The Minister in China ( MacMurray ) to the Secretary of State

No. 1327

Sir: In accordance with the Department’s instruction No. 78 of October 9, 1925,28 I have the honor to submit the following summary, with index,29 of events and conditions in China during November, 1927:

In October continuing instability had characterized the politico-military situation throughout most of China, this state of unrest to a considerable extent being attributable to the disintegration of the Kuomintang for the most part into mutually hostile groups. During November the militant rivalry of the various factions which had invaded the Yangtze valley from Canton was maintained and no amelioration of conditions can be recorded either in the areas immediately affected or in the general situation.

Military Activity

According to reports by the Military Attaché to the Legation, from which this section is taken, actual fighting during November was confined, in the main, to North China, the Nationalist army having completed its disintegration into the personal forces of a number of minor leaders.

In the North, the most immediately important military event, from a political point of view, was a defeat experienced by the Chihli-Shantung armies in Honan during the first half of the month. This entailed at least a postponement of Ankuochun political consolidation within the Great Wall, whereas a defeat of Feng Yu-hsiang would probably have removed most of the obstacles to an understanding between Fengtien and Shansi.

On the 15th the Chihli-Shantung armies seemed to have rallied at T’angshan. Sun Ch’uan-fang continued to hold the line of the Hwai River in Anhwei and to recuperate his forces. At that time the Fengtien armies had made considerable progress in their warfare against Shansi, having taken Suiyang on the 9th on the north Shansi front. On the Kin-Han front at the middle of the month Shansi was on the defensive with Fengtien exercising only enough pressure to immobilize large elements of the opposing army.

At the end of the month, the Fengtien-Shansi war was still undecided. Yen Hsi-shan had withdrawn his troops in North Shansi to a [Page 35] defensive line, Wu T’ai Shan—Fanehih (near Taichow)—Yenmenkuan, and Fengtien was exerting pressure there without marked success. South of Wu T’ai Shan there was little activity on either side. The town of Chochow still held out although it had sustained a siege by Fengtien since October 11th.

On the Tsin-Pu front Sun Ch’uan-fang’s forces abandoned the line of the Hwai River and fell back half way to Hsuchow, under what must have been light pressure from the Nationalist forces. Elements under the command of Feng Yu-hsiang were operating indecisively against the shaken Chihli-Shantung forces on the Lunghai Railway. Feng continued to be an enigma, reports seeming to indicate that he was bargaining concurrently with Nanking and Shansi.

Developments in Canton

The American Consul in charge at Canton had reported in a despatch of the 31st of October that Li Chai-sum, the Kwangsi Military Commander, was still in control of the city at the end of that month in spite of an attempt on the part of Chang Fa-kwei, the returning Cantonese General, and certain radical labor leaders, to dispossess him. Apparently associated with Chang Fa-kwei was Wang Ching-wei. The latter, in an interview granted Mr. Huston early in November, stated that he had come to Canton to reconvene the Central Executive Committee whose powers had been usurped by the Military authorities in Nanking through the formation of the Extraordinary Committee (Special Committee).

In a telegram of November 5th, Mr. Huston informed the Legation that it was doubtful whether Li Chai-sum would give Wang Ching-wei more than nominal support, inasmuch as it was suspected that the provincial bond between Li Chai-sum at Canton and Li Chung-yen and Pei Chung-hsi, Kwangsi Generals dominating the situation at Nanking, would bind Canton and Nanking irrespective of Wang’s attempt to form a national government in Canton. On the 17th Mr. Huston reported that Li Chai-sum together with Wang Ching-wei had left for Shanghai the day before to attend a Kuomintang conference there and that fighting had broken out in Canton on the same night supposedly between Cantonese and Kwangsi troops. On the 18th the Consul telegraphed that General Wong Ki-choung, Chief of Staff to Chang Fa-kwei, had taken forceful control of the city from Li Chai-sum’s troops. He stated that the coup had come as a complete surprise and that the reasons for it were somewhat obscure, it apparently being the result of activity on the part of the Canton radical labor unions and of a “Canton for the Cantonese” movement, which had recently linked up with Chiang Kai-shek against the [Page 36] Kwangsi military clique in Nanking. Chang Fa-kwei thus came into control of Canton, “the cradle of Chinese revolution.”

