The recent strong comments by Allen
Dulles about troubles inside China1Not further identified. should give pause to
all of our policy makers. “The Great Leap Forward” in China apparently
has landed it in the soup.
I have talked with some of his staff most concerned with China, with
“China hands,” and with Chinese friends. They picture a China weakened
by overwork and malnutrition,
a political regime being forced by growing discontent to start relaxing
its stringent rules, and clear indications of more trouble to come. It
might well be the time to initiate some actions inside China and to keep
the pressures on.
The immediate troubles in China stem from malnutrition and exhaustion.
Unlike historic natural disaster areas in China, 1961 also includes
North China. Millet and wheat are not on the market. There is similar
shortage of rice in the south. And, this has happened prior to the usual
“starvation period” of April-May. A combination of an economy dislocated
to fit a political theory, bad weather, and floods brought this
Last year was a bad year. This year is worst. Next year might continue
the trend. 1958, a good crop year, produced 212-million tons of grains
(wheat, millet, rice). The estimate for 1961, with some 50-million more
mouths to feed, is about 180-million tons of grains. Meat, fish, and
oils are disappearing from Chinese diets. Conditions have reawakened the
old Chinese political saying, “Three bad harvests and the mandate from
Intelligence estimates now being compiled probably will describe the
Chinese people as tired from the long hours of work under the commune
system, weak from hunger, but taking their suffering with resignation.
Despite trouble in the Army in Shantung and the granary riots there, in
Hankow, and on Hainan not long ago, it is not believed that China is on
the point of general rebellion. Chinese are realists and know that they
would have little chance of succeeding—unless helped from the
There is little information on the morale of the Army. Since the military
have been a favored class under the Communists, get their rations even
when the people starve, and are under the strong control of Lin
Piao,2Minister of Defense in the People's
Republic of China. it is probable that the Army is still
effective. However, a strong psychological campaign could change this.
There are reports that Army men are sending part of their rations home.
Some observers feel that Mao
wouldn't dare undertake an adventure with his Army now, despite his
threats to do so.
In summary, Defense responsibilities for our national security dictate
that we should make sure that the U.S. takes a hard look at our policy
towards China at this time. Holding back from permitting probing actions
inside China, feeling that our Seventh Fleet can be looked upon merely
as a diplomatic pawn, or giving undue weight to Chou En-lai's political gambits, might
well be exactly the wrong thing to do today. The threat of China has
hung heavy over our heads in Asia. It may well be that we can start
changing this in 1961.
*Source: Washington National Records Center,
RG 330, OSD Files: FRC 65 A 3464, 091 China. Secret. Also
sent to Deputy Secretary of Defense Roswell L. Gilpatric, and copies were sent to
Lemnitzer and Nitze.