275 Mighell to Department of External Affairs

Cablegram 4518 LONDON, 29 October 1949, 7.50 p.m.



Lord Addison [1] has suggested to all High Commissioners in London that consultation question of 'recognition of the Chinese Communist Government' might best be done at a meeting with them at which the Foreign Secretary would be present. Lord Addison and Mr.

Bevin suggested Wednesday 9th November and have forwarded memorandum setting out United Kingdom's present views to acting High Commissioner under cover of letter which concludes 'It would perhaps be useful if the enclosed memorandum could be taken as a basis for the talk and I hope that it will be possible for you to ascertain views of your Government by that date'. Memorandum reads as follows-




United Kingdom Government have considered the question of recognition of Chinese Government as the de jure Government of China and agreed that consultation should take place with Commonwealth and other Governments on the basis of paragraphs 2-7 below. No decision as to recognition will be taken until replies have been received from these Governments and until report has been received from Singapore where the forthcoming Conference of United Kingdom representatives is to consider implications of recognition as they affect United Kingdom interests in the Far East. [2] Ministers have, at the same time, considered what their attitude should be towards the issue raised by Nationalist China in the United Nations since the attitude taken by various powers in the Political Committee may well have bearing on their future relations with Communist China (paragraph 8 below).

Recognition 2. Nationalist Government were our former Allies in war and have been a useful friend in United Nations. Today they are no longer representative of anything but their ruling clique and their control over remaining metropolitan territories is tenuous.

Nationalist Forces in China have shown no disposition to give battle and there is no doubt that will to resist has largely disappeared. In United Nations Organisation, continued recognition of the Nationalist Government offers the advantage of a vote which, in the past, has usually been cast in our favour, whereas a Communist vote is likely to be cast against us. But this is hardly an advantage which can be maintained indefinitely.

3. The Communist Government People's Republic of China is the only alternative to the Nationalist Government. Communists are now rulers of most of China (it is understood that they control at present 70% of the total area of the country and 75% of the total population of China). The fall of Canton has brought them to Hong Kong frontier. It would be a mistake to disregard the fact that they are, on their own statements, orthodox Marxist-Leninists who openly declare their strong partiality for the Soviet Union and its methods. How long they will last, how 'orthodox' their methods will be and how strong their leadership will prove is yet to be seen.

4. The Soviet Union and the satellite States have already recognised the Communist Government, and a considerable number of Russian technicians have arrived already in North China. It may be expected that the Soviet Union will take full advantage of the fact that they are first in the field, and that in the absence of any representation from the West, they will seek to influence the Chinese Communist Government in the direction of making matters difficult for other Powers. If there is a considerable influx of Russians, it is not impossible that friction may develop in China, but we cannot expect to take advantage of such a development if we have no relations with the Communist Government. The Communists have a need to trade with the West but with lapse of time, if some trade does not develop, they may come to the conclusion that they can tighten their belts and do without Western economic assistance in which view they would be encouraged by the Soviet Union.

5. The United Kingdom have also to consider their own trading interests in China which are considerable and of long standing.

The United Kingdom Government have advocated the policy of keeping the foot in the door and if this policy is to bear fruit it can only be as a result of recognition of the Chinese Communist Government. On political and practical grounds we are therefore in favour of de jure recognition.

6. We are advised that recognition of the Communist Government as the de jure Government of China in the present conditions cannot be held to be contrary to the principles and practice of international law, having regard to the proportion of Chinese territory controlled by the Communist Government and firmness of its control there on one hand, and on the other, to the small proportion of Chinese territory held by the Nationals and the tenuous nature of Nationalist control, where it exists. It could be asserted that resistance of the Nationalist Government in China is now ostensibly hopeless and its control over any portion of Chinese territory on the mainland hardly more than nominal, and in these circumstances the United Kingdom Government are advised that de jure recognition of the Communist Government is legally justifiable.

7. The above represents our political and legal appreciation of the position and our conclusion is that recognition should be accorded. Detailed examination has yet to be made of the precise implications for ourselves of de jure recognition and these are being studied. Implications from the point of view of our interests in the Far East will be examined by a Conference of His Majesty's representatives in the Far East which is being held from 2nd to 4th November. Other Governments will no doubt be studying implications for their own interests. It is to be hoped that action eventually taken by Governments will be concerted as far as possible, although it is accepted that every Government has in the final analysis the right to take such action as it considers appropriate.

THE CHINESE NATIONALIST MOTION IN THE UNITED NATIONS ASSEMBLY 8. The United Kingdom Government have been considering what their attitude should be when the Chinese Nationalist complaint comes up for debate in the Political Committee. They are unable to see that the Nationalist complaint will at this late date serve any useful purpose in upholding the authority of the Nationalist Government in China which has already been described as tenuous. It is by no means clear that a successful case can be established against the Soviet Union or that if it is established any desirable result will ensue. The Soviet Union for its part can be relied on to make a violent attack on the position of the Nationalist Government and is likely to make use of those portions of the United States White Paper on China which are most damaging to Chiang Kai-Shek and the Nationalist Government. [3] Since we hold the opinion (which was borne out by the American White Paper) that the present state of affairs in China is due to corruption and maladministration of the Nationalist Government and that any breach of the Sino-Soviet Treaty of 1945 had in fact little bearing on the present situation, any support of the Nationalist Government in the forthcoming debate would not in our view be justified, nor, if ultimate recognition of the Chinese Communist Government is contemplated, can there be any purpose in criticising the Chinese Communists in advance of such recognition. In these circumstances His Majesty's Government in the United Kingdom are disposed to instruct their representative in the United Nations Assembly to take no part in the debate and to abstain from voting if a vote should take place. Ends.

3. Understand copy of this memorandum has been sent to the United Kingdom High Commissioner, Canberra, for his information, and that consultation is proceeding simultaneously with the United States, France and other Western European Powers who are regarded as interested.

1 Leader of the House of Lords.

2 See Document 279.

3 The White Paper, entitled United States Relations with China, With Special Reference to the Period 1944-49, was released on 5 August 1949.

[AA:A1838/278, 494/2/10, ii]