Memorandum by Mr. Troy L. Perkins, of the Office of Chinese Affairs84

[CFE D–2]

Recognition of the Chinese Communist Regime


The position which we should take during the forthcoming discussions with the British and French Foreign Ministers with respect to the question of possible recognition of a Chinese Communist regime.


The present position of leading governments toward recognition and their reaction to the Chou En-lai letter of October 1, inviting recognition, are summarized in Supplement A (CFE D–2/1).85
Recognition should not be extended before the Communist regime has concretely indicated that it is prepared to respect at least the minimum standards of international conduct and to assume the responsibilities of a government in the treatment of foreign nationals and their interests. The foregoing embodies the meagerest minimum and does not involve the usual and desirable assumption by a new regime of existing treaty obligations of the state nor does it even assume the negotiation of a new agreement, similar to the US–USSR 1933 Litvinov Agreement.86 We await the observance in practice of the elementary concepts of international conduct or even (as in the Mukden case87) of simple humanitarian treatment of foreign nationals.

Chinese Communist leaders have publicly announced their intention to abrogate or not to recognize a number of the international obligations contracted by the present Chinese Government including, [Page 169]specifically, most of the recent treaties and agreements between the U.S. and China. (There is attached a list of the major treaties and agreements in force between the United States and China—Supplement B—CFE D–2/2).

It is suggested that you take up with Mr. Bevin the question of the British attitude toward Communist disregard of the obligations undertaken by China in the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade.88 We have under consideration the suspension in so far as they apply to imports from China, of the benefits of tariff concessions made by the U.S. in that Agreement. Such suspension would require, for one thing, consultation with other contracting parties and we may find it exceedingly difficult to take the necessary action effectively or at all if the British and a number of the other contracting parties should have, in the meanwhile, recognized the Communists without clarifying their position with respect to the General Agreement.

3. Recognition of the Communist regime by leading democratic powers during the present session of the General Assembly would be unfortunate in its effect upon consideration of substantive problems of this session since, unless there were reasonably unanimous consent among them to the seating of a Chinese Communist delegation, such recognition would probably interject a procedural problem and might well invite a rancorous debate.

4. Hasty recognition by any of the leading democratic Western Powers would have immediate and far-reaching repercussions in southeast Asia because of the indication of a break in the democratic ranks and the aid and comfort given to local Communist movements. We believe that consideration should be given to the attitudes of the countries in southeast Asia which, according to American reports, do not favor early recognition. The reaction in the independent countries, such as Siam, Burma the Philippines and the new Indonesian Republic would be most important. You may wish, in discussion with Mr. Schuman, to allude to the position which the Indochinese Government and Bao Dai89 might find themselves in if there were French recognition of a neighboring regime without any assurances of its future attitudes and actions toward Indochina.

A complicating factor for the French would be the gathering of Pai Chung-hsi’s90 retreating armies along the Indochina border, since [Page 170]the French would likely be unable to cope with any large-scale incursions of Pai’s forces.

It would also be well for the Secretary to keep in mind the attitude of the British with respect to Hong Kong. If the British should, because of pressure from the US, withhold recognition of the Chinese Communists for a considerable period, it is possible that complications over Hong Kong would arise which might lead to a Chinese Communist attack on the Colony. In this connection, it should be noted that the Joint Chiefs of Staff have given their opinion that the British military position in Hong Kong would, under such circumstances, be untenable and have recommended to the President that “the United States will not provide military support to the British for the defense of Hong Kong in the event of a Communist military attack”. The defeat of the British in Hong Kong by the Chinese Communists would, of course, constitute a serious loss in prestige of the democratic Western powers in the Far East.

5. It is our belief that recognition by the U.S. of a Communist regime while the Mukden case is outstanding would be a tactical impossibility. In fact, this case raises the question, as a gauge of their future performance, of the independence of action of the Chinese Communist leaders, most particularly in Manchuria. We consider that the recognition of the Chinese Communist regime by other friendly powers while this flagrant instance of treatment of foreign officials remains unsettled would have the effect of acquiescing in, if not condoning, such practice and could serve as a precedent for the Communists after recognition has been successfully achieved.

6. Finally, it is to be noted that a friendly government which we recognize still has control over considerable areas and population of China and continues to oppose the Communist drive in Asia.


It is recommended that you endeavor to obtain the agreement of Mr. Bevin and Mr. Schuman to the following:

That the friendly Western Powers continue to adhere to the continuation of full prior consultation and, in so far as possible, common action with respect to recognition.
That recognition not be extended until at least the conditions generally recognized as a minimum are fulfilled.
That no support be given during the present session of the General Assembly to attempts of a Chinese Communist delegation to obtain seating in the Assembly.

