811.42700 SE/5–447: Telegram

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

966. The Embassy was keenly interested to receive the Department’s preliminary outline of proposals for implementation of the Fulbright Bill as given in Deptel 439, April 16, 7 p.m. and is giving consideration to its recommendations. It will be impossible for Embassy to reply in detail for some time since it will be necessary to consult with Consular and USIS9 officers throughout China as well as with prominent and experienced American educators. The preparation of a reply is made more difficult by the absence of a chief public affairs officer and a cultural relations officer, thereby throwing the full burden on the Embassy which is at present preoccupied with many other matters and, furthermore, lacks the experience with and detailed knowledge of conditions in Chinese universities required for comprehensive and intelligent [Page 1266] recommendations. The Embassy is in fact of the opinion that of the Department’s field officers only Wilma Fairbank10 is really qualified to draw up such a program and it is the Embassy’s recommendation that she be consulted and that her recommendations be telegraphed to the Embassy for incorporation in its report. The Embassy does, however, wish at this time to make a few preliminary observations.

The Embassy believes that for the first year and in order to gain experience, program should be much more limited in scope than appears to have been planned, according to information locally available. The Embassy is already aware that most Chinese universities would be reluctant to take foreign students and in some instances have already flatly refused to do so, because the large numbers of Chinese students desiring admission, their own bad physical condition and inadequate facilities make it impossible for them to accept all the Chinese students who could and should attend.

There is the further serious difficulty that it will be impossible to plan a budget with any degree of accuracy. Certainty of continuing rapid economic deterioration and inflation and the uncertainty of the speed with which this process and the rate of exchange factor will develop, make it impossible to determine except on a day to [day] basis what American students or professors would need for subsistence during the year. Almost certainly the amount needed at the end of the year will be many times that needed today. This factor alone recommends a limited program in order to remain within the funds available for the ensuing year.

Present conditions indicate the desirability, during the first year, of concentrating on graduate rather than under-graduate students. Under-graduates, in order to get much out of a year in China, because of their lack of Chinese background, should live in the universities. Facilities are so limited in most places it is unlikely that the universities would be willing to accept them. Furthermore, the living standards of Chinese under-graduates at present are so low that only an unusual student of the hardy variety would be able to go through it without damage to his health or taking away an attitude of mind which would nullify the intention of the program. Under-graduates at the same time would in all probability not have sufficient knowledge of Chinese to enable them to participate in academic work and the universities with one or two exceptions are unable to provide instruction in English. Graduate students, on the other hand, would be engaged in research work not requiring class attendance. They would be individually tutored by prominent professors whose additional [Page 1267] compensation for this work would well provide a kind of subsidy enabling them to supplement their present tragically inadequate salaries. Graduate students could also live in town without detriment to their studies, though this points up the problem of finding housing in crowded urban conditions and making provisions for transportation. As a preliminary estimate it seems likely that perhaps 20 or 30 such students could be accommodated.

For the same reasons that would justify a limited number of graduate students, it seems probable that some arrangements could be made for a limited number of exchange professors who could teach English and American literature. Again, due to crowded conditions on the campus, they would have to live in town. The standard of English teaching and the knowledge of English of university students is now so low that it is a moot question as to how many courses could be taught in English.

It should be noted that travel grants for China would probably not be possible at present, since the Embassy is not aware of any steamship company which will accept Chinese National currency in payment.

It seems unwise to the Embassy, at any rate in the initial stages of the program, that any attention be paid to such empyrean endeavors as concerts, exhibits, and the like, until the student program has been fairly well established and the permanent staff of the foundation has had an opportunity to give detailed consideration to other types of activities, which the Embassy believes can eventually be usefully developed. It is the Embassy’s view that projects such as special grants, endowed chairs, and library projects can indeed be most useful, but they should be carefully considered and should be the subject of negotiation between the director of the foundation and the educational institution and perhaps to relate to the student and visiting professor aspects of the program. In the Embassy’s view the program should not consist of projects requiring continual support or merely passive acceptance by the Chinese (a glorified oriental boondoggle) but rather should act as a ferment and a catalyst in Chinese intellectual development, requiring that they too must offer something. Unless this factor is firmly in mind at all times the Chinese will inevitably tend to urge a concert-exhibit program. One example of what the Embassy believes might be a useful project is the merging of the oriental libraries in Peiping which will probably not take place without external stimulus, and which can contribute greatly to the development of a prominent research center.

All the above emphasizes what the Embassy believes to be the necessary first step, namely, the appointment of an executive secretary. This individual should not, in the Embassy’s opinion, be someone [Page 1268] employed locally, because any such individual would necessarily have past ties as well as future associations making difficult impartial and effective administration of the program. Until an executive secretary has been appointed it will be impossible for the program to receive the detailed and thoughtful attention which it must have if serious errors are to be avoided. The secretary must become thoroughly familiar with conditions in individual educational institutions and relate those conditions in any given place to conditions throughout the country. That information can be obtained; the Embassy would strongly recommend that any plans for the coming academic year be considered as purely tentative and largely confined to placing graduate students. Embassy, therefore, recommends that the executive secretary be selected at the earliest possible date and sent out to China at once. The quality of the man, not the preconceptions of the blueprint, will determine the efficiency of a program which has great possibilities. He will need an able assistant to handle routine administration, since much of his time will necessarily be devoted to travel, and a clerk-secretary.

Draft by-laws for the foundation have been received and will be made the subject of a separate telegram as soon as the Embassy has had the opportunity of consulting informally with the appropriate Chinese officials.

  1. United States Information Service.
  2. Formerly Cultural Relations Officer at the Embassy in China.