5-610 To Harry S. Truman, December 28, 1946

Publisher: The Johns Hopkins University Press
Date: December 28, 1946

Subject: China

To Harry S. Truman

December 28, 1946 Radio No. GOLD 1891. [Nanking, China]

Top Secret

Dear Mister President:

I have just concluded a two hour conference with the Generalissimo. Following the adjournment of the National Assembly, he wished to discuss with me the steps that might be taken in an effort to reopen negotiations with the Communists. Doctor Stuart and I had previously suggested that if a sound constitution were adopted, which is the case, and the Government proceeded with the establishment of the State Council and started with a genuine reorganization of the Executive Yuan, then two or three representatives of the Generalissimo, men of importance and liberals, might well be sent to Yenan to discuss matters with a view to reopening negotiations for the cessation of hostilities and the participation of the Communists in the reorganization of the Government, the matter to be done quietly without public announcement. However, there immediately leaked out, intentionally or otherwise, a statement of this purpose of the Government before its good faith had been at least partially established by the adoption of a sound constitution in keeping with PCC agreements. The Communists’ reaction was, of course, unfavorable. Since then I have learned that the Communists would probably resent reorganization of the State Council and the Executive Yuan before any consultation with them, for the reason I suppose that they would feel that the door would already have been practically closed on any possibility of responsible participation on their part.

I therefore suggested to the Generalissimo that the visitation be carried out before the reorganizations just referred to. He agreed to my point of view and, in connection with my insistence that there be no public statements in advance, he wondered if it would not be advisable to consult the minority parties. I thought so but also thought that it would not be advisable for the Government to declare its position as this would inevitably result in a public leak and would precipitate a propaganda war on the part of the Communists. I stated that I thought that the Government, if it took this action, should make a genuine effort, carefully avoiding any complications by military actions or public statements of a provocative nature, such as have wrecked our previous efforts time and again. He appeared to accept my suggestions and stated that as the minority parties were shortly to have a meeting of their executive councils in Shanghai he thought it would be best to wait until that had occurred.

The Generalissimo then asked me for my further comments on the situation. Stating briefly the substance of a lengthy presentation, I said that I thought it unlikely that the Communists would commit themselves to an agreement at this time because of their overwhelming suspicion of the military purpose of the Government to destroy them; that I felt that the Government military commanders were considerably in error in their optimistic estimates of what they could do towards the suppression of the Communists, citing the statements of last June that the province of Kiangsu could be cleared in two months and it had not yet been cleared and, at the same time, that the Communists could be brought to terms in a military way within three months and that had not occurred after six months; and that the Government refusal to terminate hostilities in order to force the Communists to commit themselves to the attendance of their representatives at the National Assembly had failed of its purpose. Therefore, I felt that it was important that his military leaders not be permitted to destroy by statements or actions the possibility of successful negotiation, to which I felt they were inalterably opposed.

I stated that if the Communists would not repeat not re-enter into negotiations, then it was most important for the Government to go ahead immediately with its reorganization, leaving the door open for Communists’ entry and that of the Democratic League allied with the Communists. I felt that the Generalissimo, by his leadership in the National Assembly in opposition to the reactionaries, which had secured the adoption of a reasonably sound constitution, had gained a great moral victory which had rehabilitated if not added to his prestige. Therefore, it was most important that he now demonstrate that the constitution was not merely a collection of words and that he was determined to institute a democratic form of government. Therefore he should proceed without delay in the reorganization of the State Council with a conspicuous presence of liberals from the KMT and with vacancies left for the Communists and the Democratic League. Also that he should start at once in the reorganization of the Executive Yuan. But the most important point I made was that he must by his own indirect leadership father a coalition of the minority groups into a liberal party; that unless there was such a sizeable minority group, his efforts in the National Assembly to secure the adoption of a sound constitution would be regarded as mere camouflage of the intention to go ahead with the one party Government. Also, that [if] the various minority groups of themselves could not manage an amalgamation, such would require his active assistance. And, also, that he should call on their leaders to nominate men for various appointments rather than to follow the past practice of neutralizing the opposition leaders by bribing them off with attractive appointments. I emphasized the fact that if he did not take such action there could be no repeat no genuine two party government. Therefore his integrity and position would be wide open to serious attack. On the contrary I felt that the organization of the minority parties into a large liberal group would be of great assistance to him and that he could move more into the position of the father of the country rather than to continue merely as the leader of the Kuomintang one party Government. I emphasized this in every way within my power because I am convinced that this is the key to the immediate future in China.

