Memorandum by the American Minister in China (Johnson) of a Conversation With the French Chargé in China (Hoppenot)38

Mr. Hoppenot called and asked me to inform him of what reply we made to the Chinese Government in response to its request of last April regarding control of shipments of munitions of war. I read to Mr. Hoppenot the text of our reply to the Chinese Government dated June 4, 1934.39 Mr. Hoppenot stated that his Government had requested the information, and he would duly inform Paris. He said that our reply apparently was very similar to the British reply, although the British had indicated in their reply that at the expiration of a certain time they proposed to reconsider their attitude should they find that British merchants were suffering in comparison with others.

Mr. Hoppenot stated that French arms dealers had large contracts with Kwangtung and Kwangsi; that in defense of their activities they asserted that if they did not sell, Czechoslovakia would. I understood him to say that French arms manufacturers had recently concluded a contract for $2,000,000 for machine guns for Kwangsi. He stated that both Kwangsi and Kwangtung refused to obtain import permits from Nanking, and that importation into and through Canton was quite open, being carried on through Hongkong. He said that the Hongkong authorities were estopped from interfering with the traffic because of the Barcelona Convention governing shipments in transit, and stated that the munitions were taken delivery [Page 512] of by the gunboats controlled by the Cantonese authorities who came down to within the limits of Hongkong to take the cargo.

Mr. Hoppenot expressed the opinion that the only way in which the arms trade could be controlled would be for the Governments to get together and reach some understanding with the Chinese Government whereby the latter would apportion its demands [for purchases] among the producing countries.

Nelson Trusler Johnson
  1. Copy transmitted to the Department by the Minister in China in his despatch No. 2904, August 14, 19.34; received September 8.
  2. Not printed.