5-450 Meetings with Wang Shih-chieh and Chou En-lai

Publisher: The Johns Hopkins University Press

Subject: China

Meetings with Wang Shih-chieh and Chou En-lai

May 23 and 25, 1946 Nanking, China

WANG Shih-chieh, May 23, 5:00 P.M.

Foreign Minister Wang urged Marshall to “triple his efforts” to secure a Nationalist-Communist military agreement. They then discussed the Manchurian situation, and Wang said that both he and the Generalissimo agreed that it would be a bad idea for the government to assault Changchun. Wang thought the Nationalists should accept the Communist party into a coalition government. (Foreign Relations, 1946, 9: 883.)

Chou En-lai, May 23, 6:00 P.M.

Marshall summarized his conversation with Wang Shih-chieh and noted that the foreign minister agreed with them on the deleterious effects of the propaganda campaigns in the press and that both sides should take determined action to control it.

Chou said that he had asked for the meeting because he desired Marshall’s opinion on whether Chiang Kai-shek’s departure for Mukden indicated the Generalissimo’s intention of settling the Manchurian problem by force. Marshall would not comment on his ideas about Chiang’s trip but did note that he had met with the Generalissimo the previous evening and outlined the possible basis of an agreement (excluding the political reorganization issue). Chiang was not antagonistic regarding Changchun or the military problems, Marshall thought. Marshall then delineated three points that Chiang had said were conditions precedent to any general agreement: (1) Communist efforts to facilitate the restoration of communications; (2) specified dates for carrying out the demobilization and reorganization plan; (3) Communist-Nationalist impasses on routine truce team operations were to be decided by the American member. As a result of his meetings with Chiang, Marshall said, he suspected that the Generalissimo was seriously considering Marshall’s ideas about a possible basis for quick agreement on Manchuria.

Chou proposed that a field team be sent to Changchun. Marshall replied that he might send a message to Chiang to say that General Chou had proposed this as a preliminary step toward the termination of hostilities and that he (Marshall) proposed instead the establishment of an advance section of Executive Headquarters and that each side issue orders to cease advances, attacks, and pursuits. Marshall asked Chou if the Communists would accept his Changchun arrangement (i.e., Communist evacuation, cessation of Nationalist advances, and the establishment of the advance section). Chou said that he would work on this and on the Generalissimo’s three points. “Small things must not be allowed to block” progress, Marshall concluded, but “the possibility of bringing about a termination of the present terrible situation lay within grasp.” (Ibid., pp. 884-90.)

Chou En-Lai, May 25, 10:45 A.M.

Marshall had received no messages from Chiang Kai-shek, he told General Chou. The Communist leader said that he had information that the Nationalist commanders in Manchuria were still talking about capturing Changchun and now pressing Chiang to seek a Communist evacuation of Harbin and the main rail lines, which would cause Communist field commanders to launch further attacks. Three or four weeks ago, Marshall observed, he feared that successful Communist generals would insist upon conditions for negotiations that the Nationalists found unacceptable; now he was troubled that the reverse would happen. Concessions had to be made quickly by both sides, because further delay in reaching a settlement encouraged the growth of mutual suspicions about the enemy’s probable intentions.

Pending further communications from the Generalissimo, Marshall again brought up the three points that Chiang had raised. They had a lengthy discussion about how to reopen communications and to end the rumor-mongering and propaganda campaigns in the press. Chou noted that in North China “both sides were now resorting more and more to dangerous retaliatory measures,” which, if continued, would lead to large-scale fighting. Chou ended the meeting by saying that he would “make further efforts to improve the relations between the Communist officers and the American officers” on the truce teams. (Ibid., pp. 893-900.)

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. 564-565.

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