5-458 Meetings with Lo Lung-chi and Chou En-lai, June 1, 1946

Publisher: The Johns Hopkins University Press
Date: June 1, 1946

Subject: China

Meetings with Lo Lung-chi and Chou En-lai

June 1 and 3, 1946 Nanking, China

LO Lung-chi, June 1, 10:00 A.M.

Marshall informed Dr. Lo, secretary general of the Democratic League, of the state of the Manchurian negotiations: Chiang Kai-shek’s insistence upon assurances that the Communists would not delay carrying out the agreements and his proposal that the U.S. representatives on truce teams be given the deciding vote on where to go and what to investigate in the event of Communist-Nationalist disagreement. He was reluctant to accept this proposal, Marshall said, because it placed a “grave responsibility and heavy burden” on the U.S. representatives. Nevertheless, unless this was done, “there was very little hope of reaching any agreement.” General Chou was reluctant to accept this proposal, however, given the bitterly anti-U.S. feeling of Communist party soldiers. “General Marshall reiterated that the situation at present is extremely dangerous due to the conditions in North China and the possibility of the Nationalists’ Generals overplaying their military power in Manchuria, just as the Communist Generals have recently done.” If the fighting could be stopped immediately, “this would have an important psychological effect on all.” Allowing the American team members to have the deciding vote would allow the teams to move freely and to stop troop movements that did not conform to the signed agreements, which would help to reduce the fear and suspicion each side had of the other. Marshall suggested that a few teams might be formed consisting of an American and a member from the antigovernment Democratic League and the progovernment Chinese Youth party.

If the Americans were given the final authority, would this permit the Manchurian problem to be settled, Dr. Lo asked. In the past, Marshall replied, Nationalist-Communist deadlocks had undermined the Committee of Three agreements. But, he emphasized, Americans would not have the deciding vote on all disagreements, only on issues of communications restoration and reports from field teams. He could not guarantee the cessation of hostilities if the Communists accepted this proposal.

Dr. Lo described the Communists’ feelings toward Americans as a result of U.S. assistance to Chiang’s forces. The U.S. should not continue to supply the government if a civil war broke out, he said, and this should be made clear to the government. “Marshall reserved his comment in view of his position as Ambassador.” He noted, however, that U.S. aid to China was diminishing. Lo twice said that should the Generalissimo agree to an immediate cease fire, the Communists would agree to it. “Marshall stated that he would [try to] persuade the Generalissimo to cease advances, attacks, and pursuits.” (Foreign Relations, 1946, 9: 927-30.)

Chou En-lai, June 3, 10:45 A.M.

Chou began by detailing some of the Communists’ suspicions of recent government activities. He wished to talk to General Marshall “not only as a negotiator, but also as a friend,” and to tell him “frankly of his thoughts and of the points which he does not fully understand.” First, it appeared to the Communists that the United States government was simultaneously conducting two China policies: the cooperative “bright side” represented by Marshall; and the “gloomy side” demonstrated by various U.S. military and supply efforts on the Nationalists’ behalf that, “if viewed objectively,” tended to encourage the Nationalists to wage civil war.

Since his December 1945 arrival, Marshall said, he had received no instructions “of any kind whatsoever” from the U.S. government, had made no recommendations to it, and had communicated but infrequently with it. He told General Chou what he had previously told Dr. Lo: most U.S. aid and involvement with the Chinese military had been the result of wartime agreements to facilitate operations against the Japanese, and the U.S. could not have been expected in 1944 to forbid the government of an ally to use the aid in some potential future civil war. He then detailed his and the U.S. government’s position on shipping, the Marines in China, the navy’s activities in the western Pacific, the Military Advisory Group’s role, U.N.R.R.A. supply deliveries, and retired General Claire Chennault’s right of free speech. He defended the sincerity of American intentions in China and noted its forthcoming grant of freedom to the Philippines. Marshall assured General Chou that “his best efforts would go toward terminating the fighting quickly.”

Chou replied that he could understand the wartime decisions, but why did the U.S. in recent months appear to be so powerless with respect to the Chinese government when the Nationalists did not subscribe to American policy—for example, in desiring a coalition government. It seemed to the Communists, Chou said, that since Marshall had returned to China in April, Marshall’s “working method seemed to be different”—easier on the government than in the early days of the mission. When he returned, Marshall responded, the Manchurian situation had gotten out of hand and precluded U.S. aid for such things as the Kalgan training school for the Communists. Marshall asked for more information on the Communists’ problems with U.N.R.R.A. aid so that he might take action.

The situation in Manchuria in April had forced the Communists to occupy Changchun, which Chou admitted had caused problems for General Marshall. Nevertheless, the fighting in Manchuria was the main cause of problems, and the main cause of the fighting was the government’s perception that it was in an advantageous position militarily. The Communists wanted the fighting stopped in Manchuria, but the government was determined to “occupy all the large cities and the communication lines under the pretext of taking over sovereignty.” In the past, Chou noted, Chiang Kai-shek had asserted that after the capture of Changchun, the government would order an immediate cease fire, but recently Chiang had issued messages that his forces should occupy all the large cities and rail lines. Chou believed that the Nationalists were trying to make Marshall’s mission fail and involve the U.S. in the civil war—neither of which the Communists desired. “Any Government in China without the participation of the Chinese Communist Party could not be called a democratic government,” Chou asserted. “It has never occurred to the Communist Party to set up a government in China without the Kuomintang.”

General Chou then took up the question of the U.S. member having the deciding vote on the truce teams—which he clearly thought was a bad idea. Marshall admitted that while the U.S. member’s decisive authority would be limited, he understood the Communists’ fears; uniformity and fairness of team operations would have to be overseen by an autonomous inspection service. Chou suspected that the Generalissimo’s suggestion of U.S. final authority was “a very sharp maneuver” that would enable the Nationalists “to conceive all kinds of ways to deceive the Americans and lead them into a trap” that placed them in opposition to the Communists. Chou did not flatly oppose the U.S. final authority idea, but insisted that the key problem was to stop the fighting, after which cooperation in various matters could develop. He would await the Generalissimo’s return to Nanking that day and see if the government presented any new ideas before going to Yenan for discussions. (Ibid., pp. 950-73.)

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. 573-574.

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