493.11/1349: Telegram

The Minister in China (MacMurray) to the Secretary of State

602. 1. Although no official word has yet come either to the Legation or to the Board, it is learned through private advices received from Nanking by a Chinese member, that the Nationalist Government has decided to change the constitution and personnel of the China Foundation for the Promotion of Education and Culture as follows:

“Instead of the Board being a self-perpetuating body, its members are to be appointed by the Government [to] 3-year terms.”

2. The following Chinese members are to be dismissed: Y. T. Tsur, recently elected director, W. W. Yen, P. W. Kuo, Wellington Koo and Chang Po-ling. They are to be replaced by C. C. Wu, Sun Fo, Wang Ching-wei, M. Shi Seng and Tsao Yun-siang.

The Department will recall that the joint resolution of Congress authorizing the second remission of Boxer indemnity was passed following explanations to the House Foreign Affairs Committee that arrangements were contemplated by which the remitted funds would be entrusted not to any official agency but to a board of trustees independent of administrative control or interference. The Executive order of July 16th, 1925,17 was issued only after consideration [Page 544] of the constitution of the Foundation, which provided that its Board shall be self-perpetuating and shall have sole power to amend the constitution. It seems clear that if the terms of its constitution are set aside by governmental action, not only is there a violation of the quite clear understanding as to individuals of the agency to which the president would entrust the remitted funds, but the Foundation thus constituted would not be identical with that to which the Executive order authorized the payment of remissions.

3. While anxious to avoid any such unpleasant issue as would be involved in refusing to endorse over to the Foundation the checks paid to me monthly by the Customs, I should not for my part feel warranted in making further payments if the status and identity of the Foundation [are] as reported, and I could not conscientiously recommend that the Executive order be amended or so freely constructed [construed] as to authorize payment of the remitted funds to what would in that case be no longer an independent board of trustees but a partisan commission likely to divert the funds from the purposes originally intended by us.

4. Even were we to pay the instalments, however, the American joint treasurer, Bennett,18 feels that he could not sign any checks for expenditures without prescribed O. K. of the duly elected director; and as local manager of the municipality which holds Foundation’s current account and securities, he doubts whether his principals would allow him to honor the signatures of the officers of the Board not elected in accordance with the constitution.

5. In the hope of averting such issues as are likely to arise, I have informally sent word to Wang through Vice Minister Tong that it would be prudent to go slowly and endeavor to find means of arranging matters. This could no doubt be done as the Board has in the past proved if anything rather too complaisant not only in allocating its subventions to institutions in the South and in the North but also in inducing the retirement of members distasteful to the Nationalist element and electing in their places persons known to be acceptable to them. I am however very doubtful of the success of this effort to restrain action upon a decision which I apprehend was taken at the instance of those who meant it as a threat to us.

6. I suggest that more might be accomplished by seeking the good offices of Dr. Sze19 and Dr. Wu in averting an action which would compel us to take the disagreeable and emphatic alternative of discontinuing the 1925 remissions until the status of the Foundation is restored. It might also prove useful to seek the assistance of Dr. Paul Monroe of Columbia University who was previously instrumental [Page 545] in organizing the Foundation and who has considerable influence in Chinese educational circles.

  1. Foreign Relations, 1925, vol. i, p. 935.
  2. Charles R. Bennett.
  3. Sao-Ke Alfred Sze, Chinese Minister at Washington.