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

A few days ago Mr. Tsui, of the Chinese Embassy, told Mr. Peck in a telephone conversation that the Ambassador was deeply concerned over the possible undesirable effects of the present agitation in the United States against the regulations of the Chinese Government for the control of Chinese students in foreign countries and would appreciate it if Mr. Peck would call and talk the matter over with him; [Page 1141] he hoped that Mr. Peck might have some idea to suggest for the solution of the difficulty.

Mr. Peck called on the Ambassador today and for some time the conversation turned on mutual friends in Chungking, et cetera, Mr. Wei Tao-ming and Mr. Peck being friends of many years’ standing.

The Ambassador himself introduced the subject of the “thought control” regulations, saying that the agitation against them in the United States caused him great concern. He said he felt that the American public had received a quite erroneous idea of the purport of the regulations. He said that the agitation in the United States had come to his attention when he was still in Chungking and he had talked with Mr. Chen Li-fu, Minister of Education, about the matter. The Minister of Education insisted that the regulations did not mean that the Superintendent of Students should try to control the thoughts of Chinese students in the United States since, in the first place, control of thought is obviously impossible in any circumstances, and, in the second place, there will be so many Chinese students in this country that it would be impossible for the Superintendent of Students even to attempt any such control. Mr. Peck observed that out of a large number of students there might be a few who would be willing to report on thoughts expressed by their fellow students, but the Ambassador made no comment on this point.

Mr. Peck remarked that he had not seen the Chinese text of the regulations, in order to form an opinion whether the expression “control the thoughts” seemed to him an accurate rendition into English of the Chinese expression used and he inquired whether the Ambassador had a Chinese text. Mr. Wei said that he had no Chinese text at the moment but hoped soon to receive one.

Mr. Wei said that the Chinese term describing the functions of the Superintendent of Students was “Chien Tu”, meaning to supervise. He thought that American citizens would see nothing improper in the idea that the Superintendent of Students should “supervise” such students and direct them to return to China if any students should turn out to be badly behaved. The Superintendent of Students would be, also, the person to whom educational institutions could present complaints if they were dissatisfied with the conduct of any students.

The Ambassador wondered whether the Department of State, in connection with its activities in the field of cultural relations, would be willing to issue some sort of statement to bring about a better comprehension of the position of the Chinese Government on the part of American educational institutions. He remarked that it would be a ticklish matter for the Ministry of Education to issue any such statement.

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Mr. Peck observed that official control of thought and speech was a matter in regard to which Americans were extremely sensitive. Without expressing any opinion on the practicability of a statement by the Department of State Mr. Peck inquired whether the regulations controlling Government-supported students abroad were the same as the regulations governing self-supporting students. Mr. Wei said that they were not the same, although when drafted they were the same. The regulations governing Government-supported students had passed through the Cabinet and the so-called “thought control” provisions had been eliminated. The regulations controlling self-supporting students, however, had been issued by the Ministry of Education; if that, also, had passed through the Cabinet doubtless the same emendation would have taken place. Mr. Wei thought, in fact, that the second set of regulations just mentioned had been published prematurely, through the enterprise of some newspaperman and that they could not be regarded as in their final form.

Mr. Peck suggested that, in view of these circumstances, it might be possible for the Chinese Government to consolidate the two sets of regulations and publish them with a statement that it had been found undesirable to make any distinction in fundamental matters between Government-supported and self-supporting students. Mr. Wei did not comment on this suggestion.

Mr. Wei wondered whether the protest of the Harvard group of professors against the regulations for the control of Chinese self-supporting students had not been prompted directly or indirectly by Communists. He said that after the present war was ended Fascism and Imperialism would no longer be menaces, but that Communism would continue to be a source of danger owing to the fact that Communist parties in all countries, including Japan, would maintain close contact with the Communist party in Russia. Mr. Peck inquired whether Mr. Wei did not think that the Third International (Comintern) had been abolished as announced in Moscow. Mr. Wei said that whether or not the Comintern still existed Communist agitation emanating from Russia would continue to be a danger to all nations. He insisted that the Communist situation in China was “well in hand”, however.

It was not apparent that the Ambassador arrived at any particular decision as a consequence of the interview. In parting Mr. Peck suggested that those concerned continue to think the matter over.