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

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

Mr. Graves called by appointment this afternoon and handed Mr. Butterworth the two attached memoranda, dated November 8, 1949: (1) conclusions reached by the British Conference held at Singapore November 2–4 regarding the question of recognition of the Chinese Communist regime14 and (2) estimate by the Conference of the effect [Page 185]of recognition of the Chinese Communist regime on certain countries and territories in Southeast Asia.15 Mr. Graves pointed out that the conclusions of this Conference did not mean that the British Government had reached a final decision in the matter and added that the Foreign Office had not yet received any replies to the memoranda handed by British representatives to the various Western European countries and the Commonwealth governments.

Mr. Butterworth noted the third paragraph of the memorandum setting forth the conclusions reached regarding the question of recognition, which stated that “from the point of view of the situation in Southeast Asia and the Far East generally such recognition is desirable as early as possible and in any case by the end of the year”, and said that, while he could explain the British view of this question in so far as the British position at Hong Kong and British investments in China were concerned, he could not follow this reasoning with respect to Southeast Asia and the Far East in general. He pointed out that the second of the two attached memoranda actually seemed on balance to argue against early recognition or at least to furnish no particular reason therefor, this being particularly true of the British estimate of the effect on the Bao Dai regime in Indochina.

Mr. Graves replied that he did not know the reasons for the statement made in the third paragraph referred to by Mr. Butterworth and that he could only suggest that it was believed that early recognition might lessen the likelihood of unrest and agitation stirred up by the Chinese Communists in Southeast Asia and that it might also more readily serve to keep the Chinese Communists within their own borders than if they were not recognized and not treated as a legitimate government.

During general discussion of the memoranda Mr. Butterworth and Mr. Sprouse pointed out that it had been the Department’s opinion that the effect in Southeast Asia of early recognition of the Chinese Communist regime would be generally unfavorable and that the estimate of the British Conference at Singapore had not actually differed materially from the Department’s estimate.

Referring to Mr. Butterworth’s previous query whether the British had had any exploratory discussions regarding recognition with the Chinese Communists through intermediaries at Shanghai or Hong Kong, Mr. Graves said that he had passed this query on to the Foreign Office and that the latter had replied that no such discussions had been held.

[Page 186]

Mr. Butterworth confirmed to Mr. Graves that the Department had received a brief telegraphic summary of the British Conference conclusions forwarded by the Consul General at Singapore but that we had not yet received the full text of the document which had been handed to him by the British representatives at Singapore and which he was forwarding by pouch. In reply to Mr. Butterworth’s request, Mr. Graves agreed to make available to the Department the text of this document as soon as it should be received by the British Embassy. He concluded that the results of the Conference would, of course, have to be studied by the British Government.

  1. Infra.
  2. Not printed.