393.1164 Yenching University/26: Telegram

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

379. Department’s 131, August 5, 8 p.m.

As indicated in the Embassy’s telegram of August 2, 5 p.m. from Peiping, both Lockhart and I were of the opinion that the display of the American flag over Yenching University would not be consistent with the Department’s instruction No. 871 of May 23, 192828 which inter alia reaffirmed that the Department does not as a rule desire to intervene on behalf of American concerns unless the latter are under effective American control. Registration of educational institutions with the Ministry of Education presupposes on the Chinese part control by Chinese citizens.
The danger which the Embassy apprehended from the display of the American flag over an educational institution like Yenching University was not, however, based on legalistic grounds. Nankai University in Tientsin has already been the special target of Japanese military action. It is well-known that the student class in Peiping and elsewhere has been especially imbued with nationalistic and anti-Japanese sentiments. I felt that the Department would not approve of the giving to Chinese students of protection from Japanese repressive measures as would be implied by the display of the American flag and I foresaw the possibility of serious complications if such repressive measures were to be taken forcibly in spite of such display. The sympathy of American staff members with the students also must not be forgotten.
Two American missionary educational institutions registered with the Chinese Government but utilizing American owned property exist in Nanking and their Chinese presidents have already notified me officially of such American ownership. One of them, the University of Nanking, has for a long time been very prominently displaying the Chinese flag. Neither this University nor Ginling College have officially mentioned the matter of display of the American flag but if the latter should suddenly be substituted for the Chinese flag the apparently opportunist assertion of American nationality could hardly avoid creating comment.
The Department’s instruction under acknowledgment has been repeated to Peiping and will be observed if the flag question arises in Nanking.

Repeated to Peiping.