Memorandum by the Chief of the Division of Chinese Affairs (Sprouse) to Mr. Livingston T. Merchant of the Office of Far Eastern Affairs32

It is my understanding that the considerations set forth hereunder in connection with the decision to close the Consulate General at Canton were taken into account at the meeting held in Ambassador Jessup’s33 office on August 12, attended by Mr. Rusk,34 Ambassador Jessup, Ambassador Stuart, Dr. Fosdick,35 Consul General Cabot, Mr. Perkins,36 Mr. Merchant, Mr. Davies37 and Mr. Sprouse.

Advantages: (1) The U.S. has had official representation at Canton since the late 18th century and we should continue to keep the flag flying as we have in the past regardless of the difficulties surrounding the continued retention of our consular offices in areas occupied by the Chinese Communists. (2) The Canton area has provided the greatest numbers of Chinese emigrants to the United States and American influence is strong in this area. Our continued presence will serve to encourage these Chinese and will indicate to them that we have not “deserted” them and are looking toward the day when our traditionally friendly relations with China can be restored. (3) The withdrawal of our consular office from Canton will be looked upon by other peoples south of China as an indication that we are retreating before the Communist advance and will be detrimental to our prestige both in China and in other areas of Asia.38

Disadvantages: (1) Given the pattern of the Chinese Communist attitude toward our official establishments in Shanghai, in particular, [Page 1317] and in other Communist-occupied cities, our consular offices will be the target for Communist pressure rather than serve as a means of affording protection and assistance to American citizens. Our consular offices are spending most of their time in defending themselves rather than in protecting and assisting American citizens. (2) The difficulties encountered by our Consulate General at Shanghai and the mob action against the Consulate General without any preventive action on the part of the Communist authorities have served to cause a loss of American prestige, outweighing any loss of prestige connected with the closure of our Consulate General at Canton. The presence of our consular office at Canton would present opportunities for further incidents leading to loss of prestige and serious difficulties. (3) All U.S. business firms are withdrawing their American personnel and the number of Americans remaining in this area and the extent of U.S. interests will be relatively small. The Consulate General at Hong Kong will be in a position to perform the necessary consular services for the American residents who elect to remain in southeast China. (4) The closure of our Consulate General at Canton, which should be accompanied by a public statement of the reasons therefor, will serve as a strong indication to the Chinese Communists that we do not like the treatment that has been accorded our consular offices in Communist-occupied cities and might serve as a jolt to them.

  1. Notation by Mr. Merchant to Mr. Sprouse: “Good—I suggest putting this in CA files. Maybe it will be of use to future generations of luckless souls then wrestling with problems in China!”
  2. Philip C. Jessup, Ambassador at Large.
  3. Dean Rusk, Deputy Under Secretary of State.
  4. Raymond B. Fosdick, Consultant to the Department regarding Far Eastern policies.
  5. Troy L. Perkins, formerly Consul at Nanking, detailed to the Department.
  6. John P. Davies, Jr., of the Policy Planning Staff.
  7. Marginal notation by Mr. Merchant: “Also matter of US–UK unity.”