The Department of State to the Japanese Embassy60

Long before the recent development of concerted anti-British agitation in areas of China under Japanese control, there was evidence that Japanese agencies in those areas were undertaking a propaganda campaign [Page 855] against western nations, including the United States. In some instances the United States was specifically singled out for abuse. This evidence appeared from time to time during 1938 in pronouncements and manifestoes of the “Provisional Government” at Peiping and “Reformed Government” at Nanking. These pronouncements sought to persuade the Chinese people in the areas over which those régimes claimed jurisdiction that the difficulties and burdens which the hostilities had brought upon the native population should be blamed upon the western nations, including the United States.

Recently the wide-spread and expanding anti-foreign agitation sponsored by Japanese agents, particularly in north China, became so potentially serious that this Government could not ignore it, as past experience has taught that the Chinese masses, when aroused to anti-foreign feeling, have frequently shown an inability to distinguish between and among certain nationals and that consequently ill feeling directed against one nationality spreads to include other nationalities with adverse effects upon the rights and interests of foreigners who are not originally and specifically singled out for abuse of this nature.

Early in August the American authorities in China received a report from a reliable American source that strong anti-American feeling had been fostered at Kaifeng and that communications were not permitted from Kaifeng. About the same time an American passing through Shihchiachwang was informed by local residents that an anti-American parade had been held there during the previous week and that, although the parade was not large, anti-American banners had been carried. Other reliable sources reported that a number of anti-American posters had been displayed at Shihchiachwang and that an American missionary in Taiyuan had frequently received warnings or intimations that if he did not leave the city it would go hard there with Chinese Christians. American officials in China reported in the second week of August information to the effect that Mr. and Mrs. Scoville, American citizens connected with the China Inland Mission at Hwohsien, Shansi, had been forced to leave their mission and that Mr. Scoville had been called a month before to the Japanese military headquarters and given a grueling examination which lasted three hours. Furthermore a reliable source reported that agitation in a number of places in Shansi Province was in varying degree anti-British, anti-church and anti-foreign with anti-foreign agitation predominating. The most recent reports from American missionaries at Kaifeng have varied; some reports have indicated that there had been no anti-American demonstrations there while others indicated that some agitation had been apparent but that it had been suppressed. The difficulty of ascertaining the facts in regard to the situation at Kaifeng was due in part to the lack of free communication [Page 856] facilities with that city. At Tsingtao some American property was slightly damaged during the course of an anti-British demonstration.

At Amoy the Chinese press has from time to time since early July published abusive attacks upon the Municipal Council of the International Settlement. The United States is one of ten countries which has direct interest in the International Settlement at Amoy and the Municipal Council of the Settlement includes an American councilor. The press attacks upon the Municipal Council evidenced a concerted attempt to stir up Formosan and Chinese residents of the Settlement against the Council and against non-Japanese foreigners at Kulangsu. On July 22 a particularly violent circular was distributed in the Settlement demanding that, unless the Council was “liquidated”, Chinese laborers and shopkeepers should call a general strike and trade on both land and sea should be suspended. (The press in Amoy is controlled by the Japanese Navy.)

As a result of an incident which occurred at Shanghai on August 19, the Japanese-sponsored municipal régime has made strong demands upon the authorities of the International Settlement and on August 22 a statement was issued by the Japanese military authorities at Shanghai which could scarcely be interpreted as other than a threat that the Japanese military were contemplating taking strong coercive measures against the International Settlement.

The above factual account relates chiefly to developments as they have specifically affected Americans; the importance of those developments to American rights and interests in general obviously cannot be gauged by a mere recital of seemingly isolated instances. The Japanese fostered and sponsored anti-foreign propaganda and related anti-foreign acts in areas of China under Japanese control cannot but be detrimental in general to the interests of third powers and third power nationals and are accordingly working injury upon American nationals. The continuance of such anti-foreign agitation, even though it may not be specifically directed against American nationals, is being regarded in the United States, first, as an indirect onset against American nationals and interests in China by Japanese agencies and, second, as an indication of the methods which those agencies might in due course employ directly against American nationals and interests. The undesirable and dangerous potentialities in this situation make it necessary to regard as a very serious development in relation to American interests the evidently deliberate effort on the part of Japanese agencies and Japanese-controlled agencies to arouse anti-foreign feeling among the Chinese. The continuance of the present abusive and violent propaganda and related acts must inevitably result in concrete harm to American interests and danger to American nationals. It is indicative of the trend of events that the American nationals so far chiefly affected have been missionaries in the interior and that the [Page 857] effect upon them results from agitation against one nationality of the brotherhood of Christian missions and Chinese mission workers and converts.

The foregoing statement is addressed specifically to the subject brought up by the Japanese Ambassador in connection with his talk with the Secretary of State on August 26. The statement therefore deals only with the campaign of propaganda directed against the nationals of a particular country by Japanese agents and Japanese-controlled agencies in China and with incidents attributable to that campaign of propaganda. The statement does not relate to matters which involve the broader question of violation and interference with American rights by Japanese authorities and agents in China.

  1. Attached notation by Laurence E. Salisbury of the Division of Far Eastern Affairs dated September 5, 1939, states: “I handed today to Mr. Yoshida, Attaché of the Japanese Embassy, the memorandum on the subject of the effects of anti-foreign propaganda. … I told Mr. Yoshida that the paper was being given informally in response to the Japanese Ambassador’s request.”