5-483 Meetings with Chou En-lai and the Committee of Three

Publisher: The Johns Hopkins University Press

Subject: China

Meetings with Chou En-lai and the Committee of Three

June 21-23, 1946 Nanking, China

CHOU En-lai, June 21, 12:05 P.M.

Marshall had met with Chiang Kai-shek the previous evening and this morning. He sought to get the current truce (which was scheduled to end June 22) extended and to modify the government’s demand that the Communists evacuate Jehol and Chahar provinces and the cities of Chefoo and Weihaiwei, which the Communists would not accept. Marshall believed that he had achieved “a better basis . . . for negotiating details with General Chou.” He was seeking “a middle course” between the two sides’ “strong stands,”Marshall said, and showed Chou a map of North China on which he had indicated areas (with the Communist areas somewhat enlarged from those the government had stipulated) in which both sides’ troops would concentrate by October 1 for the first phase of demobilization.

Chou said that he was unwilling to discuss troop dispositions in North China alone; it had to be for all of China. Moreover, he was not interested in discussing mere modifications of a unilateral government proposal. The government’s plan sought to get the Communists away from the rail lines and big cities where Chiang’s forces could wipe them out any time he chose. He could not consider the government’s plan, even as Marshall had modified it. Chou insisted that the Committee of Three immediately decide to get the fighting stopped, issue an order to that effect, and direct that the American members of field teams had the power to decide what investigations were to be made in order to execute the order. Once the fighting ceased, the Committee of Three would work out a plan for the restoration of communications,the demobilization of the entire country, and the reorganization of the government. Army reorganization, the key problem, should be carried out in separate Communist and government areas with training undertaken by American officers, “since we all trust the Americans.” After the forces were separately reorganized, they could be brought together for integration.

Marshall agreed with General Chou as to the need for immediate consideration of exact terms for cessation of hostilities and the restoration of communications, “but I am also of the opinion that we will have to have a pretty precise understanding as to what the Communists’ demands will be in connection with redistribution of troops in North China.” Both sides were to have submitted lists of troops in March and April; the government had done so, the Communists had not. With those lists, a combined staff could have made a proposal—or at least identified differences—regarding redistribution of troops in North China, and the issue might not now be such a divisive one.

The meeting was interrupted by a telephone call to Marshall from Chiang Kai-shek, who agreed to extend the current truce until June 30. Marshall then appealed to General Chou to do nothing “to wreck this last possibility of reaching a preliminary agreement on the military considerations.” For his part, Marshall said, “I will use my very best efforts to persuade the Generalissimo to make the announcement or definite commitments regarding the PCC and certain other matters in connection with the political reorganization of the government.” He hoped that basic agreements on the military and purely political matters could be announced and put into effect simultaneously. (Foreign Relations, 1946, 9: 1115-23.)

Chou En-lai, June 21, 5:10 P.M.

The Communists had presumed that discussions of troop dispositions in China proper would take place only after the Manchurian matter had been settled, Chou said, and thus they could not now consider the Generalissimo’s proposals on the subject. With regard to American decision-making authority, the government seemed confused and was now talking about field-team decisions by majority vote, which they knew the Communists did not accept. The Communists desired to have an immediate agreement on repairing the railroads, Chou said, but the Nationalist government’s recent actions on the Yellow River dike repair operation suggested that it would not accept. Finally, the Generalissimo sought to force the Communists to make military commitments without any government assurances on political matters.

Marshall responded that the Committee of Three should meet at once and take up the order for the cessation of hostilities and then the agreement for restoration of communications. General Chou should make definite proposals regarding redistribution of troops. Chou and Marshall discussed Committee of Three meeting arrangements. Marshall then described what he saw as each side’s fears about the other’s negotiating stance. “Now I am going to talk just as frankly to the Government representatives in this final effort to see if we can’t get at least a little bit away from these deep and deadly suspicions which makes agreements over the simplest matters almost impossible.” Chou defended the Communists’ negotiating procedures and criticized the government’s. The idea that the Soviet Union was influencing Chinese Communist policies was “entirely groundless. The truth is that more and more, in North China, we are seeking cooperation with the United States.”

Marshall thought that both sides adopted positions that evidenced short memories regarding their own attitudes and positions on events. With regard to public charges from both sides that he was prejudiced, Marshall said: “I do not belong to the Kuomintang Party and I do not belong to the Communist Party, and I don’t enjoy my job. I am merely doing the best I can.” Chou appreciated and was grateful for Marshall’s efforts, but to outsiders, the government’s legal status and big-city industrial point of view was understandable; this made it easy for Westerners to view the Communists, representing the point of view of villagers, as being illegal in actions and demands. United States military assistance to the government, in the past and being planned, encouraged certain Nationalist generals in their conviction of continued aid by the U.S. Part of the problem on the military assistance issue, Marshall replied, was the long time it took a democracy to act. Assistance programs begun in late 1944 and 1945 (e.g., aid to Chinese air and naval forces) were just now being felt. He had been pressing for faster movement on American support for the Communist training center at Kalgan, but such programs “are things which you cannot stop and start . . . like turning off water at a faucet.” (Ibid., pp. 1125-33.)

Committee of Three, June 22, 11:00 A.M.

Marshall initiated a discussion of each of the eight paragraphs in his June 13 draft proposal on “Termination of Hostilities in Manchuria” (see ibid., pp. 1044-45). Chou En-lai and Hsu Yung-chang could not agree on how far the troops in the field should withdraw from one another—five or ten miles (fifteen or thirty li)—so the committee moved on to consider the official time after which troop movements were to cease (June 7, noon). Disagreement over who was to decide the troop locations at the cease-fire time caused consideration of this to be postponed. With regard to the American member’s authority to break deadlocks on the field teams and at Executive Headquarters and its advance section, Chou detailed his ideas for negotiating a separate agreement to cover this. General Hsu agreed to negotiate this issue separately.

After a lengthy exchange between Chou and Hsu over the agreements to be reached, Marshall finally said: “Gentlemen, I hardly know what to say. There is so much sparring going on here, to use an American expression, that I am having considerable difficulty in following matters.” Marshall thought that the committee had “arrived at what appears to me to be a very practical place to consider General Chou’s proposal to draw up a separate document giving specific terms in relation to decisions regarding teams and Executive Headquarters.” Regarding General Hsu’s objection to the imprecision in the sentence on troop withdrawal distances, Marshall insisted that local circumstances necessitated this. (Ibid., pp. 1139-51.)

Committee of Three, June 23, 10:35 A.M.

The meeting began with a presentation by Vice Minister of War Yu Ta-wei of the government’s position paper on restoration of communications. Colonel Donald C. Hill, chairman of the Communications Group at Executive Headquarters, had, after consultation with both sides, prepared a draft agreement on the subject, and following General Chou’s overview of the Communist party’s positions, Marshall proposed that they examine Hill’s draft paragraph by paragraph. Chou, however, insisted that General Yu’s paper had confused the issue. Marshall threatened to adjourn the meeting unless they agreed on a specific paper to discuss: “I find a discussion without a definite paper is endless and usually arrives nowhere.” General Yu agreed that Colonel Hill’s paper would be the one considered.

The Chinese agreed that reconstruction and the “free and unrestricted interchange of goods, foodstuffs, and ideas” and civilian travelers should begin without delay. Both sides also agreed that the removal of fortifications along the railways was a good idea, but there was considerable discussion of specifics such as bridges, culverts, the distance fortifications should be from stations, and who could work for the railways. They agreed to consider communications at the next meeting. (Ibid., pp. 1153-68.)

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. 602-604.

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