Officials of the then-Republic of China, under President Chiang Kai-shek, drafted a plan in 1939 to open the country’s borders to stateless Jews—of whom there were many in Europe, most of them having had their citizenship revoked by Germany or Austria—and settle them near the Burmese border. Although the proposal made it to the cabinet and was approved in principle, the government deferred and eventually dropped the idea. Aharon Shai writes:
In addition to humanitarian considerations, Chinese officials listed four major reasons for the initiative. One was assisting small ethnic groups in the spirit of China’s policy [toward its many ethnic minorities]. Another was the hope that assisting the Jews would evoke the British public’s sympathy toward China, [then at war with Japan], mainly because, as is commonly known, many British financiers and bankers who worked in East Asia were Jews.
China also expected that helping the Jews would increase the American public’s sympathy to China’s distress. Finally, the absorption of Jews, who had considerable economic means and talents, would be a welcome contribution to China, the planners said.
They decided to designate an area close to the southwestern border, appoint an official committee to run the project, enlist Jewish leaders from China and abroad to support the initiative, and register Jewish professionals to advance certain fields in China.