5-317 Editorial Summary of Meetings of the Conference of Three

Publisher: The Johns Hopkins University Press

Subject: China

Editorial Summary of Meetings of the Conference of Three

January 7-8, 1946 Chungking, China

January 7, 10:00 A.M.

At Marshall’s suggestion, the committee agreed that the official records of the meetings would be kept in English and that the two Chinese delegations would make their own translations. They then agreed that their meetings would be called the Conference of Three. (“Committee of Three” soon became the more generally used term.)

Governor Chang Chun and General Chou En-lai stated that their respective sides agreed “in principle” on three main points of the cessation of hostilities orders (i.e., cease-fire throughout China, halt of significant troop movements except in Manchuria, and the restoration of communications), so they undertook to define precisely what these points meant. Manchuria, as usual, was the key point of contention. The Nationalists desired that the government’s right, through agreement with the Soviet Union, to move troops anywhere in Manchuria be included in the cease-fire agreement. In addition, the government asserted that two strategic cities—Chihfeng in Jehol province and Tolun in Chahar province—also be specifically excluded from the prohibition against troop movements in the cease-fire agreement, because both were occupied by Soviet troops and the Sino-Soviet agreement permitted Chinese government troops to occupy any Chinese city held by the Soviets. Chang was unwilling to agree to Chou En-lai’s suggestion that all troop movements in North China and Manchuria be subject to “consultation” with the Soviets and the Chinese Communists. Chou En-lai said that not only was his information that Chihfeng and Tolun were under Chinese Communist and not Soviet control, but he also knew nothing about any Sino-Soviet agreements relating to Jehol and Chahar provinces.

Marshall decided to call a temporary halt to this line of argument. Instead he had the negotiators examine the wording of a paper proposing the actual language to be used by each side in notifying its troops of the termination of hostilities. He received from the two representatives a series of acceptances to sentences and paragraphs in this paper, ending with notification to troop commanders that “An Executive Headquarters will be established immediately in Peiping for the purpose of carrying out the agreements for cessation of hostilities,” and that this organization would issue “instructions and orders unanimously agreed upon by the three Commissioners.” (Foreign Relations, 1946, 9: 43-59.)

According to an unofficial history of the Executive Headquarters:

Late at night on the 6th of January 1946, a small number of selected officers of the United States Army were called together at headquarters, China Theater, in Shanghai for a “Top Secret” conference. At this conference it was first made known that there was to be established an Executive Headquarters. The size and location were still unknown. The organization and make-up were yet to be decided. The manner in which the Executive Headquarters should function was not determined except that there was to be a small central headquarters with a small number of field teams composed of Chinese and American members who would actually enforce the truce in the field. To this small group of officers was assigned the mission of determining the organization and set-up of the Executive Headquarters, the method of its functioning, and its supply, administration, and logistics.

(History of the Executive Headquarters, January 1946-February 1947, Peiping, China [Peiping: (Peiping Headquarters Group), March 6, 1947], p. 1.) A copy of this unofficial history is in GCMRL/Small Manuscripts Collection (John M. Ferguson). The official history is “Historical Record of the Executive Headquarters Peiping Headquarters Group, Peiping, China,” NA/RG 407 (Operations Reports, History—Peiping Executive Headquarters). A set of “History and Record Series Data Cards, Peiping Headquarters Group, Peiping, China (Including—The Executive Headquarters), 1946-1947,” is in NA/RG 338 (China-Burma-India Theater, U.S. Branch of Executive Headquarters).

January 8, 10:00 A.M.

Most of this meeting was spent considering paragraph “b” (forbidding troop movements, with certain exceptions) of the cease-fire order. General Chang desired that this paragraph be amended to specify four exceptions. Chou and Chang continued to differ on the current and future status of Chihfeng and Tolun (the Nationalist insisting that the cities were the central government’s by agreement with the Soviets, the Communist denying this and insisting that the Communist Eighth Route Army was already in residence).

Marshall eventually got the Chinese to agree that the definition of what constituted allowable government troop movements for reorganization south of the Yangtze be put into the agreed minutes (like the understanding on Manchuria) rather than into the cease-fire order. After further debate and clarification of positions, the Chinese agreed on the following wording for paragraph b: “Except in certain specific cases, all movements of forces in China will cease. There also may be the movements necessary for demobilization, redisposition, supply, administration and local security.” The meeting ended with each side restating its position regarding Chihfeng and Tolun. (Foreign Relations, 1946, 9: 59-75.)

January 8, 4:30 P.M.

The meeting began with discussion of the precise wording of the Manchurian exception to the no-troop-movements part of the cease-fire order (i.e., paragraph b). After some wording changes, Chou En-lai said that he was satisfied, but that he needed to consult with Mao Tse-tung and his advisers in Yenan. The question of an understanding regarding the use by Nationalist troops of the railroads to move into Manchuria was left unresolved.

The committee members again took up the question of control of Chihfeng and Tolun; General Chou requested a copy of the Chinese-Soviet agreement on troop dispositions in Manchuria that the Nationalists asserted gave them the right to occupy those strategic cities. (This agreement—dated October 31, 1945—is ibid., p. 98.) Marshall, hoping to avoid a lengthy delay over this difficult issue, sought to include a restriction on Nationalist troop movements into Jehol and Chahar provinces “pending further agreements.”

The committee members then discussed the authority and operations of and security for Executive Headquarters and the wording of this matter in the cease-fire order. After a lengthy discussion, the committee members reached agreement on this and adjourned. (Ibid., pp. 76-98.) The U.S. draft that was the basis for this discussion is ibid., pp. 6-8.

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. 411-413.

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