5-489 Meetings with Chou En-lai and Chiang Kai-shek

Publisher: The Johns Hopkins University Press

Subject: China

Meetings with Chou En-lai and Chiang Kai-shek

June 28-29, 1946 Nanking, China

CHOU En-lai, June 28, 3:30 P.M.

Marshall told Chou of his two-hour meeting with Chiang Kai-shek that morning and of his idea to have the Chinese sign a temporary agreement that would allow negotiations to continue after the current cease-fire ended on June 30. Chou agreed that the negotiations should continue, but he had just received word from Yenan that government forces had launched an all-out attack on June 26 aimed at annihilating the Communist force of sixty thousand north of Hankow. Meanwhile, the Communists would continue to adhere to their pledge not to attack Tsinan (the provincial capital of Shantung) and Tatung (in north Shansi). Marshall told Chou of his various proposals for evacuations to the Generalissimo and his reactions to them. Chou thought that Chiang’s responses indicated that he rejected the principle that government troops should not occupy places the Communists evacuated during the army reorganization.

Marshall handed Chou a “Preliminary Agreement to Govern the Amendment and Execution of the Army Reorganization Plan of February 25, 1946” (see Foreign Relations, 1946, 9: 1240-42). Chou read the draft and commented on the various paragraphs. Chou desired to add a statement that when the Communists “vacated” (he objected to the word “evacuated”) an area, government troops would not move in and the established civil government and (Communist) peace preservation corps would be preserved. The Communists feared, he said, that if they evacuated all the rail lines and highways, their areas would be so cut up that government forces could easily surround and annihilate them. Chou also objected to many of the specific locations the agreement proposed for Communist forces. Marshall said that an agreement was needed by noon on June 29 if orders were to reach field commanders. A stalemate in endeavoring to reach a formal agreement “would mean another resumption of retaliations, gradually developing into open civil war.” Consequently, highly detailed understandings could not be agreed upon rapidly. Chou promised a reply (see ibid., pp. 1242-43) by the following morning. (Ibid., pp. 1231-40.)

Chiang Kai-shek, June 29, 11:30 A.M., Generalissimo’s Office

The Generalissimo refused to modify his demands on the Communists for the redistribution of troops. Marshall replied that he “was left with no basis for further negotiations.” Chiang said that he could agree to nothing that did not guarantee that there would be no future difficulties with the Communists. His negotiations had already been made difficult, Marshall said, by statements of Nationalist leaders who opposed negotiations and were determined to solve the problem by fighting, and if this was actually attempted, “the Government of China would be judged by the world, and certainly by American public opinion, as having unnecessarily plunged the country into chaos by implacable demands and the evident desire to pursue a policy of military settlement.” Chiang regretted that the negotiations had failed and showed Marshall a draft press release on the subject that expressed the hope that Marshall would continue his mediation efforts. “I expressed thanks for the complimentary references,” Marshall replied, “but stated that I much preferred no such reference to me be made and that I would decline to be an umpire on a battlefield.” (Ibid., pp. 1248-49.)

Chou En-lai, June 29, 3:30 P.M.

Marshall reported on his three and a quarter hour meeting with the Generalissimo and the reasons Chiang had given for some of his positions. Marshall and Chou then went over in detail Marshall’s draft—and Chiang’s and Chou’s responses to it—looking for points of potential government-Communist agreement. They found few. Chou was at particular pains to rebut the government’s charge that refugee flow indicated dissatisfaction with Communist rule. Chou praised Marshall’s mediation efforts, expressed the hope that Marshall would yet find a way out of the present situation, and noted that he had proposed various concessions to the government because of the trust he had in Marshall’s mediation.

Marshall said that he had done his best to produce an acceptable compromise, but that recent aggressive Communist actions in Shantung and Shansi provinces had undermined his efforts to persuade the government to alter its position. Having listened to the Generalissimo and General Chou, he could “find no basis for optimism in the present tragic dilemma.” (Ibid., pp. 1250-62.)

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. 611-613.

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