Memorandum by the Special Assistant of the Division of Science, Education and Art (Peck)

On October 29, 1943, there appeared in the Ta Kung Pao, an influential newspaper published in Chungking, the text of a set of “Regulations Governing Students Proceeding Abroad for Education at their own Expense”, which text was announced by the paper as having been approved for promulgation by the Ministry of Education. A translation was supplied to the Department by the American Embassy. In a later despatch the Embassy supplied a translation of additional [Page 1131]regulations entitled “Regulations Governing Professors and Instructors of Universities Proceeding Abroad for Advanced Education at their own Expense”. Article 4 of this second set of regulations reads in translation as follows:

(4) The control and direction of the professors and instructors during the period of their advanced education abroad shall be exercised in accordance with provisions of Article 4 and Article 14 of the Regulations Governing Self-Supporting Students Proceeding Abroad for Study. Article 4 of the regulations states that, during the period of the sojourn abroad of self-supporting students, the foreign office of the Superintendent of Students, of the Ministry of Education shall be responsible for the consideration of the scholastic work of the students and for the examination of their thoughts and deeds. Prior to the establishment of the office of the Superintendent of Students, the Chinese Embassy in the foreign country shall undertake this responsibility for the Ministry. Article 14 of the Regulations states that all the thoughts and deeds of self-supporting students residing abroad must absolutely be subject to the direction and control of the Superintendent of Students and the Embassy. If their words are found to be contrary to the San Min Chu I or their actions are irregular, they shall be immediately disqualified for study abroad and shall be summarily recalled to China.

There are at present five Chinese professors visiting the United States as guests of the American Government; moreover, the Department is interested in promoting advanced study and visits by other Chinese professors in this country, in the same way in which it is encouraging visits of professors from the other American republics. The Chinese regulations governing students and professors were, therefore, of interest to the Department and to the American educators who serve on the Department’s advisory committees and copies were included in the monthly reports of the China Section of the Science, Education and Art Division for the months of January and February. A limited number of these reports is mimeographed regularly and distributed to interested officers of the Department and to a few other persons associated with the Department in the program of cultural relations. Having been published in Chungking with the approval of the Chinese Government there was nothing secret in the regulations themselves, but it may be observed that the monthly report is marked “Confidential—Not for redistribution or publication in any form”.

The Office of War Information appears to have had a translation of the Regulations Governing Students different in wording from the translation supplied by the Embassy.

On February 10, 1943 [1944?], occurred a regular meeting of the Department’s Advisory Committee on the Adjustment of Foreign Students, which is composed of prominent American educators from [Page 1132]all over the country. The Committee passed a resolution recommending in part that the appropriate agencies of the Government draft a statement of policy regarding the admission of Chinese students to the United States, taking into account “the stated purposes for which the Chinese Government is sending these students to the United States and the controls established in the appointment and supervision of these students”.

On March 14, 1943 [1944], the Department dispatched an airgram instruction to the Embassy at Chungking authorizing the Ambassador to bring it to the attention of the Minister for Foreign Affairs that “the Department would view with disfavor such political surveillance of Chinese students in this country as is described in paragraph 14” of the Regulations Governing Students.

On March 31, 1944, the New York Times published an Associated Press despatch with the date line Cambridge, Mass., March 30, 1944, stating that the “Steering Committee of American Defense, a Harvard University group” had passed a resolution against such control of Chinese students and had written to the State Department asking that the Government ascertain the correctness of the announcement that it would be instituted.

On April 1, 1944, Professor Payson S. Wild, Counsellor for Foreign Students at Harvard University telephoned to an officer of the China Section of SEA that numbers of Chinese students at that institution were much upset over the prospect of supervision in the manner indicated in the regulations and Professor Wild said there was evidence that this supervision was already being exercised. He inquired whether the Department had taken any steps in the matter and was told that the Department had instructed the Embassy at Chungking to take up the matter with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. The conversation was confirmed in a letter, also of April 1, and the suggestion was made that ten or a dozen leading universities join in a statement denying admission to Chinese students until the rescission of the objectionable regulation. The reply to the letter, dated April 4, pointed out that public action in the United States might be used in China to excite anti-foreign sentiment and, also, might be attributed to the complaints of Chinese students in this country and thus unfavorably affect the future of such students in China. The reply expressed the view that it would be preferable if the matter could be settled quietly by the Embassy in Chungking.

On April 2, 1944, the Providence Journal published an article from its Washington correspondent quoting portions of the “Regulations Governing Students” and asserting that the proposed control in this country was regarded as being “profoundly offensive to the American tradition of liberty of thought”.

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On April 5, 1944, the New York Times published an editorial referring to the resolution of protest passed a few days before by the group of Harvard professors and expressing the hope that the decision to exercise control over Chinese students abroad would be reconsidered by the Chinese Government and rescinded.

At noon on April 5, 1944, a secretary of Chinese Embassy telephoned to an officer in the China Section of SEA expressing great perturbation over the editorial in the New York Times and an apprehension that such public criticism might have an adverse effect on the development of cultural relations between China and the United States. He hinted that it might even interrupt the coming of Chinese students to the United States. He said that the Embassy had telegraphed for a copy of the regulations and he explained that if they read as reported, the control was probably intended to prevent students from becoming Communists and was intended to ensure that they keep up good scholastic standing. He said the Chinese students now in the United States had not been selected nor supervised, were in many cases from rich families, and were not acquitting themselves with credit. He hoped that the Department would explain the laudable purpose of the regulations and would clear up any unfounded suspicions that might be entertained in this country concerning the matter. The official of the Embassy was told that no comment could be made until there had been consultation with other officers of the Department.

In the afternoon of April 5 a correspondent of Time Magazine telephoned to the same officer of the China Section and said that Time Magazine had a copy of the regulations (presumably those governing students) and wished to publish a story on the subject, which it had not yet done, although in possession of necessary material for about one month. He asked for a statement whether the Department was taking any position in the matter. He was informed that no statement could be made until there had been consultation with other officers in the Department and that obviously the matter would be in the hands of the higher officers of the Department.

In the morning of April 6 the officer in the China Section in charge of student matters received another letter, dated April 4, from the Counsellor for Foreign Students at Harvard University saying that the President of the University was very much concerned over the Chinese student issue and had sent to the American Council of Education a confidential memorandum summarizing the situation, since the President felt that the American Council of Education was the proper one to help coordinate action among universities and colleges.

The only Chinese comment on the subject of the regulations that the China Section has received, apart from the telephone message [Page 1134]from the Chinese Embassy, was offered by one of the Chinese visiting professors and by a man who is compiling a manual for Chinese at the request of the Department. These gentlemen offered comments to the general effect that (1) open protest against the regulations would probably accomplish little in the way of impeding the undercover operations of the great Party organization; (2) that even if the regulations were rescinded supervision would be exercised anyway; (3) that the attempts of the Party to limit and guide thinking produced little effect; and (4) that the best defence was “positive” action, which they described as effective efforts to acquaint Chinese students in the United States with American ways of thinking.