Memorandum by the Under Secretary of State (Phillips)
I sent for the British Ambassador55 this morning and said that I was ready to discuss with him the matters pertaining to the Far East which he had brought to my attention at our last meeting and regarding which he had asked for an expression of our views. I told him that some little time ago we had received a communication from the Chinese Government asking for a loan or credit to help them over their present financial difficulties and that we had replied that we could not do this, and asked the Chinese Government whether this was not a matter of interest to the powers, of which we were one, especially concerned with the Chinese financial situation. I then handed the Ambassador, on a blank piece of paper, a brief summary of this exchange of communications.[Page 546]
I then made the following oral statement to the Ambassador:
“This Government, like the British Government, desires to be of assistance to China and believes likewise that the rendering of assistance to China should take the form of cooperative and collective action by and among the principally interested powers, with of course the assent and collaboration of China. But we are not convinced that the rendering of such assistance should be made conditional upon there first being evolved a détente in the Far East. In our view it is conceivable that the according of collective assistance to China in her present moment of great need, especially of financial assistance, might contribute toward preventing further deterioration in the situation in China and toward making possible the effecting of a more satisfactory détente than can possibly be arrived at under existing conditions.
“We would like to know whether the British Government would be willing to take the lead in trying to work out a plan for financial assistance by the powers which have in the past shown most interest in projects for Chinese currency reform and in Chinese financial problems. We would view with gratification its doing so.”
I referred to the first line of my oral statement in which I made use of the words, “desires to be of assistance”. This expression I said was made in its broader sense and that I did not wish to be understood as binding this Government in any way whatsoever to financial assistance; the extension of financial assistance could not, of course, be done without the approval of the Secretary of the Treasury and the President; I used the expression, therefore, merely to emphasize our historic position of desiring to help when we properly could do so.
We discussed the use of the word, “détente” in the Ambassador’s oral communication to me. I said that in my dictionary it seemed to have various meanings, and I was not very clear as to the meaning which he attached to it. In my dictionary, among its various synonyms, the word might be used as a lessening of nervous strain. Sir Ronald said he thought in general that that covered the expression, which was purely a negative one.
Mr. Hornbeck, who was present at the conference, made certain observations. He commented upon the confidential memorandum entitled, “Reasons for which His Majesty’s Government believe that foreign loans or credits for China would not offer any real or lasting remedy”,56 and asked whether these views referred to all loans or had reference only to the loans sought by the Chinese Government from the British Government. According to my understanding the Ambassador replied that he assumed the answer would be in the affirmative.