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

No. 249

The Secretary of State refers to United States information policy in China, in particular the Embassy’s telegram No. 2015, October 27, 1948.

The Department concurs with the Embassy that one major aspect of the information program is the campaign to strengthen opposition to world communism, but the Department’s views on how this can best be accomplished differ somewhat from those expressed in the reference telegram. The Department believes the reference telegram tends to give impressions of the Department’s present information policy and output which are misleading, or subject to misunderstanding.
The reference telegram states: “We must expend all energy in fight against communism and drop long-range objectives for time being.” The Department disagrees only in degree. A circular airgram of December 8, 1947,64 announced the Department’s new information policy in relation to world communism and the decision to cite publicly and answer communist propaganda against the United States. This policy was amplified in a circular instruction of July 20, 1948,64a containing the following seven information policy objectives which remain the basic guidance for all media, both in Washington and in the field:
“To report the truth objectively and factually in the dissemination of information through all media available.
“To influence opinion in third countries in a direction favorable to the attainment of United States national objectives.
“To win more positive support abroad for United States policies and to gain a more sympathetic understanding of United States actions.
“To counteract the effectiveness of the anti-American propaganda campaign in third countries.
“To diminish the acceptance of and belief in, false or distorted concepts about the United States in third countries.
“To gain acceptance, among the peoples of third countries, of the truth about the policies and actions of the USSR and its satellites with a view to strengthening opposition to the USSR and to communist organizations.
“To increase materially knowledge among the peoples of third countries concerning the United States, its policies, actions, life and institutions.”
All of the above seven objectives are aimed, in a broad sense, at strengthening United States interests against world communism. But in a narrow sense, only a small fraction of the information output attempts to discuss the evils of communism. If the Department correctly understands the reference telegram, the Embassy is recommending that the entire information output in China be devoted to the subject of communism. The Department cannot agree, and proposes no change in the above seven information objectives at this time.
One consideration against devoting the entire output to attacks on communism is the fact that USIS services to the Chinese press and rebroadcasts of the Voice of America in China involve acceptability to foreign editors. To make USIS materials credible to such editors and the ultimate audience, the only effective policy is to restrict the newsfile to daily news events and comments thereon by responsible United States Government and private leaders.
Moreover, in view of existing attitudes of the target audience in China, it is doubtful whether USIS could hold its audience interest if it devoted its entire output to communism. The Department and Embassy have reached a general understanding on identity of the USIS target audience in China and existing audience attitudes (Instruction No. 71, April 26, 1948, and Despatch No. 270, June 9, 194865). It was agreed that the majority of the target audience deplore Kmt corruption, oppose the continuance of the civil war, sympathize with the avowed economic and social reforms of the Chinese communists, regard the United States as a contributing factor to China’s postwar troubles, and do not sufficiently realize that a communist victory would mean Soviet domination. Other reports to the Department from the Embassy, Consulates and private United States citizens in China indicate a recent intensification rather than a reversal of these attitudes. An American professor at Peiping wrote to the Department October 19, 1948,66 that educated Chinese there, while not actively supporting the Communists, are resigned to their coming, feel conditions under the communists could not be worse than those under the Kmt, and feel resentment against the United States because [Page 684] they believe the aid program is prolonging the suffering of the Chinese people.
The reference telegram stated: “We can no longer afford to waste time detailing life in America.” The Department believes the framework of an effective information program against world communism is the affirmative statement of United States views on the principal world developments. Thus the bulk of the newsfile continues to be the official texts of statements by the President, the Secretary of State, and other Government spokesmen, including Congressional figures, on such issues as the foreign aid programs, Berlin blockade, and Korea, which are major issues between the democracies and world communism. However, selected information on the United States domestic situation is also essential in fighting communism for several reasons. The communists are attacking the integrity and motives of United States Government leaders. Such charges as warmongering, economic imperialism under the guise of aid programs, and territorial aspirations are answerable only partly through direct denials and call for a wider knowledge of the motives and aspirations of the American people and their control over their own government. Communist accusations and foreign misunderstandings about the United States of ten relate to domestic conditions, such as an impending economic crash in the United States, lack of culture in the United States, race discrimination, and labor exploitation. If the United States is to win and retain moral leadership it must continue to discuss domestic conditions in the United States.
