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

No. 1146

Sir: As you are aware, there exists at the present time a keen interest in airplanes on the part of the Chinese authorities, and American consular officers in China have very properly used their good offices in attracting that interest to aircraft manufactured in the United States. The success of these efforts has been evidenced by a number of telegrams received by the Department during the past few months from certain consular officers in China, covering inquiries regarding various types of airplanes produced by American firms, emanating from official government sources. The consular officers concerned are to be commended for their alertness in this connection.

[Page 535]

However, having assisted in creating a demand for the American product, the Department emphasizes now the necessity for the observance by its consular officers in China of scrupulous impartiality in the assistance given by them to American competitors. The Chinese authorities naturally attach considerable weight to the recommendations of a consular officer in matters of this sort, and if he inadvertently were to advise that they deal with one firm, in preference to another, they might be guided entirely by his recommendation, which would have a most unhappy effect upon competing American firms.

With the foregoing in mind, it is requested that you issue a circular to all American consular officers in charge of posts in China, informing them that it is the Department’s desire that consular officers in China refrain from such participation in commercial negotiations as might impute a character of agency or involve them in responsibility in relation to sales made or contracts entered into or compromise them in relation to the position of strict impartiality which, in view of their judicial and other special functions, it is absolutely necessary that they maintain. The letter and the spirit of paragraph 603 (h) of the Consular Regulations98 should be scrupulously observed.

While the Department believes that cable messages exchanged between the interested Chinese authorities and American firms should, as a rule, be sent directly, objection will not be made, when the circumstances appear to warrant such action, to the transmission of such messages by consular officers. In such case, however, it should be made clear to the senders that no responsibility whatever, as to the substance of the messages, is assumed by the consular officers transmitting them or by the Department of State.

It is requested that the Legation’s circular include a statement that the Department does not desire, in any way, to discourage the efforts of the consular officers receiving it toward focusing the attention of prospective purchasers of commercial airplanes upon those of American manufacture. The Department is anxious, however, that the consular officers concerned avoid any action in that connection that may properly be criticized as an assumption of the role of business agent for particular concerns, which, as stated in paragraph 603 (h) of the regulations, is contrary to law.

I am [etc.]

For the Secretary of State:
Wilbur J. Carr
  1. Par. 603 (h) states that “consular officers are forbidden by law to assume in any way the role of business agent for particular concerns” (apparently based upon Executive Order dated March 27, 1922)