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Editorial Summary of a Meeting with Representatives of the Democratic League
December 26, 1945, 4:00 P.M. Chungking, China
As he had in previous meetings with Chiang Kai-shek, Chou En-lai, and T. V. Soong, Marshall began by saying that he was there to “listen to everyone who has a genuine interest in the settlement” of China’s problems and to express America’s interest in encouraging such a settlement. The League’s primary wish, according to its spokesman (not identified in the conference notes), was an end to the civil war and a reduction and modernization of the nation’s military forces. The present armies—the Nationalists had two million troops and the Communists a million troops and two million guerrilla fighters, the spokesman asserted—were useful only for fighting a civil war, not for national defense.
A woman delegate asked Marshall what he meant by democratic government. Marshall admitted that there were numerous definitions of democracy, but “the fundamental requirements of democracy are free speech and freedom of peaceable assembly and a governmental structure that permits a genuine will of the people to be given effect.” (While describing the peculiar problems of democracy, Marshall reminded his visitors that he was speaking “off the record,” since he never intended to enter into that kind of discussion.) Implementation, not principles, was the problem in China, Marshall said; “half the difficulty is lack of understanding and lack of confidence” in opponents.
Responding to a question from Marshall, the League’s spokesman said that the Political Consultative Conference’s success depended upon the Nationalist government (more than the Communists) to stop the civil war, start reorganizing the government, make a coalition government, and nationalize the army. The meeting ended with a lengthy discussion of elections and the problems of holding them in a country such as China. (Foreign Relations, 1945, 7: 816-24.)
Recommended Citation: ThePapers of George Catlett Marshall, ed.Larry I. Bland and Sharon Ritenour Stevens(Lexington, Va.: The George C. Marshall Foundation, 1981- ). Electronic version based on The Papers of George Catlett Marshall, vol. 5, “The Finest Soldier,” January 1, 1945-January 7, 1947 (Baltimore and London: The Johns Hopkins University Press, 2003), pp. 404-405.