The reference telegram states: “Since government has failed to win people to its cause, we must at least wage bitter fight to limit our resources spotlighting predicament Chinese people will face if communists or communist-dominated coalition government gain control ‘China.” The Department believes USIS can best give to the Chinese audience a realization of the consequences of a communist victory by continuing to cite what happens in countries outside of China when communists attain power, and will attempt to provide a maximum amount of such material.
The reference telegram states: “USIS program must immediately be strengthened in all media.” The Department agrees that improvement is always possible in the selection of news and production of other information materials, and needs concrete suggestions from the Embassy to amplify the recommendations in the reference telegram.
Newsfile. The Department does not believe that the present news output to China has constituted “painting bright picture of US,” and suggests that the Acting Director of USIS submit with the Embassy’s comment a review of the past months’ newsfile, pointing to specific stories which were not needed and specific additional stories which [Page 685] the USIS believed could have illustrated the dangers of world communism.
Newsletter. The Department considers the USIS newsletter to be the most effective method for reaching the influential middle group of educated Chinese, if the newsletter continues to employ the rapier technique and not the broadsword—that is, if it uses perhaps 90 per cent articles on bona fide current developments and 10 per cent selected anti-communist materials. Heretofore, USIS has filled the 10 per cent primarily with magazine reprint materials from Washington. The Department has begun preparation of a new series of research papers on communism, the first of which were recently sent to the Embassy (Circular Instruction of November 3, 1948).67
Pamphlets. The Department has felt that a USIS pamphlet program could also be effective on the subject of communism, and has commanded the Acting Director of USIS on one such pamphlet (condensation of the House of Representatives report on world communism). The Department would like from the Embassy specific recommendations on pamphlets to be prepared in Washington and published in Shanghai, serving to point up the communist menace.
Motion Pictures. The motion picture program has not been considered useful for short-range objectives, since over a year is generally required for a new production and the cost of production precludes special films for individual countries.
Posters and Filmstrips. Heretofore, the Department has not attempted to utilize the poster and filmstrip programs for discussing communism. The Embassy is requested to submit specific suggestions on suitable picture materials which could be used for posters or film-strips and serve an effective anti-communist purpose, taking into consideration the target audience attitudes mentioned in paragraph 4 above.
Translation Program. The Embassy recommendation for a program of translations of American books has been incorporated into the Department’s 1950 budget, but there are no appropriated funds available for this purpose at the present time.
Libraries and Other Activities. The Department would welcome concrete proposals for changes in any other existing information media.
The reference telegram seems to suggest that USIS should carry no criticism of the Kmt. The Department believes credibility of USIS output is enhanced by the continued reporting to China of a consensus of US editorial opinion on China, not excluding representative criticisms of the Kmt and United States policy.
The reference telegram recommends that “every useful fact on our ECA aid program must be seized to show our support of all who fight against communism.” The Department’s information policy on ECA toward both Europe and China stresses ECA’s positive contribution to recovery as the best defense against the spread of communism [Page 686] (Department telegram 270, February 17, 194868). The Department considers the press statement by Harlan Cleveland (Embassy telegram No. 1995, October 26, 194869), stressing the benefits of the aid program to the Chinese people, an excellent example of adherence to this policy. The Department has been sending all available facts on the China aid program with the expectation that USIS will provide the necessary re-write service to meet specific Chinese criticisms.
  1. Foreign Relations, 1947, vol. iv, p. 630.
  2. Vol. i , “U.S. National Security Policy”.
  3. Neither printed.
  4. Not printed.
  5. Not printed.
  6. Vol. viii , “U.S. Economic Aid to China” (Ch. I).
  7. Ibid. , (Ch. IV).