711.933/377: Telegram

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

5159. For the Secretary and the Under Secretary. We asked Ashley Clarke if he could elaborate on what the British had in mind with regard to a “special status” for Shanghai (Department’s telegram 4423, September 12, 9 p.m.). He was not very specific but did tell us of a recent Chinese “suggestion”. About a month ago, he said, Wang Ping Shen33 in conversation with a member of the British Embassy staff at Chungking indicated that the Chinese recognized that there were many problems requiring settlement in Shanghai and that they would be prepared to agree to some “special status” for that city. No effort was made by the British to draw out their informant for fear of encouraging some undesired Chinese initiative in the matter of extraterritorial and related rights. It is the Foreign Office feeling however that the Chinese would not of course consider any continuance of international control over the administration of Shanghai or any system of international police, et cetera (nor is such control in British opinion desirable), they do believe that the Chinese would be prepared to have certain foreign advisers participating in the proceedings of the future Shanghai municipal authorities. The Foreign Office considers that there would be [Page 294] some advantage in such an arrangement and that it would help in settling the many questions which will inevitably have to be settled with the transfer of power from the jurisdiction of the international (and French) concession administrations to the Chinese. It is their belief that the Chinese realize they will need help in settling such matters and that consequently to this end they too will feel that such foreign advisers will be useful. As an example of the sort of question which will have to be settled, Clarke and Dening34 cited the Shanghai Power Company which is American-owned. What, they asked, for example would be its future status, its obligations to furnish power and the position of its debentures owned not only by American and British holders but by other foreigners? We gather that the Foreign Office feels that this and many similar problems will have to be worked out in one form or another by mutual agreement with the Chinese and their anxiety at the present time is merely to avoid inclusion of any specific provision in the proposed brief treaty which would completely tie our hands with respect to Shanghai.

Clarke describes Wang Ping Shen as a sort of head of China’s “Secret Foreign Office” and attributes to him great personal influence with the Generalissimo. The Foreign Office therefore, it is clear, sets great store by his expression of willingness to recognize a “special status” for Shanghai. They think that when the time comes for a British and American approach to this question it will be possible to find out just what the Chinese have in mind.

As to numbered paragraph 3 of the Department’s telegram under reference, the Foreign Office is in accord that British and American consideration of the question of the relinquishment of extraterritorial rights should be kept strictly confidential. They do propose however to inform the British Ambassador35 at Chungking in strict confidence and in this connection asked whether Ambassador Gauss has likewise been told of our proposal. They believe that it would be useful for the two Ambassadors to consult together but do not wish to suggest this if Gauss has not been informed. We gather that the Foreign Office intends to ask the British Ambassador how many of the stipulations included in the British draft treaty of 193136 (which was never brought to a conclusion owing to the Manchurian incident) he thinks the Chinese would still be willing to agree to today. We asked specifically whether the British Ambassador will be authorized [Page 295] to discuss this question with any Chinese prior to our proposed approach to them and were given assurances that he would not.

  1. Presumably Wang Peng-sheng, Generalissimo Chiang Kai-shek’s leading adviser on Japanese affairs and head of the Institute for International Relations, National Military Council.
  2. Maberly Esler Dening, of the Far Eastern Department of the British Foreign Office.
  3. Sir Horace James Seymour.
  4. The British Minister and Chinese Minister for Foreign Affairs agreed on a draft treaty on June 6, 1931; see Foreign Relations, 1931, vol. iii, p. 875. Complete text not printed, but for papers regarding British negotiations paralleling those of the United States, see ibid., 1930, vol. ii, pp. 418 ff., and ibid., 1931, vol. iii, pp. 726 ff.