5-604 Editorial Summary of Meetings with C. P. Lee, John Leighton Stuart, Wei Tao-ming, and W. Walton Butterworth

Publisher: The Johns Hopkins University Press

Subject: China

Editorial Summary of Meetings with C. P. Lee, John Leighton Stuart, Wei Tao-ming, and W. Walton Butterworth

December 7, 9-10, 1946 Nanking, China

C. P. Lee, December 7, 11:00 A.M. [added for the internet edition]

General Lee suggested two possible approaches to the situation: (1) Marshall could meet with Tung Pi-wu of the Communist delegation and tell him that Chou En-lai’s message had been transmitted to the Generalissimo (Marshall said this was unnecessary as the press already had the letter); (2) Chiang Kai-shek could “retire from public life” (Marshall made no comment on this). Marshall deplored the current Communist propaganda campaign as “only serving to crystallize American policy to total support of the Chinese National Government” and encouraging Kuomintang reactionaries and making them more difficult to handle. Marshall saw no advantages in Lee’s suggestion of a counter-propaganda campaign. Lee believed that the Communists saw both Marshall and Stuart as being sacrificed by the U.S. government through its China policy. Lee suggested that Marshall should fly to Yenan for meetings, but Marshall believed “that at present the American mediators are in no position to take any steps.” (Foreign Relations, 1946, 10: 596-98.)

John Leighton Stuart, December 9, 11:00 A.M., Stuart’s Residence

Stuart was still convinced that Marshall’s mission “was possible of fulfillment,” and announcing a firm U.S. policy supporting army reorganization and technical assistance would bring the Communists back to the bargaining table. Marshall said he doubted that this program could be carried out under existing conditions. Limited U.S. support for the government would only encourage the reactionary elements and the military clique, making it even more difficult to reform the government, break Kuomintang domination, and keep open a way for the Communists to reenter negotiations.

Henry R. Luce had sent a telegram the previous day urging all-out U.S. support for the Kuomintang. Marshall thought Luce’s analysis of the situation in China was shallow and completely biased by his personal attachment to the Generalissimo. Implementation of Luce’s ideas might have the opposite effect from what he desired, Marshall suspected. Under Secretary of State Dean Acheson had just suggested to him that the United States might wish to prepare a high-level statement clarifying U.S. policy toward China. Marshall thought this was a good idea, and the timing of public release could be decided later.

Ambassador Stuart thought that if some kind of territorial agreement could be reached, government-Communist negotiations could begin again. Marshall agreed, but added that the idea of a territorial agreement would immediately raise the question of control of the two key north-south railroads. If the Communists could retain their positions and agree not to molest the railroads, that “might constitute a new beginning for negotiations.” Stuart agreed to sound out Wang Ping-nan on the subject. Marshall reiterated his previous rejection of the idea of serving as an adviser to the Chinese government after the mediation mission ended. (Foreign Relations, 1946, 10: 599-602.)

Wei Tao-ming, December 9, 5:00 P.M.

“If a good, sound, democratic constitution were passed,” Marshall remarked to the vice president of the Legislative Yuan, “some hope for peaceful settlement might result. If not, the military clique in the Government would probably be given a free hand to attempt extermination of the Communist Party through force.” General Marshall “was convinced that the military clique had over-estimated the Government’s capabilities and that a final all-out campaign would be overtaken by financial chaos.” While he was “pleasantly surprised at the behavior of the National Assembly,” Marshall said, he had been optimistic before and was now “simply waiting and watching.” He thought that “democracy probably could be made to work in China if there existed both a free press and an active, unrestricted opposition party.”

Government leaders seemed to believe that economic collapse was at least two years away, but Marshall thought it was possible in a matter of months. The government’s inability to keep the Tientsin-Chinwangtao railroad operating was proof to Marshall that the government could never attain total military victory.

The pro-Kuomintang publicity campaign being fostered by Henry Luce and Roy Howard might lead to a counter campaign critical of corruption in China’s government, and the “dirt” exposed would aid neither side. “It would be a serious error if the reactionaries crippled the Constitution now before the National Assembly on the hope of aid from the United States as a result of the Luce-Howard publicity campaign” or American fear of Russia. Moreover, “public opinion in the United States was affected by corruption within the Kuomintang more than by fear of Communist ideology.” Marshall concluded by summarizing his belief that negotiations might be resumed if a sound democratic constitution was adopted, the State Council and Executive Yuan reorganized, the door left open for communist participation in the government, and effective measures taken to enforce the constitution. (Ibid., pp. 602-5.)

W. Walton Butterworth, December 10, 6:30 P.M.

After studying the U.N.R.R.A. aid situation, Butterworth recommended that its China program be completed. Marshall approved a dispatch to the State Department on this, but opposed Butterworth’s sending a letter to the department censoring John King Fairbank, formerly a department employee in China, for his writings critical of the government and Marshall. With regard to Dr. Stuart’s suggested territorial settlement, Marshall thought the idea was sound, but “he did not see how the situation in the field could be kept quiet long enough to permit political aspects to be worked out.”

Butterworth noted a new criticism of Marshall by Chinese ambassador in the United States Wellington Koo. Marshall thought it another aspect of the Henry Luce-Roy Howard effort to force all-out U.S. support for the Chinese government, but he wondered how this support would appeal to the anti-Communist but also anti-spending Republican party majority in Congress.

“A matter of great concern” to Marshall was “what sort of statement he might make in case he was recalled to Washington. . . . He must not tear down the National Government, and at the same time he could not ignore the reactionary elements.” The best course, he suspected, “was to stress the adverse effect of the reactionaries and military clique in the Government toward the reformation of the Government itself, and at the same time stress the obstructionist attitude on the part of the CCP and their vicious propaganda.” Marshall directed that Butterworth’s staff develop a carefully written draft. (NA/RG 59 [Lot Files, Marshall Mission, Political Affairs, Conferences Miscellaneous, vol. 7].)

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. 757-759.

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