I went on further to state that I felt that if the Communists declined to reopen negotiations—in other words if they repulsed the effort of the Government—if and provided the Government was not guilty of provocative statements or actions, then I thought the time had come to begin the dismantling of Executive Headquarters. I was already of the opinion that the Communists no longer had any intention of accepting American mediation along the former lines and that I was definitely persona non grata. Under these circumstances I felt that their recently expressed desire for the continued operation of Executive Headquarters had for its purpose maintaining the American air facilities for communication with the scattered Communist forces throughout North China, its representatives in Nanking, Shanghai and Chungking, and its people in Harbin. I had but recently directed the withdrawal of our representative from Harbin because he was allowed little liberty of action or movement and I felt that his continuation there was merely a convenience to the Communists, providing them with air passage to and fro on the weekly plane.

The Generalissimo expressed complete agreement with my ideas as to a liberal party. He gave no expression to his reaction regarding Executive Headquarters. I think he recognized the situation much as I did.

About two weeks ago he had a long discussion with me, seeking to persuade me to accept the position of Advisor to the Chinese Government and guaranteeing his full backing of my position. I explained to him that I could not repeat not favorably consider such a proposition for a number of reasons. In the first place my acceptance of such a position would tend to stultify what I had been doing in my effort to mediate between the Communists and the Central Government. Also I felt that so much of anti-American feeling had been developed by outrageous propaganda distortion or complete misrepresentations of the facts that my position as Advisor would be very seriously affected, and further, that within the Government the reactionaries and the military group were antagonistic to almost every idea I had and if I could not overcome them in my present position, I certainly would have a limited chance to do so in the position of Advisor. What I did not say to the Generalissimo was that I felt there was bound to be a consideration in the matter of holding me here to increase the possibility of American support and to indicate the US Government’s heavy backing of the Kuomintang Government.

As matters now stand, I foresee these developments: The Communist Party will refuse to reopen negotiations and the Government will probably resort to aggressive military action to reopen the railroads. Under these circumstances I think Executive Headquarters should be reduced to a mere cadre and the American participation in its purposes for mediation should terminate. This would immediately facilitate the withdrawal of the Marines from Tientsin and Peiping. At the same time I think I should be recalled. I am of the opinion that I can do much to destroy the power of the reactionaries and bring a liberal element into control of the Government by a frank statement on the occasion of my arrival in the United States, and, at the same time, I will be in a position to paint the Communist picture of misrepresentation and vicious propaganda efforts against the United States in such a manner I hope as to weaken their position and give a little guidance to misinformed people at home. It is rather paradoxical to find that at the present time a large number of the university and business groups have been so naive in their acceptance of propaganda that they have become honestly convinced that the United States is responsible for the continuation of the civil war and that I personally have directly contributed to that situation. The surplus property and Lend Lease transactions play a large part in this. Fortunately, Doctor Stuart has been built into a position where his services in negotiations will almost automatically continue to be sought by all sides and will increase in importance as time goes on. While even his integrity has been questioned, nevertheless I feel that he can triumph over that phase of the situation. It is quite clear to me that my usefulness will soon be at an end for a variety of reasons. I have continued on since the break in negotiations in order to make certain that a respectable constitution was adopted. The initial outlook was very depressing and I had to make it unmistakably clear that anything less than a fair approximation of the fundamentals agreed upon by the PCC would be fatal to the National Government so far as the US was concerned. Now that the constitution has been adopted there is no real place for me in the coming maneuvers to reopen negotiations and my continued presence will constitute an embarrassment to future adjustments, especially if I speak out frankly as I feel I must, which will generate bitter feelings among many on both sides. It is now going to be necessary for the Chinese, themselves, to do the things I endeavored to lead them into, but I believe I can strengthen the position and influence of the better elements by the procedure I have indicated.1

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. Secretary of State Byrnes replied on January 3: “We are in hearty accord with the course you have pursued and the views you express as to future action. However, the President is of the opinion that no decision should be made as to mediation activities of Stuart after your departure until you have returned and we have had opportunity to discuss that particular proposal.

“The President states that as 6 months have elapsed since your last visit to talk with him he would appreciate it if at your earliest convenience you would return for consultation on China and other matters.” (Foreign Relations, 1946, 10: 680.)

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. 763-767.

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