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

No. 1278

Sir: In accordance with the Department’s instruction No. 78, of October 9, 1925,25 I have the honor to submit the following summary, with index,26 of events and conditions in China during October, 1927:

The present condition of unrest in the country was punctuated in August by the virtual collapse of the Nanking Nationalist Government at the time of the resignation of General Chiang Kai-shek and was emphasized in September by the unabated interplay of centrifugal and disruptive forces in the South as well as by the outbreak of hostilities in North China between Fengtien and Shansi. During October even greater instability than previously characterized the politico-military situation throughout the larger part of China.

Illustrative of the division of the country at the end of the period covered by this report into mutually antagonistic groups for the most part, Mr. George E. Sokolsky, an American political writer on Chinese affairs, indicated in an article published in the North China Daily News of October 29th, that after sixteen years of fighting to achieve unification China was now divided politically as follows:

The Peking Government.
The Nanking Government.
The Wuhan Government.
The Shansi Provincial Government.
The Feng Yu-hsiang independent areas.
The semi-independent Canton Government in closer alliance with Nanking than any other group.
The independent feudal areas of Szechuan.
Yunnan (details not clear).
The more or less independent Mohammedan states in the Northwest.
The Soviet Republic of Mongolia.

Analyzing the present conditions from the point of view of Soviet influence in China, the Legation telegraphed the Department on October 27th25 that while communism had suffered a temporary eclipse Consular reports indicated that the communists had been scattered but by no means definitely eliminated and that they remained a serious potential danger, being ever ready again to become active if and when [Page 31] the Soviet should perfect another plan of intervention. The Legation added that although there had been a noticeable subsidence of anti-foreign agitation in Kuomintang territory American property there remained largely occupied and the position of foreigners uncertain, in certain instances even precarious.

Conditions in Kuomintang Territory

The Legation’s telegram of October 27th expressed the view that in the Yangtze Valley and in the south, where the cohesive and directive dominant Soviet influence has now been removed, the Kuomintang had practically disintegrated into several military factions whose groupings were characterised by impermanence and complete distrust of each other. It was stated that while temporarily able no doubt to combine for destructive purposes, these factions were seemingly incapable of cooperation toward the constructive establishment of government. Each group, it was indicated, continued to render lip service to “Nationalist” principles, claiming to be defending Sun Yat-sen’s policies, but that it was evident that all were motivated by purely selfish aims. In short, the struggles of the period under review and of preceding months have reverted, generally speaking, to the character of Chinese civil wars prior to the time of active Russian intervention in China.

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Relations Between Hankow and Nanking

In the Legation’s monthly report for September reference was made to the fact that the question of the amalgamation of the Hankow and Nanking governments was not satisfactorily adjusted during that period. The uncertainty and confusion of a situation dependent, as Consul General Lockhart stated, “upon day to day developments”, became if anything worse confounded during October.

The following paraphrased extracts from telegrams addressed to the Legation during the month by the American Consulate General at Hankow, suggest the troubled course of events:

October 1st: The Wuhan branch Political Council has issued a manifesto giving “de facto” recognition to the Nanking Government with respect to the following matters only: diplomatic transactions, the campaign against militarists, and the campaign against communists. The manifesto denies the right of the Special Committee at Nanking to assume the powers and privileges vested in the Central Executive Committee and all the acts of the Special Committee, with the exception of those enumerated above, are consequently disavowed.

[Page 32]

October 7th: Chu Pei-teh, the Chairman of the Kiangsi Provincial government, together with General Chen Chien, Sun Fo, C. C. Wu, Chang Chi, and Han [Hsu?] Chung-chih are in Kuling as a committee to persuade Wang Ching-wei to support the Nanking government.

It is reliably reported at Hankow that Feng Yu-hsiang will shortly issue a proclamation launching an anti-northern expedition to support General Yen Hsi-shan’s campaign.

General T’ang Sheng-chih has suddenly returned to Hankow from Changsha. This displacement is believed to have been hastened by developments in the Peking area and by Nanking’s alleged decision to begin a northern advance.

