The Consul General at Shanghai (Cunningham) to the Minister in China (Johnson)53

No. 7742

Sir: I have the honor to refer to my confidential despatch No. 9096 [9069] of August 17, 1933,54 with regard to extra-Settlement roads and Japanese aggression, in which it was attempted to set forth the apparent intention of the Japanese with reference to the international Settlement and the extra-Settlement roads in the northern area, and to supplement somewhat the statements contained therein.

There is enclosed an extract from the minutes of a special meeting of the Consular Body held on November 16, 1933, under the heading, “Alleged Encroachment[s] by the Chinese Authorities on the Extra-Settlement Roads.”50 (It may be explained that special meetings of the Consular Body are composed of extraterritorial consular representatives.) The extract is interesting as showing the Japanese [Page 614] policy in regard to the extra-Settlement roads. The essence of the statement made by the Japanese Consul General is contained in the fifth paragraph—

“That he had information that Chinese police were even directing traffic along these roads. If the Council was obliged to take strong measures to stop these inroads he was prepared to give it active support, using force if necessary.”

This statement was so definite that it surprised even the most conservative members of the Consular Body. The British Consul General remarked that “it is very interesting indeed.” In a conversation with the British Consul General since that meeting we both expressed the opinion that this statement reflected the policy of the Japanese Government with regard to Shanghai and adjacent areas.

It will be recalled that the negotiations between the Shanghai Municipal Council and the Municipality of Greater Shanghai, in regard to extra-Settlement roads, had broken down in October and very little hope was entertained that an agreement would be reached which would be acceptable to both sides. During the last two years these negotiations have been conducted by the Secretaries General of the two municipalities. The modus vivendi agreement was agreed upon by them and submitted to their respective principals (see confidential despatches Nos. 7230 [8326?] of June 11, 1932, and 8431 of August 5, 193256). The Japanese Consul General objected to the putting into effect of this modus vivendi but insisted that it should be submitted to and approved by the Consular and Diplomatic Bodies before being signed by the Shanghai Municipal Council. It is due to the breaking down of these negotiations that the extra-Settlement roads question again becomes one of serious consideration, because it has every element for provoking a local incident the results of which may spread throughout China. The Chinese have, since the negotiations began between the two municipalities in regard to extra-Settlement roads, scrupulously observed the status quo up to the time that they reached a stalemate. If, as it appears likely, the Chinese now intend to resume their pinpricking policy the extra-Settlement roads will again become as the crater of a volcano and subject to eruption at any time. There is no other question of so much importance and which contains so many elements of danger as that of dual control, particularly policing of the extra-Settlement roads; therefore the Japanese Consul General can very well view with alarm the possible resumption of the practice of attrition which has been, since 1925, the policy of the Chinese, excepting for the status quo period pending negotiations.

[Page 615]

In this office’s despatch No. 6634 of September 22, 1930,57 and previous despatches, the policy of general attrition was set forth and the view was expressed that the Chinese intended to acquire by gradual attrition the rights which they claimed to be theirs on the extra-Settlement roads. That they have renewed this policy of general attrition is evidenced from the incidents which have recently occurred on extra-Settlement roads. None of these was serious but they are indicative of the definite resumption by the Chinese of their policy of pinpricking annoyances.

There is enclosed a list of incidents57 which occurred on extra-Settlement roads between November 1st and 20th, as compiled by the Shanghai Municipal police authorities. This list is interesting and it is believed the Japanese Consul General is justified in the belief that the Chinese no longer are satisfied to sit awaiting negotiations and maintaining a status quo.

It is my purpose in the very near future to have a conversation with General Wu Te-chen, Mayor of the Municipality of Greater Shanghai, in the hope that I may be able to form an opinion as to whether these incidents are a part of a policy of the Chinese, or whether they are merely coincidences. It would seem that they are too numerous to be merely coincidences. It is feared that they do indicate a definite policy, having its origin possibly at Nanking, certainly in the administrative offices of Greater Shanghai. If it is concluded that it is a definite policy of some of the higher Chinese officials, I shall informally point out, as I have done repeatedly in the past to the Mayor’s predecessor, the great responsibility of undertaking anything that is liable to cause an explosion, such as dual police control of the extra-Settlement roads will certainly cause.

Respectfully yours,

Edwin S. Cunningham
  1. Copy transmitted to the Department by the Consul General in his despatch No. 9230, November 27; received December 18.
  2. Ante, p. 392.
  3. Not printed.
  4. Neither printed.
  5. Not printed.
  6. Not printed.