The Secretary of State to the Ambassador in Great Britain (Bingham)

No. 317

Sir: The Department desires that you refer the Foreign Office to information which we conveyed to it on January 9, 1934, through the British Embassy here68 and information which we received in reply on January 12, 1934, through the same channel, in regard to the request of the Chinese Government that we negotiate an entirely new treaty to replace the Sino-American Treaty of 1903, and that you discuss this matter informally and orally with the Foreign Office, reporting results promptly, along the following lines.

[Page 531]

In reply to the American Government’s note of January 13, 1934, requesting information in regard to the Chinese Government’s idea of substance, time, place, et cetera, for negotiations, the Chinese Government in a note under date January 18, 1934, stated briefly that the Articles of the Treaty of 1903 were no longer applicable; that they did not conform to the principles of equality and reciprocity; and that the “provisions regarding extraterritoriality and inland river and coastal navigation are extremely injurious to China’s sovereign rights and should be abrogated.”

In so far as the Department is informed with regard to the situation of the British Government in connection with treaty revision, the Chinese Government has requested a revision of the Sino-British Treaty of 1902, and the British Foreign Office has expressed with regard to this request the view that it has “a merely paper significance”.

In view of the fact that the Chinese Government has definitely raised with us the issue of including the question of extraterritorial rights in our discussions, the Department recalls that during the years 1929–31, the American and British Governments through their respective Foreign Offices and diplomatic representatives in China collaborated and kept each other informed with regard to discussions with the Chinese authorities on the question of extraterritorial rights, which discussions resulted in the reaching in the summer of 1931 of tentative accords with the Chinese authorities but with regard to which no final action was taken because of political developments in the Far East. In view of the past policy of collaboration and cooperation with the British Foreign Office in regard to this question, the Department feels that it is appropriate and desirable that we again consult with the Foreign Office because, after all, the system of extraterritorial jurisdiction by the foreign powers in China rests on a broader and more comprehensive basis than that merely of provisions of any one treaty of any one power. The problem which the American Government now has under consideration is not, therefore, a problem which is of interest and concern to this country alone but is one of common interest and concern to a number of other powers, especially Great Britain, Japan and France.

The Department has had no indication of the contemplated course of action or the specific objectives of the Chinese Government with regard to the kind of solution which it now desires of the problem of extraterritorial rights. We do not know whether that Government will insist upon complete and immediate abrogation of those rights, whether it will use the tentative accords which were reached in the summer of 1931 as bases of discussion, or whether it has some other proposal in mind. However, the American Government does not feel that its position in relation to the problem warrants the acceptance [Page 532] by it, in fact or by implication, of an exclusive or isolated responsibility. As we are aware of the nature of the Sino-British tentative accords reached in 1931 and as the Foreign Office is also aware of the nature of our tentative accords reached in the same year, and as the problem is unquestionably of interest and concern to the British as well as to this Government, we should appreciate being informed whether any additional developments have occurred in regard to the question of revising the Sino-British Treaty of 1902 or of negotiating a new Sino-British commercial treaty and whether the Foreign Office has under active consideration the question of resuming negotiations with regard to British extraterritorial rights in China. We should also appreciate being informed of such views as the British Foreign Office may have and may be willing to express with regard to possible lines of action and in regard to any phases of the problem, in order that consideration may be given both here and in London to the possibility of approaching this matter and proceeding with it on parallel lines and with synchronized action.

Very truly yours,

Cordell Hull
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