The American Minister in China (Johnson) to the Chinese Acting Minister for Foreign Affairs (Wang Ching-wei)95

No. 745

Excellency: I understand that the Chinese Government contemplates the establishment of new pilotage regulations which are intended to supersede the existing General Pilotage Regulations of 1868 which were introduced by the Chinese Government, after consultation with and with the concurrence of the interested foreign governments, for the purpose of establishing a satisfactory procedure for implementing the various treaty provisions in respect to pilotage. Since the Regulations were first promulgated, representatives of the several foreign governments concerned have been consulted and their approval has been sought by the Chinese authorities on those occasions when it has been found desirable that rules concerning pilotage at the several ports should be amended. The bilateral nature of these Regulations is clearly established and this Legation is accordingly unable to acquiesce in the unilateral abrogation or modification of these Regulations by the Chinese Government. However, in view of the belief of your Government that the present pilotage system is not a satisfactory one and that a change therein is desirable, I am entirely willing to give careful and sympathetic consideration to any reasonable proposals which you may care to make in regard to changes in the Regulations, provided that such changes insure, first, the continued [Page 600] employment of an adequate number of experienced and fully qualified pilots at all ports in China, and, second, the adequate safeguarding of the rights and interests, financial and otherwise, of any pilots’ associations whose interests would be affected by a modification of the long-established procedure.

I am of the considered belief that these two objectives can best be attained if control of the Pilotage Service is placed in the experienced hands of the Chinese Maritime Customs, and I venture to suggest that the Customs be instructed to discuss the question with the Chinese and foreign shipping interests at Shanghai and elsewhere, and, in consultation with them, to prepare a scheme which will insure the fulfilment of the two provisions mentioned above, namely, the continuation of an adequate and efficient pilotage service at the several ports, and the protection of the interests, financial and otherwise, of the pilots now employed. Any scheme evolved as a result of such consultation should then, in accordance with the established procedure, be referred by your Government to the several interested Legations for their approval.

In this matter, I shall be pleased to cooperate with Your Excellency in every way consonant with American interests, but since I am not in a position to recognize as applicable to American citizens any regulations which have not been approved by my Government, and since, at the present time, the Harbor Master at Shanghai is declining to act under the approved regulations in respect to the examination of apprentice pilots, one of them an American citizen, I request that you will cause immediate instructions to be issued to the Customs to continue to handle all pilotage matters in accordance with established procedure until such time as any alteration in that procedure is approved by my Government.

I avail myself [etc.]

Nelson Trusler Johnson
  1. Copy transmitted to the Department by the Minister in China in his despatch No. 2674, April 21, 1934; received May 19.