793.003/856: Telegram

The Secretary of State to the Ambassador in the United Kingdom ( Bingham )

107. The Department desires that you seek an early opportunity to call upon an appropriate officer of the Foreign Office and make to him an oral statement (leaving with him as record of such oral statement a strictly confidential aide-mémoire) substantially as follows:

  • “1. The Department of State has for some time been giving thought to the question of the possible practicability of there being made by the American Government an approach to the Chinese Government [Page 640] suggesting resumption of the extraterritorial[ity] negotiations which were interrupted in 1931 and have since been in abeyance. It has been our thought that the practicability of making such an approach should be considered in terms of the possibility of the approach being made simultaneously and on parallel lines by the American and the British Governments. It has been felt that the question of the opportuneness of such action at this time largely depends upon the question whether the resumption of such negotiations would be likely to have a disturbing effect upon the general situation in the Far East, with special reference to Sino-Japanese relations, and the question of the likelihood of the Chinese Government being willing to accept a draft of a treaty following substantially the lines of the American draft of July 14, 1931. (The American draft is similar to the British draft of June 6, 1931, except for Article 16: Reserve Areas,34 a copy of which article together with a copy of the Department’s memorandum35 was enclosed in Mr. Atherton’s letter of July 25, 1931, to Mr. Orde.36)
  • 2. Our Embassy in China has reported that during the recent plenary session of the Central Executive Committee there was adopted a resolution calling upon the Chinese Government to conduct negotiations for the abolition of extraterritorial jurisdiction. This resolution, quoted in an instruction to the Executive Yuan of March 6, was published in the National Government Gazette of March 9 but otherwise it has received little publicity. Our Embassy has received no intimation as to what action the Chinese Government will take in the matter.
  • 3. Our Embassy has expressed the view that the resumption of extraterritoriality negotiations would not have a disturbing effect upon the general situation in the Far East; also the further view that in the light of China’s request for unqualified abrogation of extraterritorial jurisdiction, as contained in the Chinese Foreign Office’s note of January 18, 1934,37 in regard to the Sino-American Commercial Treaty of 1903,38 and in the light of the recent instruction to the Executive Yuan referred to above, we could expect no great advantage from volunteering a proposal of a compromise and that it would be better to await a new initiative by the Chinese Government. The Embassy expressed the view also that China would insist upon an agreement for a much more far-reaching abrogation of extraterritorial rights than that envisaged in 1931.
  • 4. As it seems likely that pursuant to the instruction to the Executive Yuan referred to above the Chinese Government will in due course approach the interested foreign governments, there would appear to be a choice of two lines of action, one, that of a foreign government, or foreign governments, taking the initiative in approaching the Chinese Government, and the other, that of awaiting a move on the part of the Chinese Government.
  • 5. The Department feels that the question of extraterritoriality in China is a matter in which the British and American Governments have similar interests and concern and that the two Governments might advantageously continue as in the past to collaborate with each other. The American Government would therefore appreciate receiving the views and observations of the British Government in the premises.
  • 6. It may be added that the American Government has not approached any other government in regard to the matter.”

Inform Department by cable of date when you make this communication and of any observations or comments offered by Foreign Office official.39

  1. For British text, see telegram of May 19, 1931, 9 a.m., from the Minister in China, Foreign Relations, 1931, vol. iii, pp. 854, 856.
  2. See telegram No. 228, July 13, 1931, 5 p.m., to the Minister in China, ibid., p. 890.
  3. Ray Atherton, Counselor of Embassy in the United Kingdom, and Charles William Orde, Head of the Far Eastern Department, British Foreign Office.
  4. See telegram No. 56, January 23, 1934, 5 p.m., from the Minister in China, Foreign Relations, 1934, vol. iii, p. 525.
  5. Signed at Shanghai, October 8, 1903, ibid., 1903, p. 91.
  6. Reporting the matter to the Ambassador in China in telegram No. 62, March 29, 3 p.m., the Department added that the British Foreign Office might refer it to the British Ambassador in China, who might “approach you”.