October 10th: Representatives of the Nanking government including among others Sun Fo, Hsu Chung-chi, and Chang Chi arrived at Hankow from Kiukiang to conduct negotiations with a view to settling the differences which still exist between the Hankow and Nanking factions.

October 12th: At the above conference an agreement is reported to have been reached whereby T’ang Sheng-chih is appointed Commander-in-Chief of the combined Nationalist forces of the Nanking and Hankow régimes. It was further agreed that all special councils functioning at Hankow such as political councils, military councils, and the Commission of Foreign Affairs be abolished and that the Hankow government would recognize the Nanking government as the supreme governmental authority in China. It thus appeared that General T’ang Sheng-chih’s appointment as the head of all the Nationalist forces was compensation for the abolition of the skeleton of a government now functioning at Hankow.

October 18th: In spite of the protestations of an accord between the Nanking and the Hankow factions there is excellent reason to believe that there still exists misunderstanding and friction between the two groups. T’ang Sheng-chih and Wang Ching-wei are apparently most reluctant actively to associate themselves with the Nanking régime.

October 23rd: Hankow newspapers publish a manifesto by the Wuhan Political Council of October 21st declaring exclusive authority to deal with all party, military, and political affairs in the territory under its jurisdiction pending the restoration of the functions of the Central Executive Committee. This in some quarters is looked upon as a virtual declaration of war against Nanking.

October 25th: General T’ang Sheng-chih made public a circular telegram also dated the 21st of October denouncing the Nanking Special Committee and ending thus:

“I am going to fight, at the head of the celebrated good troops, against the usurpers at Nanking. I fight for the unification of the party and the nation. I fight for the interests of all”.

October 29th: Reports from Chinese sources indicate that T’ang Sheng-chih’s position is somewhat precarious and that he may have to retreat to Hunan. Meager information from the Ichang front indicates that T’ang’s troops are encountering resistance there. Wuhan [Page 33] troops have completely evacuated Anhwei before the advancing Nanking forces who are locally expected to continue their advance to Hankow.

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Fengtien-Shansi Clash

The hostilities between Chang Tso-lin and Yen Hsi-shan which broke out at the end of September, as reported in the Legation’s summary of conditions for that month, assumed considerable proportions during the first half of October and the Fengtien forces, which seem to have been taken completely by surprise, met with decided reverses at the beginning of the campaign. The Legation was informed by its Military Attaché, however, that by October 11th it became certain that the sudden Shansi onslaught had been checked. Major Magruder stated that during the last fortnight of October the war was marked by the assumption of the strategic defensive on the part of Shansi. He added that there was no sign of any immediate decision, at the end of the period under review, in this continuing struggle in the area of the Great Plain, between the Ankuochun and the apparently uncorrelated forces of Shansi and the Kuominchun.

In our telegram of October 27th above-mentioned it was indicated that Chang Tso-lin, having driven the main body of the Shansi invaders back to the mountain passes, seemingly aimed at the line Tatung-Fuping-Niangtzukwan as his extreme objective pending negotiations with Yen Hsi-shan which Chang both desired and anticipated. It was further stated that in the meantime the Chihli-Shantung armies, having captured Kaifeng, were advancing along the Lung Hai Railway and threatening Chengchow, the attainment of which railway junction would directly embarrass Feng Yu-hsiang’s position in Honan and would tend to induce Governor Yen Hsi-shan to come to terms with the Generalissimo.

Conditions in Manchuria

Japan’s so-called “Positive Policy” in Manchuria and the question of the present and future development of that region and of Mongolia continued to exact much attention during the period under review. No significant anti-Japanese agitation of the sort reported during September occurred in October, however, as Major Magruder puts it, “in the never ending Sino-Japanese conflict in Manchuria”.

. . . . . . . . . . . . . .

I have [etc.]

Ferdinand Mayer
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  2. Index not printed.
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