Memorandum of British Foreign Secretary to Chinese Forieign Minister (Eden Memorandum)

5th August 1943

Dear Dr. Soong,

When you visited me on the 26th July, you spoke of Tibet and enquired as to our attitude.

I have the pleasure in sending you the accompanying informal memorandum which I trust will serve to clear this matter up

(signed) Anthony Eden

His Excellency,
Dr. T.V. Soong.


Since the Chinese Revolution of 1911, when Chinese forces were withdrawn from Tibet, Tibet has enjoyed de facto independence.  She has ever since regarded herself as in practice completely autonomous and has opposed Chinese attempts to reassert control

Since 1911, repeated attempts have been made to bring about an accord between China and Tibet.  It seemed likely that agreement could be found on the basis that Tibet should be autonomous under the nominal suzerainty of China, and this was the basis of the draft tripartite (Chinese-Tibetan-British) convention of 1914 which was initialled by the Chinese representative by was not ratified by the Chinese Government.  The rock on which the convention and subsequent attempts to reach an understanding were wrecked was not the question of autonomy (which was expressly admitted by China) but was the question of the boundary between China and Tibet, since the Chinese Government claimed sovereignty over areas which the Tibetan Government claimed belonged to their autonomous jurisdiction.

The boundary question, however, remained insuperable and, since the delay in reaching agreement was hampering the development of more normal relations between India and Tibet, eventually in 1921 the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs (Lord Curzon) informed the then Chinese Minister (Dr. Wellington Koo) that the British Government did not feel justified in withholding any longer their recognition of the status of Tibet as an autonomous State under the suzerainty of China, and intended dealing on this basis with Tibet in the future.

This is the principle which has since guided the attitude of the British Government towards Tibet.  They have always been prepared to recognize Chinese suzerainty over Tibet but only on the understanding that Tibet is regarded as autonomous.  Neither the British Government nor the Government of India have any territorial ambitions in Tibet but they are interested in the maintenance of friendly relations with, and in the preservation of peaceful conditions in an area which is coterminous with the North-East frontiers of India.  They would welcome any amicable arrangements which the Chinese Government might be disposed to make with Tibet whereby the latter recognized Chinese suzerainty in return for an agreed frontier and an undertaking to recognise Tibetan autonomy and they would gladly offer any help desired by both parties to this end.

FO 371-93001

Source: Goldstein, Melvyn; A History of Modern Tibet, 1913-1951; University of California Press; 1989; pp. 400-2.  Also available via Google Books.