281 Australian Government to Noel-Baker

Cablegram 220 CANBERRA, 20 December 1949, 11.35 p.m.


The Australian Government has received through your High Commissioner in Canberra, Mr. Attlee's and your message indicating that you propose to recognise the Communist Government of China on 2nd January next.

2. After carefully considering all aspects of the matter we have decided that we are not in favour of according recognition to the Communist Government at the present moment. Our main reason for reaching this conclusion is that we are not convinced that recognition would offer us any compensating advantages for what appear to us to be certain obvious disadvantages. The Communists have given no indication that they intend to respect the sanctity of recognised international law and practice in their dealings with other nations; indeed their treatment of United States consular and other officials suggests the contrary. We see no reason to expect that they will behave any differently towards the democracies merely as a result of recognition. Whatever tasks may command their attention within China itself, it is unlikely that they will refrain from trying to foment trouble in neighbouring Asian countries by every means at their disposal.

Conditions in countries adjacent to China are already unstable enough without the added encouragement that recognition of Communist China can be expected to lend to Communist and other subversive groups in South-East Asia and elsewhere. It is true that organised resistance by the Chinese Nationalist Forces is crumbling: but we would wish to be certain that a Government which was allied with us throughout the war is not abandoned prematurely, particularly when this would have the added disadvantage of hastening representation on the Security Council and other United Nations bodies of a Government that can be expected to vote solidly with the Soviet bloc.

3. We recognise, however, that the United Kingdom has special interests in China which are in danger of extinction unless reasonable relations can be established with the regime that is in effective control of the greater part of China. We accordingly offer no objection to your proposal that you should recognise the Communist Government on 2nd January.

4. We realise that it will be impossible to postpone recognition indefinitely. From our point of view it is the question of timing that is important. When we are convinced that the time is appropriate we shall suit our action accordingly. In this connection the Minister of External Affairs will be prepared at the forthcoming conference at Colombo to hear all arguments advanced in favour of early recognition. But for the present the reasons outlined in paragraph 2 above, together with some reluctance to act in advance of the United States Government, have led us to feel that recognition by us would not yet be appropriate.

Hong Kong

[AA:A1838/2, 494/30/1, i]