[Page 171]

Supplement B [CFE/D–2/2:] List of Major Treaties and Agreements in Force Between the United States and China

A. Multilateral

Cairo statement of November, 1943

Charter of the United Nations and Statute of the International Court of Justice, San Francisco, June 26, 1945

(In addition, China is also a party to a number of agreements involving specific UN organizations, such as UNESCO, FAO, IRO, WHO, the International Monetary Fund, the International Bank, ILO, etc.)

General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT), signed at Geneva, October 30, 1947

Convention on International Civil Aviation, Chicago, December 7, 1944

International Telecommunications Convention, Madrid December 9, 1922 [1932]

International Sanitary Convention for Aerial Navigation, Washington, December 15, 1944

(With protocol of April 23, 1946, prolonging the convention) Protocol amending the agreements, conventions, and protocols on narcotic drugs, concluded at The Hague on January 23, 1922 [1912], et seq., New York, December 11, 1946

Convention to suppress slave trade, Geneva, September 25, 1926

Agreement for the repression of trade in white women, Paris, May 18, 1904

Convention for promoting safety of life at sea, London, May 31, 1929, with amendments

Universal Postal Convention, Cairo, March [20,] 1934

Convention for the international exchange of official documents, Brussels, March 15, 1886

Convention for the formation of an international union for the publication of customs tariffs, Brussels, July 5, 1890

Arrangement relative to the repression of the circulation of obscene publications, Paris, May 4, 1910

Conventions for the pacific settlement of international disputes and the limitation of the employment of force, The Hague, October 18, 1907

[Page 172]

Conventions regarding the rules of warfare (The most important of these conventions were those signed at The Hague, October 18, 1907.)

Nine-Power Treaty, February 6, 1922


Treaty … Relating to the Relinquishment of Extraterritorial Rights in China and the Regulation of Related Matters, Washington, January 11, 1943

Arbitration Treaty, Washington, June 27, 1930

Air Transport Agreement, Nanking, December 20, 1946

Parcel Post Convention, Peking, May 29, 1916

Agreement relating to the exemption from duty of the effects of diplomatic and consular officers, Washington, September–December, 1930

Agreement Relating to the Presence of United States Armed Forces in China, Nanking, August 29–September 3, 1947

Agreement Relating to Claims Resulting from Activities of US Military Forces in China, effective March 17, 1948

Agreement Relating to the Establishment of the United States Educational Foundation in China (Fulbright agreement), Nanking, November 10, 1947

Agreement relating to financial aid to China (the 500 million dollar credit), Washington, March 21, 1942

Agreements regarding lend-lease

(Most important of these agreements was the Agreement Relating to the Disposition of Lend-Lease Supplies, June 14, 1946, the so-called “pipe-line” agreement.)

Agreement for the sale of certain surplus war property, Shanghai, August 30, 1946

Dollar credit arrangement for the purchase by China of American surplus property abroad (dockyard agreement), Shanghai, May 15, 1946

Agreement … Relating to the Transfer of U.S. Naval Vessels and Equipment to the Chinese Government, Nanking, December 8, 1947

Economic aid agreement, Nanking, July 3, 1948

Agreement … Providing for Relief Assistance to China, Nanking, October 27, 1947

Agreement … Providing for the Establishment of a Joint Commission on Rural Reconstruction in China, Nanking, August 5, 1948

Treaty of Friendship, Navigation, and Commerce, November 30, 1948

  1. A covering document by Bradley Patterson, of the Executive Secretariat, stated that this memorandum was drafted for guidance “on the position the U. S. should take during the forthcoming conversations with the British and French Ministers concerning possible recognition of a Chinese Communist regime. This paper has been approved by Mr. Butterworth and has been informally discussed with the Secretary.”
  2. Not printed; but see part “A” of memorandum by Gerald Stryker, November 2, p. 154, which was adopted in its entirety to be “Supplement A (CFE D–2/1)”, with the insertion of the following as the fifth paragraph:

    “Among the Southeast Asian countries other than India, Thailand’s Premier Phibun has stated publicly that recognition of the Chinese Communist regime will be dependent upon proof that the regime represents and is supported by a majority of the people and its acceptance by the UN. The Burmese have indicated a strong desire to engage in consultation on the question of recognition, but no definitive statement as to that country’s intentions has yet been made. The Philippines apparently will follow the U.S. lead on recognition.”

  3. Foreign Relations, 1933, vol. ii, pp. 805814.
  4. See vol. viii , “Problems of United States Consulates in areas occupied by the Chinese Communists”, chapter i.
  5. Signed at Geneva, October 30, 1947; for text, see Department of State, Treaties and Other International Acts Series No. 1700, or 61 Stat. (pts. 5–6).
  6. Chief of State of Vietnam.
  7. Director of Military and Political Affairs for Central China under Acting President Li Tsung-jen.