893.4061 MP/8–1148

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

No. 343

The Ambassador has the honor to refer to his telegram No. 1288 of July 14 concerning censorship regulations on showing of motion pictures in China and to enclose for the information of the Department a copy of the note on this subject from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs1 together with a copy of the Embassy’s reply thereto protesting this action by the Chinese Government. The chief of the press bureau of the Foreign Office has called at the Embassy to discuss the Embassy’s reply. He stated that this action was directed solely at the Soviet Union and the films which it has been showing in Sinkiang, Peiping and Tientsin; but that the Chinese Government did not feel it is in a position to take action solely against the Soviets. He added that the United States is the only Government which has protested the regulations so far. He then went on to say that the Foreign Office regretted the necessity of this action and that he hoped this Embassy could cooperate with him in drafting a reply to the Embassy’s note which would be mutually satisfactory since he felt sure the mechanics [Page 735] of censorship could be handled expeditiously and that in any event there was not the slightest intent to restrict the showing of any American motion pictures.

In reply he was informed that the Embassy was not objecting to the inconvenience of censorship as he could tell from our note, but rather that we were protesting the principle of censorship. The United States is publicly committed to the principle of freedom of information, not only by its own actions but also by its obligations to the United Nations. The same applies to China. Therefore, it would be difficult to see how the United States could compromise with this principle. The director then stated that there seemed to be nothing gained from further discussion. He implied that there was no chance of any modification in the regulations.

The Embassy is increasingly concerned at what appears to be a growing tendency of the Chinese Government to impose blanket restrictions and when queried on the reasons therefore, to blame it all on the Soviets. It is difficult at the moment to estimate just how much of this line of reasoning is actually attributable to Chinese fears of the Soviets and how much of it is just simply convenient alibi to cover up what they really want to do. The Embassy is following this situation and will report more fully at a later date. It is quite true, as the Department is aware, that both the Generalissimo2 and Foreign Minister3 on various occasions have stated that because of American commitments in Europe, China will at this time take no action which might irritate or annoy the Soviets. Part of the motivation behind these statements is unquestionably fear, but it is also difficult to resist the suspicion that another part of the motivation is rather unsubtle form of blackmail. The Embassy would venture a suggestion that there is little in the experience of dealing with the Soviets which would warrant the hope that this kind of tenderness for Soviet susceptibilities is calculated to deviate them from their ultimate objectives. In this connection the Department is referred to the Embassy’s despatch No. 344 and airgram No. A–207.4


The American Embassy to the Chinese Ministry for Foreign Affairs

No. 601

The Embassy of the United States of America presents its compliments to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of China [Page 736] and has the honor to refer to the Ministry’s third person note No. Wai–(37)–Ching–Erh/16259 of July 10, 1948,5 concerning the issuance of permits by the Ministry of the Interior for the exhibition of foreign-made motion pictures, including those lent to Chinese circles by foreign diplomatic missions and consular offices.

The Embassy understands that the proposed licensing will apply to motion pictures prepared or acquired for the special use of the United States Information Service, an agency of the United States Government. It therefore invites the attention of the Ministry to the fact that the Government of the United States does not require permits for films exhibited on a non-commercial basis by foreign missions and consular offices or their respective information services; nor does the Government make any attempt to license films exhibited in the United States by the China News Service or its agents. Consequently the proposal of the Ministry of the Interior appears to be made without regard to reciprocal treatment.

The Embassy wishes to point out that the requirement of permits implies the power to censor and to suppress. The films shown by the United States Information Service are designed to convey factual information on the United States of America, and censorship or suppression of such films can only constitute a restriction on the free flow of information between nations. Acquiescence by the United States Government in the censorship and suppression of its own motion pictures implies acquiescence in the censorship and suppression of its own news reports, transmitted by radio broadcasts and newspaper releases. The experience of the last fifteen years has thrown into sharp relief the deformities of political and intellectual character which have occurred in those nations which have imposed or accepted such restrictions. It will also be recalled that at the United Nations Conference on Freedom of Information at Geneva in April of this year resolutions favoring the free exchange between nations of information and condemning censorship were adopted with the concurrence of both the Chinese and American delegations.6

The Embassy wishes further to emphasize the evils attendant upon a general requirement of pre-exhibition licensing under the police power and judicial or diplomatic action after exhibition in respect of particular films. The very requirement of permits creates in the mind of the public a conviction that the films actually shown are only a fraction of those which the United States Information Service is endeavoring to show, and that other films are being suppressed. However unjustified this assumption may be, it will arise, and there [Page 737] may be expected a loss of public confidence in both the Ministry of the Interior for imposing such censorship and in the United States Information Service for accepting it.

The Embassy has therefore the honor to request that the censorship and licensing activities of the Ministry of the Interior shall not be extended to motion pictures shown on a non-commercial basis by the United States Information Service.

  1. Not printed.
  2. Chiang Kai-shek, President of the National Government of the Republic of China.
  3. Wang Shih-chieh.
  4. Neither printed; they reported anti-American propaganda efforts.
  5. Not printed.
  6. For texts, see Department of State, United Nations Conference on Freedom of Information, p. 25.