5-431 Meetings with Chen Cheng and Yu Ta-wei

Publisher: The Johns Hopkins University Press

Subject: China

Meetings with Chen Cheng and Yu Ta-wei

May 7-8, 1946 Nanking, China

CHEN Cheng, May 7, 3:30 P.M.

General Chen, China’s minister of war since November 1944, met with Marshall to discuss army reorganization problems. His greatest difficulty, Chen said, was what to do about the present thirty thousand discharged and still unemployed professional army officers and the potential surplus of three hundred thousand at the end of the reorganization process. Reduction of the 1,180,000-employee National Military Council raised similar problems. Chen said he favored a U.S.-style organization for the council that separated military from political control and planning from execution.

The key was the separation of the military from the political, Marshall asserted. Moreover, the army’s 70 percent share of the government’s budget “was exorbitant to the point of inviting financial chaos.” Demobilized personnel, Marshall suggested, should be retrained by the nation’s colleges and schools, which would also help the school system. Some existing civilian organization should handle the personnel problem not another new army organization. Marshall was opposed to using military personnel to perform civilian jobs, such as handling river and rail freight. Not only would this not assist in demobilizing the army, it “would tend to involve the army in big business which must be avoided since this would be the first step toward involving it in politics.” (Foreign Relations, 1946, 9: 339-40.)

Yu Ta-wei, May 8, 3:00 P.M.

Chiang Kai-shek was worried that Chou En-lai had asked Marshall to reenter the peace negotiations regarding Manchuria. Chiang did not desire that General Marshall should do so and had sent General Yu to ascertain Marshall’s position. Marshall said that Chou had “merely requested that he use his influence to solve the problem.” Marshall took the opportunity, however, to state that if Chiang was stalling in order to afford his forces “time to attack Changchun, then the Generalissimo’s action was ill-advised and definitely in the wrong. . . . [A]n attack on Changchun was a great hazard in that its success or failure would preclude further negotiation for peace.”

The Generalissimo, Yu stated, wanted to know Marshall’s views on the conditions for peace in Manchuria. Marshall professed ignorance of the political aspects of the Manchurian situation, but from the military point of view the best scheme would be to allow Communist occupation west and north of Harbin. The Communists would probably not concur, Marshall admitted, as they would very likely desire territory adjacent to their positions in Jehol and Chahar provinces, including Changchun. General Yu believed that it was important for the government to place small, symbolic forces in critical Manchurian cities and along the railroads north and east of Changchun. This would be a serious mistake, Marshall said; the Nationalists should concentrate in southern Manchuria where they could maintain logistical support for their forces.

The Generalissimo would have to concede to the Communists some political appointments in Manchuria. Marshall then outlined his ideas—previously given to General Hsu Yung-chang (see Papers of George Catlett Marshall, #5-429 [5: 540])—on defusing the Changchun situation by getting the Communists out and Executive Headquarters in. (Foreign Relations, 1946, 9: 820-22.)

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. 544-545.

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