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5-591 To Harry S. Truman, November 8, 1946

   
Publisher: The Johns Hopkins University Press
Date: November 8, 1946

Subject: China


To Harry S. Truman

November 8, 1946 Radio No. GOLD 1735. [Nanking, China]

Top Secret

Dear Mister President:

On November 3d the Government agreed to attend an informal discussion of the various issues with the Communist and other minority parties. The following morning the representatives of the Democratic League called on me and asked my advice as to the agenda for the meeting that afternoon. Later Doctor Stuart was informed that the Government had not attended the meeting and that the Third Party had merely asked General Chou to state the Communist demands, which he did in an expansive manner covering every issue.

On November 5th, the Generalissimo sent for Doctor Stuart and me and questioned me regarding the developments. He explained the absence of the Government members in the informal discussions, previously agreed to, by stating that there were a number of indications that the Communists wished to eliminate American mediation. I expressed regret that the failure of the Government to participate in the meeting was for this reason stating that the Communists either accepted us as mediators or did not; that they either trusted us or did not and Government action could not force a decision in this particular matter. After much talk, the Generalissimo stated that the time had come to stop the fighting and he was prepared for an unconditional termination of hostilities. He wished Doctor Stuart and me to advise him as to an announcement to that effect together with a reference to the approaching meeting of the National Assembly in which he hoped the minority parties would be represented. Doctor Stuart and I then prepared a draft of a statement which we thought presented the Generalissimo’s views as to the termination of fighting and met the issues that were bound to be raised by the minority parties regarding the conditions under which the National Assembly would meet and adopt a constitution.1 Meanwhile, we received a draft of a statement prepared by the Generalissimo which we felt would further complicate the situation as it was highly provocative, lengthy, argumentative and difficult to understand.2 Furthermore, it would not terminate the fighting in a way that promised more than a threat of future use of force.

On November 7th, Doctor Stuart and I again met with the Generalissimo at his request and presented him with a Chinese translation of our draft and frankly criticized his draft, particularly as to the reception it would receive abroad, and stated our certainty that it would merely aggravate the situation here in China. In a lengthy speech the Generalissimo explained that in preparing his draft he had had to take into consideration a number of important points, namely:

a. That while there had previously been a divided opinion in the Government as to the proper course to be followed, now there was a complete unanimity of opinion, that no further compromise should be made and that the Communists should be defeated by force.

b. That he must give careful consideration in relation to the organization of the Assembly to the delegates who had been legally elected in 1936 and now were assembled in Nanking and not emphasize the dominant importance of the PCC agreements in contrast to the 1936 draft.

c. That he must also give careful consideration to the morale of the Army considering the losses that had been recently sustained, if they were to be greeted by the announcement of an unconditional cessation of hostilities which amounted to the virtual unconditional surrender of the Government’s position and contentions. He added that the statement in our draft of an unconditional termination of hostilities could not be supported by him before his military and political leaders of the Kuomintang, and further explained that he stands practically alone in the belief that matters could and should be settled by peaceful negotiations and the fighting stopped.

The Generalissimo asked us to reconsider our draft in the light of his statements and to advise him accordingly. I replied that I would have to have an opportunity to consider with Doctor Stuart the points of view just expressed as I was seriously concerned as to whether or not I should participate, as a representative of the US Government, in the preparation of a paper in accordance with the points of view he had indicated which were antagonistic to my views and those, I thought, of the US Government.

That evening General Chou En-lai and the Third Party Group called on Doctor Stuart. Chou was bitter in his expressions regarding the Generalissimo, and suspicious and opposed to virtually every proposal.

On November 8th, today, at the Generalissimo’s request, Doctor Stuart and I called on him at 1130 hours. We had hurriedly prepared a redraft of our statement to include the points of view expressed by him the previous day and to eliminate the portions of our draft which were opposed thereto. He notified us that there was to be a meeting of the political and military advisers at one o’clock today at which they would decide whether or not there should be a cessation of fighting and whether or not the National Assembly should be postponed.

In submitting our redraft I stated that it must be clearly understood that this draft did not have my approval as a representative of the US Government; that we had merely endeavored to help him as staff officers might assist him in drafting his views in the least provocative manner, but that the draft we had submitted not only did not have my approval but that I was in rather complete disagreement with the attitude of his military leaders.

This evening he sent us the draft of the statement that is to be made by him, presumably tonight.3 As there was some confusion in the translation, I cannot quote it at this time, but will send it on in the clear as soon as we receive the authentic copy.

As to the fighting, I think the wording will be as follows:

“Orders have been issued for all Government troops to cease fighting except as may be necessary to defend their present positions.”

The remainder of the statement was largely in the terms of our final draft, but contained some important modifications. Through his staff officer who brought the draft statement to me, I sent him word that I appreciated his affording me an opportunity to read the statement in advance of issue, but that I expressed no repeat no opinion as I was not in agreement with the procedure or position indicated.

I have taken this position very carefully to avoid having the Generalissimo imply that his announcement met with American approval.

The trouble is, the method of stopping the fighting is not conclusive and still holds in effect a threat of renewed battle to force a political decision. More important, the Government approach to the National Assembly is not, in my opinion, in sufficient accord with the PCC agreements and means even if all delegates appeared, that a simple majority vote of the overwhelming KMT numbers could determine the character of the constitution without much consideration of the fundamental guarantees agreed to in the PCC. Also, the approach to the Assembly does not now permit an opportunity for delegates of minority parties to assemble. The Government is unwilling to agree to any temporary adjournment after the formal convocation, which was the proposal of Doctor Stuart and myself. What the reaction of the minority parties will be to his statement, particularly as regards the order for cease firing under qualified conditions, remains to be seen, but I think the Government missed a great opportunity in not capitalizing in a large and conciliatory way on the proposal to stop the fighting, and I fear the Assembly will be an ineffective one party proposition.

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 the previous document (Papers of George Catlett Marshall, #5-590 [5: 736-39]).

2. See Foreign Relations, 1946, 10: 476-81.

3. See ibid., pp. 493-94.

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. 739-741.

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