The Consul General at Shanghai (Gauss) to the Secretary of State
[Received 3:30 p.m.]
64. British Chargé d’Affaires has sent to me and to the French Ambassador paraphrases of his exchange of telegrams with London in regard to the Municipal Council.
- Following is summary of his message to London. Any concession to Japanese now may be regarded by them as a surrender, therefore threats of using force should not be permitted to drive the powers into yielding on any major point. Council must take a firm line and must be able to rely on moral support of the powers. He suggests concurrence of his Foreign Office in the following advice to the Council: Council should not give way to any Japanese demands before consulting representative[s] of powers chiefly concerned. They should reply in writing to Japanese Consul General that while they [Page 121]have given most careful consideration to the Japanese proposals they do not agree that adoption would in any way bring about the desired result, namely, to maintain peace and order and to suppress any form of manifestations of foreign activity in the Settlement. The reply should contain [continue?] that the proposals have been under examination for a number of days and the question of their expediency on other grounds has not yet been decided but in any case the present political crisis embittered by national feelings is hardly the moment to make any changes of such importance. The Council who are merely guardians of interests of all nationalities in the Settlement are reluctant therefore to resume discussion of the grave problems involved until conditions have become more normal. In any case they should not approve of suggestions advanced unless assured that they were fully supported by other interested powers. The reply might conclude by saying that a report embodying a reasonable analysis of the situation with special reference to the police is therefore being submitted to Senior Consul for consideration by the Consular Body. This report should show how Japanese have been taken in by the Council in recent years and deal with objections to bringing in additional Japanese elements too quickly.
- Foreign Office replied to following effect: Since Japanese have occupied the posts fully, they are temporarily exercising the authority formerly wielded by the local administration. Therefore demands made to the Council by Japanese or Chinese which would not have been accepted from the formerly existing services must be resisted as far as possible. If, however, the Council feels themselves compelled to make any [concession?] to the Japanese demands for increased representation, it should be clearly understood that it is purely of a temporary nature. Later on when conditions return to normal it should be possible to consider the desirability of making any permanent change which would affect the interests of other powers. Foreign Office agrees generally with views expressed by the Chargé d’Affaires and approves the advice which he proposes to give to the Council. The Chargé d’Affaire[s] is instructed to keep in closest touch with the French and American colleagues in examining these problems. Message concludes with the statement that finally there is the possibility which might or might not satisfy the private [sic] Japanese and which should in any case only be taken up in the last resort of attaching some Japanese officials to certain departments of the Council as temporary observers, again on the strict understanding that such appointments would only be of a temporary nature. Foreign Office asks the views of the Chargé d’Affaires on this point.
- Press reports from London published here say that the Foreign Office is expected to instruct the British authorities that any new and special measures found necessary should be expressly on a temporary [Page 122]basis and without prejudice to a permanent arrangement which would affect other powers with rights in the Settlement.
- The French Ambassador mentioned this matter at a meeting with the British Chargé d’Affaires and me yesterday morning. He was inclined to agree that the Japanese approach as made was ill advised and that we should endeavor to avoid early consideration of the Japanese demands. The French however are not likely to contribute much to the solution of the problems of the International Settlement, being inclined to stand aside in such matters.
- I shall be glad to receive the Department’s instructions as to any advice which may be tendered to the American Chairman and one other American member of the Council.
- I am of the opinion that the question of increased Japanese representation in the municipal administrations and police has been so long postponed because of the British attitude that the Japanese will not be content to allow matters to drift and that it is essential that something be done to establish improved relations with the Japanese. I believe, however, that there should be no undue haste and that discussions should be prolonged in order that the effect of the Japanese demands may be dissipated. Then it may be made known that “in pursuance of the established policy of the Council of recent years” further increases in the Japanese representation in the police will be included in the annual budget which comes before the rate payers some time in April. It may be found desirable to provide for an additional Japanese Deputy Commissioner who shall be a police officer of experience and training. There may be provision for improved rank for Japanese police officers of experience and it may be desirable in some districts to appoint Japanese as co-inspectors in charge functioning alongside British inspectors. On the question of a Japanese Secretary, I believe it would be desirable to make the frank and friendly gesture of replacing the present Japanese Deputy Secretary who is persona non grata to the Japanese by a more capable man who shall be given status as Associate Secretary and who shall be chosen by the Council from amongst several suitable candidates. I do not believe that the British proposal for “temporary” measures will be well received by the Japanese; it is likely to increase the antagonism. I also dislike the proposal for temporary observers; it suggests too definitely an acceptance of the idea that the Japanese being in military occupation of the Shanghai area are entitled to exercise supervision over the Settlement administration. I believe that if the British will agree to yield in a reasonable measure we may be able to prevail upon the Japanese to approach the subject in a more conciliatory manner.
Repeated to Hankow.