to sign it after reasonable interval. Mr. Yui at once objected on the ground that Mayor would be attacked for concessions to the Japanese. He intimated that the authorities at Nanking were not yet aware of all the details of the agreement. Consequently Mayor would be exposed to criticism from that source. In short, publication in his opinion would involve Mayor’s resignation. He went on to say that even if the agreement were signed Chinese would still object to publication and as things were at the moment Chinese were not prepared to sign regardless of whether the agreement was published or not. A special meeting of the Council had been arranged for August 24; though this would still take place there would be no question of proceeding with publication at the moment. Acting British Consul General told Cunningham that the Council were committed by their public notice to the ratepayers.

British Chargé d’Affaires informs me of the receipt from his Consul General of information to the following effect: Municipal Council met as arranged on August 24th. Japanese Councilors, arguing that majority of ratepayers do not approve proposed agreement, stated they would resign if agreement was signed prior to publication. Chinese Councilors took the position that as Mayor had stated he could not agree to publication the only thing to do was to sign first and publish later. The only decision reached was to take no action for the time being. British Consul General reports that after meeting [Page 644] Yu Ya-ching, one of the Chinese Councilors, told him that he disagreed with views of other Councilors; that if Japanese were so opposed to the agreement the Mayor had nothing to fear from Chinese criticism. Yu undertook to see the Mayor and urge him to go to Nanking to obtain support of National Government for the agreement and then come back and publish it. Signature could then follow in a week or two.

It appears that agreement will receive support of British and American Councilors members of Council and I understand will be supported by British Residents Association and American Chamber of Commerce.

British Chargé d’Affaires and I feel somewhat diffident about instructing our Consuls General in present posture of affairs to attempt to work on ratepayers in this matter. From above information it would seem evident that there are forces at work in favor of getting agreement signed even in the face of Japanese opposition.

Only question now is what steps Japanese will take to make effective their opposition should agreement be signed and an attempt be made to put it into effect as between Municipal Council and Chinese. In this connection see Shanghai’s telegram quoted above.

British Chargé d’Affaires and I agree that we should take no further action at this time.

I am further informed by British Chargé d’Affaires that he is informed by his Consul General that Japanese Consul has communicated his objections to agreement directly to the secretary of the Municipal Council.