5-528 To Dean G. Acheson, August 10, 1946

Publisher: The Johns Hopkins University Press
Date: August 10, 1946

Subject: China

To Dean G. Acheson

[August 10, 1946] Radio No. GOLD 1283. [Nanking, China]

Top Secret, Eyes Only

Dear Acheson:

Herewith is a suggestion from Doctor Stuart and me for a confidential message from President to Generalissimo.1 If such a message is to be sent it should be dispatched promptly to gain effect at proper moment out here. Also, its delivery by me or by embassy should be avoided if diplomatically possible, to save face.2 Could it not be handed to Chinese Ambassador in Washington? The draft of message follows: “Since I sent General Marshall to you as my special envoy, I have followed closely the situation in China. It is with deep regret that I am forced to the conclusion that his efforts have apparently proved unavailing.

I am certain that General Marshall, in his discussions with you, has reflected accurately the overall attitude and policy of the American Government and of informed American public opinion as well.

During recent months the rapidly deteriorating political situation in China has been a cause of grave concern to the American people. While it is the continued hope of the United States that a strong and democratic China can yet be achieved under your leadership, I would be less than honest if I did not point out that recent developments have forced me to the conclusion that the selfish interests of extremist elements, equally in the Kuomintang as in the Communist party, are hindering the aspirations of the Chinese people.

The Agreements reached by the political consultative conference on January 31st were greeted in the United States as a far-sighted step toward the achievement of national unity and democracy. American disappointment over failure to implement these agreements by concrete measures is becoming an important factor in our outlook with regard to China.

There exists in the United States an increasing body of opinion which holds that our entire policy toward China must be reexamined in the light of spreading strife, and especially by evidence of the increasing tendency to suppress freedom of the press as well as the expression of liberal views among intellectuals. The recent assassinations of distinguished Chinese liberals at Kunming have not gone unnoticed. Regardless of where responsibility for these cruel murders may lie, the end result has been to focus American attention on the situation in China, and there is a growing conviction that an attempt is being made to settle major social issues by resort to force, military or secret police, rather than by democratic processes.

Our faith in the peaceful and democratic aspirations of the people of China has been shaken by recent events, but not destroyed. It is still the firm desire of this government and of the people of the United States to assist China to achieve lasting peace and a stable economy under a truly democratic government. There is a growing feeling however, that the aspirations of the Chinese people are being thwarted by militarists and a small group of political reactionaries, who, failing to comprehend the liberal trend of the times, are obstructing the advancement of the general good of the nation. Such a state of affairs is violently repugnant to the American people.

Unless convincing proof is shortly forth coming that genuine progress is being made toward a peaceful settlement of China’s internal problems, it must be expected that American opinion will not continue in its generous attitude towards your nation. It will, furthermore, be necessary for me to redefine and explain the position of the United States to the American people.

It is my earnest hope that I may in the near future receive some encouraging word from you which will facilitate the accomplishment of our mutually declared objectives.”3

Document Copy Text Source: Records of the Department of State (RG 59), Lot Files, Marshall Mission, War Department, Classified Messages, National Archives and Records Administration, College Park, Maryland.

Document Format: Typed radio message.

1. With the exception of the initial sentences directed to Under Secretary of State Acheson and a few changes in capitalization and punctuation, Marshall’s final draft is the same as the document signed and dispatched by President Truman.

2. The “face” being saved was Chiang’s. A precipitating incident in Chiang’s demanding General Stilwell’s recall in October 1944 was Stilwell’s personal delivery of a “stiff” mid-September 1944 note from President Roosevelt (drafted by Marshall) to Chiang. See Papers of George Catlett Marshall, #4-510 [4: 584-86], particularly note 4.

3. John Carter Vincent, director of the State Department’s Office of Far Eastern Affairs, delivered the message on August 10 to Minister Tan Shao-hua, acting head of the Chinese Embassy in Washington. Concerning Chiang Kai-shek’s reply, see note 1, Marshall to Truman, August 23, 1946, Papers of George Catlett Marshall, #5-539 [5: 667].

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. 651-652.

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