5-548 Editorial Summary of Meetings with Chou En-lai, John Leighton Stuart, and Yu Ta-wei

Publisher: The Johns Hopkins University Press

Subject: China

Editorial Summary of Meetings with Chou En-lai, John Leighton Stuart, and Yu Ta-wei

September 4-6, 1946 Nanking, China

Chou En-lai, September 4, 4:30 P.M.

The Communists had been awaiting the outcome of Marshall’s talks at Kuling with Chiang Kai-shek, Chou stated, but government representatives continued to make unreasonable demands and to indicate “a rather evasive attitude” toward cease-fire arrangements. He had gone to Kuling on August 30, Marshall said, in order to be there in case Mao Tse-tung proclaimed a four-day truce (see Marshall to Truman, August 30, 1946, Papers of George Catlett Marshall, #5-543 [5: 671]); he (Marshall) could then press the Generalissimo to do likewise. Chou explained why the Communists were reluctant to issue such an order. Marshall thought that the Communists were basing their objections on propaganda statements—their own and the government’s—rather than on facts.

He and Ambassador Stuart had turned their efforts toward getting the State Council going—hoping that a political breakthrough might lead to an improved climate of opinion and offset the failure “to overcome the impasse regarding the cessation of hostilities.” Nevertheless, Marshall noted, the Five-Man Committee idea to solve the State Council problems appeared doomed; “we have apparently failed before we have started.” The Communists would not participate in the committee or the State Council prior to a cease-fire, Chou asserted; “regarding the propaganda, I wish to make it clear that it was not initiated by my side.” Marshall replied that “if both sides would just stop the fighting and would indulge only in propaganda I would be more cheerful about it.”

Marshall undertook a defense of the $500,000,000 (valued as the original cost of these civilian-type goods—see Foreign Relations, 1946, 10: 1049-57) China-U.S. surplus property agreement signed in Shanghai on August 30—to which Chou had vigorously objected. (Ibid., pp. 117-29.)

Yu Ta-wei, September 5, 11:00 A.M.

Marshall gave General Yu a precis of his most recent discussions with Chiang Kai-shek at Kuling. “General Marshall pointed out that the Generalissimo did not wish the military and political situations to be discussed simultaneously nor to be correlated; and that he (General Marshall) had convinced General Chou that this was a logical course; and that now General Chou insisted on the two matters being discussed simultaneously, a position from which he would not recede.”

Chou En-lai, Marshall noted, had said “that the National Government was using the gold credit it obtained through the surplus property agreement, plus their gold reserves in the United States, to prosecute the war.” In effect, Marshall said, the government’s advisers were thus using him “to create a chaotic condition in China,” and if knowledge of this were made public, it would destroy “the good faith which the United States was placing in the National Government through him.” (Ibid., pp. 130-31.)

Chou En-lai and John Leighton Stuart, September 5, 4:40 P.M. [added for the internet edition]

At Marshall’s request, Chou described for Stuart the Communist positions on an announcement of a brief cease-fire and the organization of the State Council. The Nationalists were stalling on government reorganization while they continued their military actions against the Communists, Chou asserted; consequently, without a government cease-fire—and the government had made it clear that it would not agree to one, since it insisted that there was no war—there was no sense in talking about the State Council or a Communist cease-fire order.

There indeed was a war in China, Marshall responded, and the United States could not offer guarantees that a cessation of hostilities could be implemented. Some statements that General Chou asserted indicated a government hard-line presumably came “from these public statements in the press with which I am unfamiliar, but they are not in accordance with what the Generalissimo had said to me personally.” Chiang’s positions on a number of issues were not as harsh or as firm as Chou thought. The reason he and Dr. Stuart were attempting to solve the State Council issue via the Five-Man Committee idea was that it “offered the one hope we could see to break the stalemate and afford a better possibility of reaching an understanding for the cessation of hostilities.”

If the Five-Man Committee idea (which was Stuart’s not the government’s) was not to go forward, what did Chou expect of Stuart and himself, Marshall asked; “are we to drop negotiations and wait around and watch the fighting develop?” He did not know how to answer, Chou replied. He had not expected the Nationalists would guarantee a cease-fire, and now the Americans insisted that they could not either. He was disappointed and “left very much in the air.” “If Doctor Stuart and I could guarantee the cease fire,” Marshall responded, “the fighting would have stopped months ago.” With regard to Chou’s assertion that he had made many concessions, Marshall said “I don’t see that you have made any concessions.” (Ibid., pp. 132-46.)


Yu Ta-wei, September 6, 10:30 A.M.

At the end of their meeting the previous day, General Yu asked Marshall to check into the State Department’s refusal to issue a license to China for the export of 130,000,000 rounds of 7.92-mm. rifle ammunition (see ibid., p. 757). Marshall had asked for more information, and Yu presented him with a brief case history. Marshall said he would look into the matter.

Yu reported that the Generalissimo wished to know the status of the Five-Man Committee. Marshall detailed Chou’s views of the previous day; he concluded “that there is still a hope of resolving this matter and added that the numerous statements issued by Government spokesmen in the form of propaganda is making solution increasingly difficult.” New instructions from Communist party headquarters had probably caused Chou’s attitude to “stiffen,” Yu suggested. Yu was also worried by the fact that the government continued to demobilize its military forces while the Communists did not. (Ibid., pp. 152-53.)

Chou En-lai and John Leighton Stuart, September 6, 1946, 1:30 P.M. [added for the internet edition]

Three new conditions had recently occurred which made it extremely difficult for the Communists to negotiate, Chou said: (1) the inability of the government or Marshall to guarantee a cease-fire immediately upon reaching an agreement on government reorganization; (2) the signing of a U.S.-China surplus property agreement; (3) the government’s announcement, after having occupied Chengteh, that its forces would advance on the city of Kalgan. Consequently, he was preparing a memorandum on current conditions and asking Yenan for instructions.

When this memorandum was brought to the meeting a few minutes later, Marshall began questioning Chou about certain aspects of it’s language. He did not accept the term “government reorganization,” Marshall said, because he and Dr. Stuart intended the Five-Man Committee to discuss “the establishment of a State Council as an initial step toward governmental reorganization.” In his discussions with Chiang Kai-shek, Marshall explained, he was careful to question the Generalissimo closely in order that he (Marshall) fully understood what the government leader was saying so that neither he (Marshall) nor General Chou would misunderstand. “I wondered once or twice whether or not General Chou had unconsciously come to feel that I was making the conditions.” (See the revised version of this memorandum ibid., pp. 158-60.) Marshall promised to talk about the issues Chou raised at his meeting with the Generalissimo at Kuling, for which Marshall was to depart in a few hours. (Ibid., pp. 153-58.)

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. 677-678.

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