5-575 To Harry S. Truman, October 10, 1946

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

Subject: China

To Harry S. Truman

October 10, 1946 Radio No. GOLD 1627. [Nanking, China]

Top Secret

Dear Mister President:

As indicated in my GOLD 1605,1 the Communist representatives in Nanking were immediately advised of the proposal of the ten day truce with meetings held by the Five Man Group and the Committee of Three to carry out, or to consider, the matters stated by the Generalissimo in his reply to Chou En-lai of October 2d. As a safeguard against misunderstanding in handling this business orally, I immediately dictated a personal memorandum for Doctor Stuart stating the conditions of the truce, as I understood them. However, the Communist representative Wang Ping-nan had called so quickly following Doctor Stuart’s notice to him that my memorandum did not reach Doctor Stuart until a few moments after the departure of Mister Wang. I therefore sent a copy of the memorandum to Mister Wang and another copy by plane to General Chou in Shanghai. Doctor Stuart’s oral statement incidentally had been in complete accord with my written summary (the reason for this detailed information will be evident later).

Two days later, on October 8th, Mister Wang delivered verbally the reply from General Chou in Shanghai to the effect that the truce should be without a time limit and the Government troops should withdraw to their original positions. Also, that the discussions should not be limited, and further that no reply had yet been made to the Generalissimo’s communication of October 2d, because the Communist Party had been hoping that some word from General Marshall and Doctor Stuart would be forthcoming clarifying the situation, and finally stating that the latest proposal implied that the situation had not changed much.

Doctor Stuart and I decided that it was important, particularly in view of my previous strong stand to the Government, that the situation be made accurately and publicly known and therefore prepared within the hour a joint public statement (copy is transmitted in the clear as GOLD 1628).

The same afternoon I had an unsatisfactory interview with the Communist representatives, Mister Wang Ping-nan and Tung Pi-wu, in which they alleged evil or subtle motives on the part of the Government in accepting the truce proposal and brought forward other contentions which I felt were not supported by the facts and so informed them. They finally made a statement criticizing the American policy in supporting the Kuomintang war effort and implying a partiality on my part. I informed them I would not accept the first statement and I did not like the implications of the second.

I then decided that in order to make every possible effort, I would go to Shanghai the following day, yesterday, and have an interview with General Chou En-lai, which I did. He was unaware of my purpose or presence until he arrived at General Gillem’s house. We had a three hour interview, the first portion of which was devoted to a lengthy discussion of the expression used in my personal memorandum to Doctor Stuart of October 6th: “The purpose of the truce is to carry out the two proposals of the Generalissimo in his communication to me of October 2d,” and the expression “to consider” the two proposals of the Generalissimo in his communication of October 2 as used in our public release. It was difficult to understand what was in Chou’s mind for his reactions were clouded with suspicions and seemingly the more innocent the procedure, the greater are the suspicions, as in this case. Actually the Communist Party felt that they were not being invited to sit down at a table to negotiate, but rather to sit down at a table and accept conditions virtually of surrender, which was not at all the case, and yet it was almost impossible to convince them to the contrary.

Doctor Stuart and I have been struggling to initiate actual negotiations between the two parties, but the suspicions are so overwhelming that thus far, as you are aware, we have been unsuccessful.

I found it impossible to convince General Chou that the truce was not repeat not a Government maneuver to permit them to regroup, reinforce and resupply. I could not repeat not tell him, of course, that I have literally forced this much of a concession out of the Government though I was struggling for far more. I think at the moment of this interview General Chou was taken back and rather put on the defensive by two things, one was our public statement of successive events from September 30th on and the other was my unexpected arrival in Shanghai in contrast to his rather indefensible position of remaining aloof from negotiations. He resented the public release and asserted that while we did not express an opinion, nevertheless the timing had been to the disadvantage of the Communist Party. He objected to the so-called limitation of the matters to be discussed, notwithstanding the fact that I had held these down to the very minimum in favor of the Communist desires, that is, to have as little as possible to clear up as conditions precedent to the cessation of hostilities. There was no thought of preventing unlimited discussions once hostilities had terminated. This Communist position presents a strange paradox because it would imply what is plainly contrary to the facts, that they were insisting on the continuance of hostilities until all matters had been resolved. The fact is the Government has been proceeding somewhat along this line and I have continually objected. As a matter of fact, the Communist reactions now are really somewhat psychoneurotic, induced by an overwhelming suspicion and the feeling that the life of their party is being threatened by military and secret police action of the Government.

Chou finally summed up his views and the Communist stand on the various questions as follows: . . .2

I then replied, “All I can say is that, having heard your statement, it would seem that my efforts of mediation appear futile and I see no practical basis for any other action on my part. I will deliver the eight points to the Government. I hope that you will make your own written reply and I can but express my regret at this ending of our discussions.

I told you some time ago that if the Communist Party felt that they could not trust to my impartiality, they merely had to say so and I would withdraw. You have now said so. I am leaving immediately for Nanking. I want to thank you for coming over here to General Gillem’s today and giving me this opportunity for a direct conversation with you.”

While the foregoing would appear to indicate the termination of my negotiations with the Communists, I do not think that will probably be the case.

This morning, representatives of the Young China Party and the previous Secretary General of the Democratic League who had resigned because of his disapproval of their procedure [Liang Shu-ming], called on Doctor Stuart and proposed, for my agreement, that they interview the principal Government leaders and then proceed immediately to Shanghai and bring General Chou back to Nanking. Doctor Stuart is arranging to have the Government leaders give them a very considerate hearing, and they seem to feel they will have no trouble in bringing back General Chou in a manner that will be face-saving.

I apologize for such lengthy statements regarding minor details of these complicated and vexing negotiations, but it is difficult to condense the happenings without probable distortion of significant phases. Post script with reference to termination of my negotiations with Communists, while checking this message a request from Communist Wang Ping-nan to see me has just been received.

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. See Marshall to Carter, October 6, 1946, Papers of George Catlett Marshall, #5-572 [5: 710-11].

2. What followed was, in 723 words, a reordering and close paraphrase (to protect U.S. encryption integrity) of Chou’s October 9 memo to Marshall listing the Communists’ three military prerequisites for a successful truce, the eight political points that had to be discussed, and the Communists’ objections to United States and Marshall’s policies. See Foreign Relations, 1946, 10: 345-48.

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. 714-717.

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