893.4061 Motion Pictures/204: Telegram

The Counselor of Embassy in China ( Peck ) to the Secretary of State

332. Department’s 73, November 18, 6 p.m., to Nanking.

I interviewed Vice Minister Hsu Mo November 20, 4 p.m. for 1 hour. I informed him that the Department regarded the banning of all Paramount films as arbitrary and unwarranted especially in view of the fact that the Censorship Committee had not itself seen the film “The General Died At Dawn” and the fact that associate American financial interests in no way connected with the production of the film would be involved in heavy loss (see my 329, November 18, noon, paragraph 2). I conveyed the assurance of Paramount (as stated to the Embassy in writing) that the company was anxious to [Page 681] settle the matter amicably. In the course of the long interview I also advanced other arguments.
The Vice Minister, however, adhered firmly to his contentions that the producers had repeatedly and obstinately refused to heed advice and warning given by the Chinese Vice Consul Kiang at Los Angeles; that the committee was justified in relying on the judgment of the Vice Consul as a Chinese official regarding the offensive nature of the film and that the banning of all the films of an offending company was the only “sanction” available to the Chinese Government with which to defend China from defamatory films and that this measure was therefore justified.
I again pointed out that the Department was willing to give consideration to any specific objections which the Foreign Office might convey to the Embassy and I inquired whether the Foreign Office would not be willing to intervene in the present case to the extent at least of attempting to get the ban lifted until the film in dispute could be brought to China for inspection by the committee. The Vice Minister inquired what authority the Department exercised in such matters and whether the company would be willing to give an indication that the offending film would be withdrawn from all countries. I refused to attempt any definition of the Department’s authority or influence in matters of film production and I said I could give no assurances on behalf of Paramount; moreover, I refused to accept the committee’s assumption that the Vice Consul’s opinion of the film was infallible, particularly in view of the fact that the Chinese Consul and Chamber of Commerce in Manila were reported as finding it unobjectionable.
The Vice Minister would not admit that the banning of Paramount films was in any way unwarranted or arbitrary and on the contrary steadily maintained it was warranted by the indifference of Paramount to Chinese opinions and the heavy responsibility resting on the committee to protect China from the injury of world wide disparaging film publicity.
I subsequently encountered the Vice Minister at a reception and inquired whether he would not recede from his uncompromising position in view of the danger that the dispute of the American film company with the censorship committee might develop into a serious conflict between them. He replied that such a development would be regrettable and that he would have the Director of the International Affairs Department talk with me again next week.
My opinion is that the Vice Minister sympathizes entirely with the Censorship Committee and feels that it is in a strong tactical position but that because of the present Sino-Japanese tension he may refrain from pressing his advantage in order to avoid causing further irritation to the Embassy and the Department. It is unlikely, however, [Page 682] that he would concede any weight to our arguments and such a compromise would not obviate further difficulties (see my November 18, noon, paragraph 2, sentence 3). Sent to Peiping.
  1. Telegram in two sections.