793.94/14376: Telegram

The Ambassador in China ( Johnson ) to the Secretary of State

557. My 553, November 18, 9 a.m. In response to his request I called upon the Chinese Minister of Foreign Affairs November 19, 4 p.m., and he told me that he wished to give me a summary of conversations that had recently taken place between the British Ambassador in Changsha about 10 days ago and General Chiang Kai Shek and between the British Ambassador and himself during the last 2 or 3 days following the arrival of Sir Archibald Clark-Kerr in Chungking. What follows is the substance of Dr. Wang’s remarks.

Sir Archibald and the Generalissimo had two or three long conversations, but they might be reduced to this one point: China’s situation had become so serious that it was essential for the Chinese Government to have a definite yes or no answer to the question whether Great Britain intended to continue its past attitude of inaction in reference to the Sino-Japanese conflict, or whether Great Britain intended [Page 390] to declare firm adherence to the Nine Power Treaty and other treaties bearing on the Far Eastern situation, to give China positive assistance in the form of a loan or otherwise, and to execute the League resolutions with reference to the conflict. General Chiang said that knowledge of Great Britain’s intentions in regard to these matters was essential for the proper formulation of China’s own foreign policies, especially in view of the meeting of the Executive Committee of the Kuomintang Party which would occur in Chungking in December, for at this time the Government must submit its policies for discussion. Dr. Wang said that General Chiang’s remarks to Sir Archibald were not in any sense an ultimatum but rather an attempt to convey to the British Ambassador a sense of the crisis that had been reached and an earnest plea to Great Britain to act promptly on behalf of that country’s own interests and in fulfillment of its announced position in relation to the matters enumerated. Dr. Wang observed that he had asked Sir Archibald whether he had communicated to his Government a report of the conversations with General Chiang and Sir Archibald replied that he had.

Dr. Wang said that he himself in view of Great Britain’s great material interests in the Orient, possession of Hong Kong, Singapore and other colonial areas, its investment in China, et cetera, had conversed with Sir Archibald at length on these same subjects. Sir Archibald had also talked with Dr. Wang Ching Wei,28 General Chang Chun and other leaders. Dr. Wang said that as in the earlier case he would not go into the details and ramifications of his conversations with the British Ambassador but would reduce them to as small a compass as possible; he had informed the British Ambassador (1) that China had reached a point where it was imperative for China to know in order to shape its present policy whether Great Britain would make a formal specific and public declaration maintaining their adherence to the Nine Power and other treaties on which the international situation in the Far East is based; (2) that it was imperative that Great Britain inform the Chinese Government at once and positively whether a loan would be granted to China; (3) that it was imperative also that the British Government indicate whether it is intended to take some measure of reprisal short of war against Japan in retaliation for the injuries inflicted by Japan on Great Britain’s prestige, rights and interests in the Far East; and (4) that it was necessary that the British Government inform the Chinese Government whether it would take immediate steps to execute the various League resolutions in regard to the Sino-Japanese conflict including resort to article 16 of the League Covenant providing for sanctions against Japan.

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Dr. Wang said that these statements to the British Ambassador were neither a threat nor an ultimatum but merely set forth assurances that must be given and actions that must be taken by Great Britain if China were to frame its policy in the conflict intelligently. Of course, he said, it was the earnest hope of the Chinese Government that Great Britain would at once give the assurances and take the measures described above.

The Minister for Foreign Affairs further said that he had pointed out to the British Ambassador that the Chinese Government was surprised that while Great Britain and France had simultaneously with the United States sent strong representations to the Japanese Government protesting against the closing of the Yangtze to navigation, Great Britain had not addressed to the Japanese Government any communication similar to the note of the American Government of October 6th29 protesting against violation of the Open Door policy; he observed to me that unless effective measures were taken at once no open door or closed would longer exist because Japan would be the only nation having any authority or opportunities in China.

Dr. Wang said that the policy of the Japanese Government in respect of China had recently undergone another drastic change; after months of dispute over the so-called “China bureau” the idea of creating such an organ had been dropped and there had been a “bureau of the new system in Asia”, composed of the Ministers of War, Navy and Foreign Affairs and the Premier, a super Cabinet under direction of the army and navy to control the execution of Japan’s “holy” policy toward not China alone but the whole of Asia. He added that public statements made by Japanese statesmen and private conversations held by himself with various of the highest Japanese leaders in Tokyo 3 years before proved that the “holy” policy of Japan was that of eradicating from the whole of Asia all Occidental interests and influence. He said that the then Japanese Minister of War had calculated that experts thoroughly understood China’s aspiration to maintain its integrity and independence and would assist China to the fullest extent in achieving this, but on one condition, that is, that China cease to rely on the United States and Great Britain culturally, economically, or politically, [and] depend only on Japan. Dr. Wang asked that I regard this information as given to me in strict confidence.

Dr. Wang said that he had received through the Japanese Domei agency the Chinese translation of the complete text of the Japanese Government’s reply30 to the American protest of October 6th, and although he had not had time to read it he gathered that it rejected [Page 392] practically all of the contentions made in the American note; he also referred to the fact that the Japanese replies31 to the protests in regard to the continued closing of the Yangtze River to foreign navigation had rejected all the claims advanced by the powers; he wondered therefore what steps would be taken by the American Government in the face of this rebuff.

Dr. Wang said that he hoped that I would report to my Government the purport of his remarks, and that he most earnestly hoped that the United States would cooperate in this crisis.

I desire to add that Dr. Wang expressed no disappointment with the American attitude, actions, or failure to act in reference to the conflict but on the contrary said that he had plainly indicated to the British Ambassador the feeling of the Chinese Government that Great Britain had failed to afford the United States adequate support in the more advanced position we had taken on behalf of the established treaty position in the Far East. The Minister made it evident that Chiang and he are preparing to face a possible demand in the Executive Committee meeting for a reorientation of policy and to defend their course of relying for moral and material support on the Western Powers particularly the United States and Great Britain. In this connection I told the Minister that the position of the American Government toward the treaty situation and the present conflict has been made crystal clear in public statements including that of November 432 and by our official actions all of which he might use in his address at the Committee meeting, but I added that no one would be able to forecast the future actions of the American Government in pursuance of its announced policy since these would be determined by circumstances.

Repeated to Shanghai and Peiping. Shanghai repeat to Tokyo.

  1. Deputy leader of the Kuomintang (Nationalist Party).
  2. Foreign Relations, Japan, 1931–1941, vol. i, p. 785.
  3. Dated November 18, ibid., p. 797.
  4. See note of November 14, Foreign Relations, Japan, 1931–1941, vol. i, p. 795.
  5. Ibid., p. 481.