893.711/99: Telegram

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

220. Your 373, November 25 [21], 5 p.m., 1932.77 Counselor of Legation at Nanking expresses the opinion that the primary object of the National Government in attempting to induce foreign publications to register under the press law is to deprive Chinese publications of their excuse for not registering and that a secondary object [Page 684] is to obtain a statistical record of the publications appearing in China. He has been informed by the Assistant Director of International Affairs of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs that Chinese journals base their unwillingness to register primarily upon the refusal of foreign journals to do so. He feels that the Ministry of Foreign Affairs is anxious to get the moral backing which it would gain from the registration of an American journal or two, and calls attention to the fact that the Ministry of Foreign Affairs has endeavored to smooth the way for the extraterritorial powers by cancelling in their favor requirement for registration at the Central Party Headquarters and by letting it be known that registration will not make the journal so registered subject to the penal provisions of the law. He cites the Department’s rulings consenting to the application by physicians for licenses; to the registration of qualified architects; to censorship of motion-picture films and their suppression under proper circumstances; to the exclusion under international postal convention of certain mail matter; to the registration of American schools; to the application by vessels to the Maritime Customs for permission to navigate in inland waters; to the right of the Chinese Government to forbid banks to issue notes; to certain restrictions on insurance companies; and to the right of the Chinese to collect certain taxes when some quid pro quo is furnished.

He feels that the Department’s ruling in this matter gives relatively greater immunities to publishers than we claim for other American activities and thinks that we should follow course we have taken in regard to payment of certain taxes and the supplying of information by American citizens; that is, inform American publications regarding the regulations of the Chinese Government and leave it to the publication concerned to act as its interests dictate, informing the Chinese Government that we have done so.

I am inclined to agree with Peck provided we first obtain a copy of written undertaking from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs specifically exempting American publications from the operation of the penal clauses of the law and from registration with the Central Party Headquarters.