The Chargé in China (Mayer) to the Secretary of State

No. 1247

Sir: In accordance with the Department’s Instruction No. 78, of October 9, 1925,23 I have the honor to submit the following summary, with index,24 of events and conditions in China during September, 1927:

During August attention was focussed largely on the activities of the Nanking Nationalist Government, whose virtual collapse served to render still more unsettled the disturbed state of affairs in South [Page 26] China. During September also the interplay of centrifugal and disruptive forces in that region commanded attention but interest was likewise aroused by manifestations of unrest in Manchuria and by the outbreak of hostilities in North China between Fengtien and Shansi.

Fighting between Northern elements and the Nanking Nationalists was confined mainly to the first days of September. As indicated in the Legation’s report for August, Sun Ch’uan-fang was unable to secure a permanent foothold on the south side of the Yangtze and was compelled to fall back with an estimated loss of 10,000 men. The Nationalist forces recrossed the river and reoccupied Pukow without, however, manifesting a serious intention to advance up the Tientsin-Pukow Railway. I am informed by the Legation’s Military Attaché that the front between the Northern and the Southern forces, perpendicular to the Tsin-Pu Railway, remained during the latter part of September practically unchanged along the line of the Hwai River.

Fengtien-Shansi Clash

Hostilities between the forces of Chang Tso-lin and Yen Hsi-shan broke out abruptly and, to the Peking Government, apparently rather unexpectedly during the last days of the month. The responsibility for taking the initiative in the matter seemed to rest with Yen His-shan (or at any rate with his subordinate, General Shang Chen), the Governor of the “Model Province” of Shansi thus voluntarily or involuntarily abandoning his heretofore well guarded neutral attitude toward civil strife. As reported by the Military Attaché, the Peking-Suiyuan Railway was cut near the boundary between the Chahar-Suiyuan districts and fighting occurred near Chaikowpu, twenty-five miles west from Kalgan on September 29th. Although Marshal Feng Yu-hsiang’s forces had not appeared actively in the field by the end of the period covered by this report, there was reason to believe that they were not far beyond the horizon and it was Major Magruder’s opinion that the Fengtien-Shansi clash could only be looked upon as the most serious breach in the peace of China north of the Yellow River that had occurred since the summer campaign of 1926.

Unrest in Manchuria

Concern was occasioned during September by the recurrence of anti-Japanese agitation in Manchuria. Several public demonstrations of protest took place in Mukden, possibly with the connivance or at the instigation of the Peking authorities, as a means of combatting [Page 27] Japan’s alleged desire to achieve a dominant position in Manchuria and Mongolia, it being felt that that country was no longer content with “South Manchuria” but envisaged as well the economic control of all of the Three Eastern Provinces and of Mongolia.

As expressed by the American Consul in Mukden, in a despatch of September 29th, Japan’s so-called “positive policy”, which he described as one of economic imperialism, apparently had been evolved in order to allow Japanese economic expansion to continue unhampered in the regions concerned. It was Mr. Myers’ conclusion that Japan was definitely turning toward Manchuria and Mongolia and possibly toward eastern Siberia also, as the solution of its pressing food and surplus population problems. He stated that Japanese immigration on a large scale into those regions was hardly to be expected in the face of lower Chinese standards of living and of a rapidly increasing Chinese population, but that the construction of new railways, the opening up of new agricultural lands, the development of timber and mineral resources, the creation of new industrial undertakings, and a greater volume of trade would undoubtedly offer a livelihood for a much larger number of Japanese than was now found in Manchuria (namely about 200,000). Mr. Myers further reported that, according to a prominent Japanese, it was the aim to make Dairen the rival of Shanghai. He indicated that Manchuria, with an area of 365,000 square miles and a population variously estimated between 20,000,000 and 25,000,000 people, of which over half was to be found in Fengtien Province, together with the sparsely inhabited plains of Eastern Mongolia, was apparently proving increasingly alluring not only to Chinese immigrants from Shantung and Chihli, but to Japanese empire builders. The Consul felt that, although Japanese expansionist policy might be economic at this time, as widely professed, an avoidance of a merger into territorial aggression would become more and more difficult as its interests in that region grew.

