5-601 To Harry S. Truman, December 2, 1946

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

Subject: China

To Harry S. Truman

December 2, 1946 Radio No. GOLD 1827. [Nanking, China]

Top Secret

Dear Mister President:

Last night, Doctor Stuart and I had a three hour conference with the Generalissimo which opened with his query as to my estimate of the situation.1 I gave him a lengthy summary on the various aspects of the confusing military and political factors. Referring to the Communist failure to answer my direct question as to whether or not I was still acceptable in the role of mediation and to their overwhelming suspicion of every proposal or act of the Government, I emphasized the fact that the Communist Party, Army and people constituted too large and powerful a group to be ignored. I referred to various military and other acts of the Government which I thought had defeated conciliatory proposals by the Government, notably the attacks on Antung and Chefoo at the very moment of the Generalissimo’s eight point proposal of October 16th. I gave a resume of my information regarding the economic situation which I thought was approaching a collapse; that the military effort was creating a financial vacuum and that at the same time I was being pressed more frequently to recommend loans for a variety of purposes. I stated that the constitution just introduced in the National Assembly appeared to be in reasonable agreement with the PCC commitments. Whether or not it was amended would be an important factor in determining what next might be done. Also to be considered would be the proposed method of putting it into effect. If it were adopted as now written; if the State Council was formed with seats made available to the Communists and the Democratic League and if genuine steps were taken for the reorganization of the Executive Yuan then Doctor Stuart and I thought a renewed invitation by the Government to the Communists, privately extended by an envoy sent to Yenan, might possibly be productive of good results, providing aggressive military action had entirely ceased and that so called defensive action was not a disguise for retaliatory fighting.

The Generalissimo then made a lengthy statement of more than an hour to this general effect: the Communists never have had any intention to cooperate; their overwhelming suspicion of the present time is merely a means to an end; they act under Soviet influence; they desire to disrupt the Government and influence its foreign policy. These statements are almost identical with those he made to me in March on the eve of my departure for Washington and which I turned over to the Secretary of State in writing and read to the President. The difference was only in regard to the overwhelming suspicion of the Communists which I had emphasized as the great change in their attitude since last February.

He dismissed the economic question with a statement to the general effect that while conditions were bad in large cities such as Shanghai, China largely depended on the agrarian situation which would help the country to carry on despite the inflation and labor difficulties of the large cities.

The Generalissimo then launched into a detailed statement regarding the military factors. He reaffirmed his previous statements that apparently military force was the only method by which the issue could be finally determined. He then contrasted the difficulties of such procedure in earlier days with the situation at present because of the building of many roads. He expressed confidence that the Communist Army could be destroyed in from eight to ten months and that thereafter it would be a simple problem to handle the Communist Party without its military power.

Turning to Manchuria he stated that the most valuable portion of Manchuria to China proper was that south of Changchun and he felt that the Government was strong enough to maintain that area now that Antung had been taken over. He did not propose to advance to Harbin because he felt that that would create a Soviet reaction. Incidentally, he stated that whenever the National Government had taken a strong stand against the Communists and had been successful, the Soviets had invariably responded by willingness to negotiate matters in a normal manner and cited their change of attitude following the fall of Antung.

He stated that he could not go on simply waiting on the Communists and that they were doing nothing but allowing the situation to deteriorate. He added that he was now 60 and could not carry the burdens with the vigor that had formerly been his, and thought he should retire. Yet, he felt that he must first conclusively settle the Communist issue.

The Generalissmo then expressed his belief that I should not regard my mission as exclusively concerned with the development of an accord between the Government and the Communist Party, but that now that the Communists had shown their unwillingness to cooperate, I should direct my efforts toward the development of stability in the Far East and prosperity in China, as well as friendly relations between our two governments. He stated that he felt that the United States should redefine its policy towards China, quite evidently having in mind the definite endorsement of the Kuomintang Government and acknowledgment that the Communists could no longer be considered as a possible factor in the Government.

The Generalissimo concluded by stating that he would do everything in his power in a last effort to bring about an accord with the Communists.

In reply I only made a brief reference to his view that I should not consider my mission as being directed toward establishment of accord between the Communist Party and the National Government, stating that he and I were in disagreement as to what could and should be done and I was firmly of the view that the Communist Party could not be ignored, and that it could not be eliminated by military means before an economic collapse would undermine the Kuomintang and threaten the stability of the present National Government of China.

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. Marshall’s notes on this meeting are in Foreign Relations, 1946, 10: 575-78.

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. 750-752.

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