The Consul General at Hong Kong (Jenkins) to the Secretary of State

No. 942

Sir: I have the honor to refer to Circular No. 287, of June 4, 1934, from the American Minister at Peiping,27 in respect to the shipment of arms and munitions to China. It is observed that the Chinese Government has recently asked that the exportation of munitions of war to China be prohibited, unless covered by a permit from the Chinese National Government.

Reference is also made to a strictly confidential letter dated June 4, 1934, from the American Minister at Peiping27 calling attention to a special instruction from the Department directing this Consulate General and the Consulate General at Canton to study British procedure at Hong Kong in connection with the movement of arms and munitions (including aircraft) through this port to China.

In reply, the writer has to report that he recently discussed this matter of the shipment of arms to China informally with the Colonial [Page 505] Secretary, Sir Thomas Southorn. Sir Thomas said that the new note from China would not affect British policy, which was substantially as follows:

The exportation of arms and munitions of war to China from Great Britain was prohibited except with a permit from the Nanking Government.
The policy of the Hong Kong Government, however, was not the same as that of Great Britain. The Hong Kong Government permitted through shipments to Canton and elsewhere in China in accordance with the provisions of the Barcelona Convention.28 No Nanking permit was, Sir Thomas said, required for these shipments. Sir Thomas added that there were many through shipments from various foreign countries which did not take the same attitude as Great Britain and the arrangement was to the disadvantage of British trade.
According to Sir Thomas, Nanking Government permits are required for shipments from Hong Kong to Canton, other than through shipments.

The writer of this despatch also talked with Mr. J. W. Fisher, leading American airplane salesman in South China. Mr. Fisher’s version of the present regulations covering shipments from Hong Kong varies slightly from Sir Thomas Southorn’s. According to Mr. Fisher the Hong Kong Government requires either Nanking or Canton (South West Political Council) permits for the export of arms and munitions (including armed planes) to China. Mr. Fisher confirmed Sir Thomas’ statement that Nanking permits are required for exports from Great Britain.

According to Mr. Fisher, both the British and Hong Kong Governments class armed planes as munitions of war, and an armed plane is one actually fitted with arms or having provision for arms, such as mountings for guns or bomb racks. The latter cannot be shipped from Hong Kong to China without permits from Nanking, or Canton, as the case may be. This would appear to mean that the British Government will permit the exportation to China of aircraft of military type provided such craft is without arms or mountings for arms.

Mr. Fisher feels that the Hong Kong authorities are fair and honest in the administration of the regulations for the export of arms and planes. He says that about 70 military planes of American origin have passed through Hong Kong for Canton during the past two years. However, he added that Canton was “full” of British-made anti-aircraft guns and other British war materials. How these happened to get out of England, he did not know.

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In conclusion, the attention of the Department is invited to a number of despatches in 1932 from this office29 discussing the question of arms shipments and aircraft to China.

Respectfully yours,

Douglas Jenkins
  1. Not printed.
  2. Not printed.
  3. Signed April 20, 1921, League of Nations Treaty Series, vol. vii, p. 11.
  4. See Foreign Relations, 1932, vol. iv, pp. 580596 passim.