The British Chargé (Osborne) to the Secretary of State

No. 265

Sir: As the United States Government are aware the Chinese Government announced in 193031 that the import of arms into China [Page 507] would not be considered legitimate unless the Nanking Government had expressly approved, through their diplomatic representative in the exporting country, each particular consignment. His Majesty’s Government in the United Kingdom have always cooperated with the Chinese Government in this respect and have effectively prevented exports from Great Britain unless the approval of the Chinese Minister in London had first been obtained.

They have recently been urged to abandon this procedure in view of the fact that other Governments were not acting in a similar manner. The result of this lack of cooperation has been that foreign firms have been able to secure orders which were denied to their British competitors. If this situation continues, His Majesty’s Government will be driven to relax their own practice which, in the circumstances, can be of no benefit to China while it imposes an unfair handicap on British trade.
His Majesty’s Government have however just been informed that the Governments of the United States, France, Italy, Germany, Switzerland, Spain, Belgium, Norway, Sweden, Czechoslovakia and (with an unimportant reservation) Japan, are prepared to prevent the export of arms to China, except in cases approved by the central Chinese Government.
In accordance with instructions received from His Majesty’s Principal Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs, I have the honour to enquire whether the information in the preceding paragraph is correct in so far as the Government of the United States is concerned. His Majesty’s Government are further anxious to learn whether the United States Government are either already limiting, or forthwith proposing to limit, exports as has hitherto been done by His Majesty’s Government. If such is the case, His Majesty’s Government are anxious to learn what categories of armaments are covered, whether they include aircraft in any or all forms and by what methods the United States Government are effectively securing or intend to secure the result aimed at.
The object of His Majesty’s Government is to ensure that their own practice shall conform to the practice which actually prevails in the case of other foreign sources of supply. They would be glad to maintain their present practice, provided that their foreign competitors follow the same restrictive course and the purpose of the present enquiry to ascertain the actual position in the United States and in other countries before a final decision is taken as to future British policy.
I shall be grateful if you will be good enough to furnish me with a reply at an early date as His Majesty’s Government regard the matter as one of urgency.

I have [etc.]

D. G. Osborne
  1. See telegram No. 317, May 9, 1930, 4 p.m., from the Minister in China, Foreign Relations, 1930, vol. ii, p. 619.