Memorandum by the Counselor of Legation in China (Peek) of a Conversation With the Chinese Minister of Finance (Soong)43

Mr. Peck said that, as a matter of information merely, he would like to ask for an expression of Mr. Soong’s opinion on the present status of the Sino-Japanese relationship. He remarked that there had been a great deal of public discussion recently regarding a slight change of policy in this regard, on the part of the National Government. The change of policy was represented as being the determination of the National Government henceforth to deal with Japan normally and try to avoid friction in minor matters, wherein no question of principle was involved.

Mr. Soong said that, as Mr. Peck knew, the Japanese were very hostile to him. After he, Mr. Soong, had refused to go to Tokyo on his way back to China from abroad, the Japanese had sent a representative to him in Shanghai, to try to persuade him to take a more lenient attitude. Mr. Soong said he had told the Japanese repre-sentative that the Chinese Government would take a “correct” attitude. If Japan desired cordial relations with China, Japan must rectify her past actions. It was impossible for the Chinese Government to “cut their losses”, forget what had happened, and let bygones be bygones.

Mr. Peck referred to the editorial which had appeared in the North China Daily News on October 2, 1933,44 as representing one of the two principal lines of thought among foreigners on the question of Sino-Japanese relations. People who thought along the line taken [Page 420] by the editorial were of the opinion that China should pursue a “realistic” policy, that is, recognize that certain things had taken place which could not, for the time being, be altered, while at the same time, China should recognize that China and Japan were unavoidably neighbors and must have certain relations with each other, come what might.

Mr. Soong said that those persons whose thoughts ran in this direction ignored the fact that Japan would never be satisfied with what she had already acquired. He was not expressing an opinion, he said, but was stating a bald fact of which he had positive proof, that the Japanese were pursuing a deliberate plan of further expansion, one part of which was the alienation of North China, in the same way in which Manchuria had been taken from China. This was the fact which must be faced by those who were in actuality “realists”. It was the settled determination of Japan, he said, to reduce China to a condition of subordination to Japan.

Mr. Peck said that during the summer, while Mr. Soong was away, he had been told by a Chinese Official that the two schools of thought to which reference had been made could be illustrated by two historical examples, viz., the example of Belgium, which had resisted invasion from the outset; and the example of France in connection with Alsace-Lorraine, when France had nurtured her strength for, say, forty years and had then recovered the lost territory.

Mr. Soong made the impatient comment that Chinese were fond of deluding themselves with words; that they were fond of drawing such historical parallels, and that these [were] only “words” and nothing more.

Mr. Peck said that if it would not be impertinent for him to make the inquiry, he would like to ask Mr. Soong whether this question of policy toward Japan was apt to cause a split in the Government. He observed that what he had in mind was the fact that General Chiang Kai-shek, Mr. T. V. Soong and Mr. Wang Ching-wei had emerged as a sort of trio, in general control of the National Government.

Mr. Soong pondered Mr. Peck’s question a moment and then replied that he did not think that there would be any split, or any general “reorganization” of the Government, as Mr. Peck had suggested on the basis of newspaper reports. Mr. Soong said that the other two officials who had been mentioned needed the support of Mr. Soong, and he needed theirs, which was the plain fact of the situation.

Mr. Soong was explicit in stating that there were cross currents in the political thinking of the Government in reference to policy toward Japan. It was plain that he regards as genuine “realists” [Page 421] those who grimly realize the fact of Japan’s relentless plan for the subjugation of China and resist it, rather than those self-styled realists who advocate recognition of Japan’s military superiority and would follow a policy of placating Japan, in the futile hope of not provoking further onslaughts. Mr. Soong observed that whichever policy is followed China will have to deal with Japan’s determination to alienate North China.

  1. Copy of this memorandum (together with despatch No. L–32, October 4, to the Minister in China) was transmitted to the Department without covering despatch; received December 4.
  2. Not reprinted.