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

No. 541

Sir: The Department refers to its instruction No. 450 of November 17, 1943,17 dealing with the duties of Dr. George B. Cressey as a visiting professor and to the Embassy’s despatches Nos. 1914,18 1919, 1968 and 1972, written in December 1943,19 on the same subject.

In regard to the points raised in the Embassy’s despatches the Department has the following views to express:

The Department has sponsored for several years an exchange of visiting professors with the other American republics, in order to promote an interchange of representatives of the culture and thought of the several countries. There is enclosed herewith a copy of a mimeographed instruction of January 11, 1944,20 which will throw a little additional light on the method of choosing the professors and on the type of cooperation expected from American diplomatic missions. Some of the exchanges are effected in fulfillment of the Buenos Aires Convention for the Promotion of Inter-American Cultural Relations, [Page 1121]but in more numerous cases initiative is taken by the Department and the Convention does not govern. In selecting American professors for missions in both categories the Department conforms to the preferences of the country to be visited as ascertained through preliminary inquiries.

Exchange of professors has occurred between American and Chinese institutions under private auspices, but Dr. Cressey is the first professor to be sent to China under the auspices of this Government. The Embassy will observe that in the carrying out of this project as part of a program of wartime cultural relations with China the Department has followed in general outline the practice established with the other American republics, in that a number of Chinese National universities were invited to select professors from their faculties to come to the United States, and before appointing Dr. Cressey the Department conducted a preliminary investigation through the Embassy concerning his acceptability to the Chinese.

American professors going to the other American republics are advised by the Department to avoid discussing political matters, but aside from this neither the Department nor the Diplomatic Missions exercise supervision over their lectures or activities.

Dr. Cressey’s appointment by this Government as visiting professor in China was an innovation, as has been stated. Because of this fact and because in China domestic and international political issues are especially acute at this time, it was deemed advisable to define his duties in advance. He met with certain officers of the Department and a memorandum describing his duties was agreed upon. This memorandum,21 after revision and approval by higher officers, was transmitted to the Embassy with the Department’s instruction of November 17.

Numbered section six [seven?] of the memorandum dealt with subjects proposed by Dr. Cressey for some of his speeches. He stated that, being a geographer, he wished on occasion to lecture on “geostrategy” or “geo-politics”, particularized as “the distribution of people, land, agriculture, minerals, and topography as they relate to plans for communications, industry and national welfare”. That these subjects would be of interest to the Chinese Government and public had been indicated by requests made to the Department for specialists in some of these lines and for printed materials dealing with post-war planning. The Department regarded it as logical and permissible that Dr. Cressey should lecture on the indicated subjects, more especially as he had written a book dealing with them that would soon be available to Chinese readers. Nevertheless, because Dr. Cressey was going to China under the auspices of the Department and because of possible [Page 1122]political implications it was stipulated to him that before making these speeches he should discuss them with the Embassy. The instruction transmitting the memorandum asked that the Embassy, in handing it to him, add any comments that might seem desirable.

Dr. Cressey is not appearing in China as a spokesman or accredited official of this Government, but as a university professor and an author of considerable standing in his own country. The Department does not feel that responsibility for the views expressed by Dr. Cressey should be accepted either by the Department or by the Embassy and the Department does not desire that he shall create the impression directly or by implication that he speaks as a representative of this Government. Even when speaking in his professional capacity as a visiting professor he should, of course, avoid such potentially embarrassing subjects as political institutions, military matters and postwar international settlements. The use of the terms “geostrategy” and “geo-politics” should, also, be avoided in his public utterances, since they carry the implication of political or military rivalry between nations. The particular subjects listed under these headings should be treated in the domestic connection only. The Department understood that this was his intention, but if there exists any doubt on this point it would be advisable for the Embassy to call it to Dr. Cressey’s attention.

Many reports have reached the United States of a tendency on the part of the Chinese Government to curtail freedom of thought and of speech in academic circles. The visiting Chinese professors in the United States have professed privately a feeling that they have been subjected to supervision of this sort from Chinese authorities here. Such curtailment of freedom of thought and speech is not consistent with American principles and practice and the Department wishes to avoid any appearance of following or condoning this policy. If, for example, it were to be insisted upon that Dr. Cressey refrain from all discussion of subjects appearing prominently in his forthcoming book, the inference might be drawn that he was restrained by the American authorities. The situation is one calling for tact and for sympathetic cooperation between Dr. Cressey and the Embassy.

In order to emphasize the academic capacity in which Dr. Cressey appears in China and in view of the further light on the subject shed by the Embassy’s despatches, the Department believes that he should not utilize stationery having the Embassy letterhead and that it would be preferable for him to omit from the wording of his visiting cards any reference to the Department or the Embassy. If he feels that a reference to the Department on his visiting cards is important to the success of his mission its wording should conform to the reorganization recently effected and should read, “Visiting Professor, Division [Page 1123]of Science, Education and Art, Department of State, Washington, D. C., There should be no reference to the Embassy.

The Department desires that the Embassy bring tactfully to the attention of Dr. Cressey such of the considerations dealt with in this instruction as the Embassy may deem appropriate.

Very truly yours,

For the Secretary of State:
G. Howland Shaw
  1. Not printed, but see Foreign Relations, 1943, China, p. 751, footnote 33.
  2. December 15, 1943, ibid., p. 760.
  3. Despatches No. 1919, December 16; No. 1968, December 27; and No. 1972, December 28, not printed.
  4. Circular instruction to certain American Diplomatic Officers in the other American Republics in regard to the promotion of inter-American cultural relations, not printed.
  5. See memorandum of October 12, 1943, Foreign Relations, 1943, China, p. 751.