On September 29th I telegraphed the Department that General Yang Yu-ting was then in Mukden ostensibly pursuant to the Japanese Government’s insistence that anti-Japanese agitation be suppressed and that the questions at issue, such as the paralleling by Chinese lines of the South Manchuria Railway and the land lease question, be satisfactorily adjusted. I added that while no further large anti-Japanese demonstrations had been reported and that while the situation at Mukden was outwardly improved, the underlying factors making for serious difficulties between the Japanese and Chinese in Manchuria still obtained.

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Relations Between Hankow and Nanking

The Legation’s monthly report for August alluded to a then seemingly impending joint drive northward by Marshal Feng Yu-hsiang and the combined Hankow and Nanking factions. No substantial military operation of this character occurred, however, either in August or September nor was the question of the amalgamation of the Hankow and Nanking governments satisfactorily adjusted during that period.

The American Consul General at Hankow reported in a telegram of September 14th that it was fairly well established that General T’ang Sheng-chih had been requested to resign by the Nanking faction and that it was clear that the “consolidated” government there was already torn with dissension. Mr. Lockhart stated that most of the leading officials of the Hankow government had left for Nanking but that their offices were still nominally maintained at Hankow, a complete removal being held in abeyance until the completion of final amalgamation plans. The Consul General added that conditions were outwardly quiet in Hankow at that time but that the military patrol there had been strengthened for fear of further communist activities.

After a series of conferences among the various Kuomintang elements apparently somewhat more harmonious than had been anticipated, a large number of factions proceeded to Nanking for a meeting of the Central Executive and Central Control Committees on September 15th. The delegations included the most prominent of the various factions, notable among the absentees, however, being Wang Ching-wei, who had resigned the chairmanship of the Central Executive Committee on the 14th, and T. V. Soong. From this meeting a “Special Committee” emerged allegedly to exercise the functions of the Central Executive Committee and the Central Control Committee.

This Special Committee then proceeded to evolve a complete internal organization of its own and to complete on paper the establishment of a united Nationalist Government with headquarters at Nanking. As suggested by Mr. Lockhart, however, the right which it arrogated unto itself to act in place of the Central Executive Committee and to assume the powers and privileges vested in the latter organ was contested at Wuhan and, among others, by the Kiangsu and Chekiang Provincial Kuomintang Branches.

Mr. Lockhart telegraphed the Legation on September 24th that T’ang Sheng-chih, Wang Ching-wei, Koo Meng-yu, and other leaders of the Hankow regime, who were persona non grata with the Nanking faction, were then holding conferences at Hankow [Page 29] ostensibly for the purpose of maintaining the independence of that government.

It appeared from the Consul General’s reports of the end of the month that the Hankow vernacular newspapers were at that time denouncing the Nanking government and that there was a possibility that a proclamation might be issued by the leaders at Hankow, declaring the complete independence of that régime. As Mr. Lockhart stated, the whole situation was practically dependent upon day to day developments, and this condition of uncertainty persisted until the end of the period covered by this report.

Review of Situation at Hankow

Commenting on the activities of the so-called Nationalist Government at Hankow, in a despatch dated August 27th, the American Consul General there stated inter alia that the net result of twelve months of turmoil in that region might be summed up as follows:

  • “1. The economic and financial fabric of the Yangtze valley is little short of being in a state of complete ruin.
  • “2. The Chinese people have lost confidence in their leaders and in a large measure in some of the principles with which they were inspired to a patriotic endeavor to rescue the country from its present condition of disorganization and irresponsibility.
  • “3. Missionary enterprises have suffered irreparable injury and it is doubtful whether they will ever be able to recover the prestige which they once enjoyed or regain the same full opportunity which was theirs for spreading Christian teachings among the Chinese.
  • “4. The social fabric and the family life of foreigners have been disrupted and severe financial losses have befallen practically all of them, many having completely surrendered their business connections and gone home.
  • “5. The Chinese have alienated the sympathy of many of their foreign friends who had freely championed their cause for years.
  • “6. The transportation and shipping systems have become so demoralized and have deteriorated to such an extent that years will be required to restore them.
  • “7. Financial affairs are so confused that it is hopeless soon to expect any order out of the present chaos.
  • “8. The military has arisen to its old order of supreme authority with its autocratic and cruel exactions from the people.”

Mr. Lockhart added, that while the above list could be supplemented ad infinitum, it would suffice nevertheless to show the havoc wrought by Borodin and his band of intriguers, on whom most of the blame would perforce have to be placed.

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I have [etc.]

Ferdinand Mayer
  1. Not printed.
  2. Index not printed.