5-492 To Dean G. Acheson, July 2, 1946

Publisher: The Johns Hopkins University Press
Date: July 2, 1946

Subject: China

To Dean G. Acheson1

July 2, 1946 Radio No. GOLD 1032. [Nanking, China]

Top Secret

Dear Acheson:

No repeat no negotiations yesterday Monday, Generalissimo probably discussing with his people basis for his meeting with Chou En-lai at ten this morning. Whether or not suggestion that a small high level group meet immediately to attempt a political solution to problem of local government I have not yet been informed. Local public opinion among inner Kuomintang bureaucracy is that Generalissimo’s press release of Sunday was merely a sop to me and for purpose of placing Government in better position before public and probably preliminary to launching a military campaign.2 I am so closely engaged and so close to the trees that I may lack perspective. Therefore I would appreciate your and Vincent’s frank and quite informal reactions to present developments and the imperative issues that might soon and suddenly arise.3

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

Document Format: Typed radio message.

1. Acheson was acting secretary of state. Secretary James Byrnes was in Paris at a conference of foreign ministers working on peace treaties with European states formerly allied with Germany.

2. Marshall commented in his notes on the June 29 meeting with the Generalissimo that Chiang had “produced a draft of a statement referring to me which evidently was to be released to the press. It expressed regrets over the failure of the negotiations. It said that, even so, the Government hoped I would continue my efforts at mediation.” (Foreign Relations, 1946, 9: 1249.)

3. John Carter Vincent replied on July 4 (over Acheson’s signature) that Marshall’s idea of a high-level group to discuss a political solution was “thoroughly sound.” He believed that Chiang Kai-shek did not want war but feared the consequences of a peaceful settlement, and “under pressure of expediency” he might choose war, as some of his “fire-eating political and military advisors” desired. Since the Communists were militarily over-extended, the government might be successful in conquering territory in the opening phase of an all-out war, but this would not eliminate the Communists as a social and political force, or even as a military force, and maintenance of its new conquests would be “ruinously expensive.” Vincent thought that if the current military situation resulted in a stalemate without civil war, the U.S. could maintain contact with both groups but reduce its mediation attempts. On the other hand, if all-out civil war erupted, the U.S. might continue to maintain relations with Chiang Kai-shek’s government but end material support and withdraw most of its remaining military forces from China. In either eventuality, it would be important for the U.S. to obtain an agreement to a “hands off policy” from the Soviet Union. “If an agreement cannot be reached and Soviet support of the Communists becomes a factor, we should make a complete assessment of all phases of the situation to determine whether there is a real threat to our national security and vital interests.” (Ibid., pp. 1295-97.)

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. 615-616.

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