5-501 Meetings with Chou En-lai, Yu Ta-wei, and Others

Publisher: The Johns Hopkins University Press

Subject: China

Meetings with Chou En-lai, Yu Ta-wei, and Others

July 8, 9, and 11, 1946 Nanking, China

CHOU En-lai, July 8, 4:00 P.M.

Little had been accomplished in the past week by his meetings on the local civil government question, Chou said, but perhaps the two sides had gained a better understanding of the other’s views. That was a hopeful development, Marshall thought, and perhaps in the long run that was the most important factor. Nevertheless, he was concerned with the increasingly serious situation north of Hankow and around Tatung, which might lead to a complete rupture in relations. Chou explained the Communists’ views on those problems and the situation in Hopeh province. Marshall said he would send a U.S. aircraft to bring to Nanking the senior U.S. members of two truce teams and a government and Communist representative from the region north of Hankow.

Chou then discussed the government’s attacks along the main railroad in Shantung province. Marshall reminded him that the Communists’ “wholly inexcusable” attacks there in mid-June had forced him to use his influence with the government to the limit to try to halt the fighting, and there was little further he could do. Chou then described the deadlock and termination of negotiations regarding north Kiangsu province. “It would seem,” Marshall responded, “the situation is back in my lap.” Chou thought that the only hope for a quick solution was to refer the problem (i.e., local civil administration after the Communists departed an area) to the Committee of Three. (Foreign Relations, 1946, 9: 1317-23.)

Yu Ta-wei, July 8, 6:00 P.M.

Marshall and Yu discussed the status of the negotiations with Chou En-lai. The Nationalist-Communist conference discussed too many subjects, in Marshall’s opinion; it should have concentrated on the key issue of civil administration in areas vacated by Communist forces. The Communists were obviously at fault, General Yu asserted; moreover, as Marshall was a friend of the Chinese people and government, he should not want the government “to end up in an unfavorable position,” and “if the Communists continue, they must take the consequences.” Marshall agreed that the Communists had provoked the fighting in Shantung province, but he also pointed out military problems where the Communists were not the instigators. A solution was still feasible, Marshall insisted, but it appeared that China was on the verge of a civil war. (Ibid., pp. 1324-26.)

Tseng Chi, July 9, 10:00 A.M.

A representative of the Chinese Youth party, Tseng asserted that the Communists had to make more military concessions and the government more political concessions. The delays heretofore in implementing agreements had weakened the government and strengthened the Communists, whose claim to be supported by and to represent the people was “purely propaganda.” The Nationalists represented the upper and the Communists the lower classes, Tseng said, while the Chinese Youth party represented the majority in the middle classes. Consequently, he thought that Marshall should pay more attention to his group. Marshall asked him to comment on “the commonly expressed belief that the Democratic League was a tool of the Communist Party and the Young China Party was a tool of Kuomintang.” The former might be true, Tseng replied, but the latter were certainly not, citing instances where his party disagreed openly with Kuomintang proposals. (Ibid., pp. 1329-31.)

Wang Shih-chieh, Shao Li-tze, and Chen Cheng, July 9, 3:00 P.M., Ministry of Foreign Affairs

The members of the government committee, who had met three times with Chou En-lai, explained to Marshall why the government’s negotiating positions on Communist troop evacuations and subsequent local administration were reasonable. The Generalissimo, they said, agreed that negotiations should continue.

A temporary arrangement that would settle the local administration issue was crucial, Marshall responded; given that, the fighting could be stopped with cease-fire orders. Contrary to the government’s belief, he insisted, the Communists were “intensely anxious” to achieve these goals. However, the Communists suspected that the government intended to abandon the People’s Consultative Conference, so Marshall suggested that the P.C.C. or its Steering Committee be scheduled to meet at some definite time soon to discuss the local government issue. Foreign Minister Wang explained why this was not a good idea. (Ibid., pp. 1331-35.)

Yu Ta-wei, July 11, 9:00 A.M.

The Communists were “attacking everywhere” in Honan, Kiangsu, and Shantung provinces, the vice minister of war said, showing Marshall a map. The “situation appeared critical,” Marshall agreed, and the immediate solution lay in the government committee’s meetings with Chou En-lai solving the local administration issue. Marshall suggested a sort of court of appeal made up of an American civilian, and a representative from the government and the Communists to rule on the equitable distribution of property and to prevent the violation of agreements reached for control of the civil administration. Yu was dubious, stating that the Communist party wanted power, and if it received such additional power it would tend to wage a greater civil war. If that were the case, Marshall replied, the government “might as well go to complete civil war today.” Marshall said he suspected that the Generalissimo had only agreed to the government committee’s meetings with Chou in order to please him (Marshall), but had simultaneously instructed the government conferees “to assume an unbending attitude.” Marshall also believed that a way could be found to involve the P.C.C. in solving the civil administration issue. (Ibid., pp. 1338-40.)

Chou En-lai, July 11, 10:30 A.M.

Marshall began by discussing his efforts to get truce team leaders and Chinese representatives to Nanking from the fighting area north of Hankow. From the Americans he received the impression that both sides were at fault in the conflict there, and Marshall directed the two teams’ redispositions to try to regain contact with Communist forces leaders. Chou said he “almost entirely” agreed with Marshall, and delivered a lengthy discourse on the Communist viewpoint. Chou described the failure of his meetings with Foreign Minister Wang’s committee. Marshall commented on the fighting in various locations.

On July 7, the Central Executive Committee of the Chinese Communist party had issued a manifesto that, while not attacking Marshall personally, vigorously denounced the “reactionary cliques” in the United States and their partners in China (i.e., the Nationalists) for seeking “to transform China into a colonial settlement for American imperialism” and endeavoring “to convert our country into a corpse-filled hell.” The manifesto demanded an immediate cease-fire, reconvening of the P.C.C., weeding out of “fascists,” an end to U.S. aid to the government, and the withdrawal of all U.S. forces. (See ibid., pp. 1310-16.) “In my opinion this was pure propaganda,” Marshall asserted, and it came “at the same time as propaganda releases from Moscow, along the same line.” Moreover, since he had received no instructions from the U.S. government since coming to China in December 1945, “then I am the `reactionary party.’ . . . Nobody else can be charged with this but me, personally.” Furthermore, “this bitter, anti-American attack deliberately leads to violent reactions against my officers and Americans generally,” and he gave Chou some examples. “It is useless to expect that I can serve any useful purpose towards terminating hostilities with this type of propaganda being carried on. In all probability it was the opinion of those who drafted this paper that it would produce a helpful result in the United States. If a `helpful result’ means a precipitation of a chaotic condition in China, then probably they are correct. But the responsibility for the chaotic condition will be very clearly placed by any more of that procedure.” Marshall assured Chou En-lai, however, that he would continue seeking a solution and consider the episode “water over the dam.” Chou agreed. (Ibid., pp. 1340-48.)

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. 624-627.

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