Memorandum of Conversation, by the Ambassador in China (Gauss)32

Before a quiet dinner last evening with the Foreign Minister at his residence, he invited me into his study to give me his replies on several matters which I had taken up with him a week ago at the Foreign Office.

I took this occasion to speak informally to Dr. Soong on another matter which I said had just come to me by telegraph from the Department—the going of Chinese students to the United States and the report that political surveillance is to be exercised over such students while in the United States by a Superintendent of Students.

I told Dr. Soong that the Embassy has repeatedly asked, informally, for detailed information in regard to the plans to send a large number of students to the United States. We have been promised this information when the plans were finally adopted; but it has not been forthcoming. Yet once again the subject seems to be to the fore and as the matter is one of much interest to the Department, which has instructed the Embassy again to apply for the desired information, I should like to ask his help in getting full information. I added that we welcome these Chinese students in the United States and we are desirous of doing everything possible to assist; but in order to be of real assistance we must have the details of the plans. Dr. Soong undertook to see that I am informed; and I told him that I would send him informally an inquiry showing the type of information desired.

I then said that I had another matter to discuss in that connection, and remarked that perhaps he had received information of some press comment in the United States on reports that the Chinese Government intends through a Superintendent of Students to exercise political surveillance over Chinese students in the United States. Dr. Soong said that he had heard of the action of the Harvard professors—and said that he, himself, is a Harvard man.

I went on to say that this matter has given some concern to the American Government, and that we believe that the Foreign Minister would recognize the validity of our position that there need be no [Page 1136]surveillance by officials of another Government over the thoughts and activities of students in the United States such as is evidently contemplated by the Chinese regulations governing both government and private students and, indeed, professors. I said that our Government had been disturbed by reports that Kuomintang agents had already been bringing pressure to bear on Chinese students in American educational institutions, and that the general matter of projected regimentation of the thoughts of Chinese students in American educational institutions had not only been the subject of the reported resolution of the Harvard professorial group but had also had other unfavorable publicity in the United States. (I had in mind the New York Times editorial on the subject.)

Dr. Soong thanked me and said that he would take up the matter with the Generalissimo.

Off the record, Dr. Soong said that he quite understood; that politics has no place in these matters; that it may be all right for the Government to say to students that they should take certain courses of study if they wish to go to the United States—this may not be a time for them to be studying “music” when they should be preparing themselves for service to their country; but there should be no attempt at political regimentation. He said that my approach to him was “timely”, and he would see what could be done about it.

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C. E. Gauss
  1. Copy transmitted to the Department by the Ambassador in China in his despatch No. 2429, April 12; received April 26.