Memorandum of Conversation, by the Adviser on Political Relations (Hornbeck)
In pursuance of a decision arrived at in a conference in the Secretary’s office on May 26 and under instruction from Mr. Long, I took advantage on the evening of May 27 of an opportunity casually to bring up this subject8 with the Chinese Ambassador.8a In the course of a social conversation, I asked the Ambassador whether the Embassy had been observing the bills which had been introduced in the [Page 772] House of Representatives and the hearings which have been going on regarding the question of Chinese immigration into this country. The Ambassador replied that the Embassy had been following these matters closely. I asked whether he would be willing to give me his impressions. The Ambassador replied that his first impression was that there was a preponderance of friendly sentiment toward the Chinese; next, he said, the Embassy felt that the Kennedy bill had special merit because of its simplicity and its comprehensiveness; third, what the Chinese are most interested in was to get rid of discrimination and, fourth, the Chinese wondered whether it might not be possible for legislation on the lines of the Kennedy bill to be passed in the comparatively near future. This last point the Ambassador turned into a question: what did I think of the possibility of fairly prompt action.
Confronted with that question, I took occasion to say that, speaking informally and unofficially, I was by no means sure that anything could be done speedily. I said that it is an easy thing to introduce a bill but it is quite another thing to produce a bill which has the qualifications necessary for approval first in the committee and second in the Congress itself. The immigration question is, I said, a complicated question full of technicalities and weighted with the influence of history and considerations of regional experiences and concepts, political and other prejudices, economic and psychological facts and fancies. From the point of view of international relations, I said, it is highly desirable that such bill as may be approved in the committee and sent forward for consideration on the floor of the House and of the Senate be a bill which on the one hand will not provoke acrimonious discussion and on the other hand, no matter what the discussion, will not be defeated. I therefore thought, I said, that the committee would doubtless give any and all bills intensive scrutiny—which, I said, would require time.
The Ambassador said that he thoroughly understood and shared in the view that whatever bill received consideration of the Congress should be a bill that would not be defeated. He again mentioned the Kennedy bill and again expressed the hope that something could be done without great delay. I inquired who at the Embassy is following the matter most closely. The Ambassador replied that Dr. Liu, the Counselor, is giving the question special attention.
Comment: Except for the point of his apparent featuring of the Kennedy bill, the points which the Ambassador made are what I expected to hear. The Chinese Government is interested in removal of our discriminations against the Chinese as Chinese; they are eager for recognition, technical at least, of China and the Chinese on a [Page 773] basis of “equality”. The fact, however, that the Ambassador twice expressed a hope that something might be done without undue delay causes me to speculate as to the possibility that he had the present military and economic situation in unoccupied China—which situation is becoming acute especially from point of view of morale—much in mind. What the Ambassador said, together with other indications, causes me to believe that it is desirable from point of view of the war effort for us to work along as liberal lines as may be possible and as expeditiously as may be possible toward doing something constructive with regard to the solution of this question.
A clearer indication than was given by the Ambassador of what really is in the minds of the Chinese leaders is given in an excerpt—of which I shall attach hereto a copy9—of an address which Dr. Sze has prepared for delivery at Elmira College on May 31. Dr. Sze has lived more years of his life in this country than in any other. He had practically all of his education in this country. He has been both Chinese Minister and Chinese Ambassador to this country. He has during his life in Washington made many contacts among the membership of the Congress. He has worked on questions such as the question of Chinese “exclusion” for many years. He is now very close to China’s Foreign Minister, Dr. T. V. Soong. I cannot imagine his making a public statement on the subject of the exclusion legislation without his having talked the matter over carefully with Soong and having weighed every word.—In Dr. Sze’s statement emphasis is laid on the question of “discriminations which American law imposes upon Chinese as a race”; also upon treatment similar to that which is accorded to “the nationals of other countries”. He says that “the Chinese do not ask that they be favored beyond other peoples”; “the matter has now become almost wholly one of national respect”; and he speaks of “several proposals of laws introduced in Congress for the complete repeal of all the provisions of the laws … which place Chinese in a position of inferiority of rights as compared with the other civilized races of the world”; and, finally, he says, “Perhaps … I should not have spoken of this matter, but, so important is it, that … I have felt that it was not out of place that I should make public mention of this matter when opportunity has presented itself”.10 This has the ring, to my ears, of a statement of an official viewpoint.
[See excerpt appending.]11