Memorandum of Conversation, by the Director of the Office of Chinese Affairs (Sprouse)

Participants: Mr. H. A. Graves, Counselor, British Embassy
Mr. Butterworth, Assistant Secretary
Mr. Sprouse, CA

Mr. Graves called by appointment this afternoon and handed Mr. Butterworth the attached secret memorandum, prepared by the British Embassy under date of November 1, 1949,56 in which are set forth the views of the British Government with regard to the question of recognition of the Chinese Communist regime.57 He explained that [Page 150]the memorandum also set forth the British attitude toward the Chinese case in the United Nations regarding Soviet violations of the Sino-Soviet treaty of 1945.58 In reply to a question, Mr. Graves stated that the British Government was instructing its representatives to consult on this question with the French, Dutch, and Belgian Governments and with the governments of the British Commonwealth, as well as with the U.S. Government. (Mr. Graves subsequently telephoned Mr. Sprouse and said that a later telegram from the British Foreign Office indicated that similar instructions had been sent to Rome, Lisbon, Luxembourg, Oslo and Copenhagen.) He explained that the British Government would appreciate receiving an indication of the U.S. Government’s views within two weeks. He further stated that the attached memorandum represented the preliminary conclusions of the British Government regarding the question of recognition. With respect to the Chinese case before the United Nations, he explained that the memorandum represented the present thinking of the British Government.

After some general discussion of the memorandum, Mr. Butterworth asked if the absence of reference in the memorandum to the question of obtaining assurances from the Chinese Communist regime, prior to extending recognition, of respect for international obligations indicated that the British Government would not expect to obtain any quid pro quo. Mr. Graves replied that it was the British Government’s view that the disadvantages of nonrecognition were so great as to outweigh any possible advantages to be obtained from securing Chinese Communist assurance of respect for international obligations. He added that the British Government was under no illusions as to the advantages to be gained from any commitment obtained from the Chinese Communists with respect to international obligations. Mr. Butterworth referred to the conversations between the Secretary, Mr. Bevin59 and Mr. Schuman60 in September and pointed out that the question of observance by the Chinese Communists of their international obligations in accordance with international comity had been brought up during those conversations and that it was his understanding that this would be considered in connection with the problem of recognition. In reply to a direct question, Mr. Graves admitted that the British Government would expect to obtain Chinese Communist assurances regarding observance of the Kowloon lease agreement prior to extending recognition. He indicated that the question of Hong Kong did not arise since this was British territory ceded by treaty.

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Prefacing his query with the expression that he was going to be very frank, Mr. Butterworth asked if the British had had any preliminary conversations with Chinese Communist authorities either in Hong Kong or in Shanghai through intermediaries such as Mr. John Keswick (head of Jardine-Matheson)61 which would provide some common ground and make the British approach to the question of recognition seem less of a “bolt out of the blue”. Mr. Graves replied that the British Embassy at Washington had no knowledge of any such exploratory discussions but that he himself suspected that such an approach may have been made through Mr. Keswick at Shanghai. He said that he would inquire of the Foreign Office in this regard.

Mr. Butterworth referred to the indication given by the Secretary to Mr. Bevin in September of the probable attitude of the countries in southeast Asia toward early recognition of the Chinese Communist regime and added that he assumed that the British representatives in their forthcoming conference at Singapore would look into this question and take into consideration the attitudes of the countries in southeast Asia, which, according to American reports, would not favor early recognition. Mr. Graves said that he felt certain that this question would be considered at Singapore by the British representatives and said that he would endeavor to obtain information in this regard for transmission to Mr. Butterworth.

Mr. Graves stated in conclusion that the British Government expected to receive the replies of the other governments being approached without any difficulty within the next two weeks and repeated the previously expressed hope that the Department of State would give him an indication of the U.S. Government’s attitude within two weeks. Mr. Butterworth replied that the Department would give full consideration to the matter and that it was hoped a reply would be forthcoming as requested by the British.

  1. Infra.
  2. The Ambassador in the United Kingdom (Douglas) reported in telegram No. 4353, October 31, 9 p. m. (893.01/10–21 [31]49), and in despatch No. 1744, November 1 (893.01/11–149), that the British Foreign Office on the afternoon of October 31 informed the Embassy of the proposal to be made by the British Government for the recognition of the Chinese Communist regime as the Government of China.
  3. Signed at Moscow, August 14, 1945. For text, see United Nations Treaty series, vol. x, p. 300; for correspondence, see volume i .
  4. Ernest Bevin, British Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs.
  5. Robert Schuman, French Minister for Foreign Affairs.
  6. Jardine, Matheson & Co., British shipping firm in China.