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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).

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

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

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

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

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]
Last Updated: 11 September 2013
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