In this general relation the American Consul General at Shanghai telegraphed the Legation on November 22nd that Chiang Kai-shek had stated some days previously that he would resume his activities in the Nationalist revolution in compliance with widespread popular demand, not as a Generalissimo, but as a member of the Central Executive Committee of the Kuomintang and probably as a liaison officer between the civil and military committees. Mr. Cunningham reported that Chiang Kai-shek was understood to have become reconciled with Wang Ching-wei, the Canton coup having raised Wang to power and shaken, if not overthrown, the Kwangsi military clique which had recently ousted Chiang Kai-shek. The Consul General further reported that Chiang said at that time that a scheduled conference of the Central Executive Committee at Nanking at the end of November was expected to result in the unification of the Canton, Nanking and Wuhan factions with the party as solid as before the Wuhan split, adding that should this be accomplished a military drive against Peking would follow and would be successful within two months. It is perhaps needless to say that these plans did not materialize during the period covered by this report.

Mr. Cunningham, in the same telegram, also informed the Legation that Wang Ching-wei had stated that he was preparing a statement on his position in which would be stressed the necessity of eliminating communistic doctrines from the Kuomintang platform. In view of Wang’s previous position as a leader of the left wing, his volte face in regard to communism must remain somewhat enigmatic.

Relations Between Hankow and Nanking

By the end of October, as indicated in the Legation’s summary of events in that period, it had become evident that T’ang Sheng-chih’s position in Hankow was precarious and that he would not long be able to resist the advance up the Yangtze of the Nanking forces. The following paraphrased extracts from telegrams addressed to the Legation by the American Consulate General at Hankow outline the course of events during November in this regard:

  • November 8th. On the Anhwei-Hupeh border heavy fighting between the Wuhan and Nanking forces is reported to be in progress. The Wuhan cities are orderly except for minor disturbances connected with the depreciated currency and the efforts made to displace the shop branches of the employees union.
  • November 12th. A general military conference was held at Hankow yesterday between Ho Chien and Liu Hsing who have returned from the front. T’ang Sheng-chih has resigned and he has left [Page 37] Wuhan early today. The troops of Ho Chien are arriving at Hankow in considerable numbers, fatigued but without evidence of disorder. With the elimination of T’ang the future relations between Ho Chien and the Nanking forces are uncertain but Ho is entrenching at Hanyang.
  • November 14th. The military leaders Ho Chien, Liu Hsing, and Li Ping-hsien, with their troops, have left Wuhan for Hunan leaving a garrison commander, Ho Kuo-kwan, to maintain order and to turn over to Nanking forces, which, if no lower river complications arise, are expected very shortly.
  • November 21st. The Nanking forces completed the occupation of Wuhan without local disturbance on November 17th. The defeated Wuhan forces are understood to be concentrating at Yochow and Changsha and a conflict in Hunan between them and the Nanking forces is possible. The Nanking government proposes to form a Hunan-Hupeh provisional political affairs committee to govern the two provinces pending the reorganization of their respective governments.
  • November 23rd. At Hankow Chinese officials state that delegates are being sent to Changsha to negotiate peace with the defeated Wuhan forces and that there is a good prospect of the discontinuance of military operations in Hunan.
  • November 26th. The office of the Commissioner of Foreign Affairs gave out that following a meeting between military leaders in Hankow on the 25th, General Chen Chien (of Nanking fame) decided to accept the Chairmanship of the Hunan-Hupeh Provisional Political Affairs Committee which will be organized and start functioning in very near future.

Regarding the actual arrival of the Nanking troops at Hankow the American Consul in charge in a despatch of November 28th reported inter alia that their advent was orderly; that they passed the thoroughly barricaded foreign concessions and Special Administrative Districts without attempting entry and quartered themselves in the native city of Hankow, in Hanyang and Wuchang; and that beyond the usual commandeering of Chinese-owned residences in the Special Administrative Districts for officers’ quarters those areas had not so far suffered from the presence of the Nanking authorities.

Conditions in Manchuria

In continuation of previous communications on the subject of Japan’s so-called “positive policy” in Manchuria, the American Consul in charge at Mukden, in a despatch of November 23rd, indicated, under the peculiar conditions existing in that region, namely (1) the control by Japan of the principal arteries of communication, (2) the presence of her military forces at important centers along Japanese-owned railways, and (3) the existence of numerous Japanese [Page 38] settlements along these lines, that the eventual result logically would seem to be political absorption. Mr. Myers stated, however, that for the present the Japanese would probably be content with the advancement of their economic interests, more especially those relating to railway construction which, according to Japanese official statements, was the nucleus of current Sino-Japanese negotiations. He reported that it evidently was desired to avoid a violent outburst of anti-Japanese feeling on the part of the Chinese, and that consequently the negotiations were not likely to be carried further than the Chinese were prepared to go.

With reference to the propaganda now being conducted in support of Japanese aspirations in Manchuria, Mr. Myers remarked that the assertion was frequently met with in recent Japanese press articles and in the statements of her public men, that Manchuria is not an integral part of China. Examining this contention, he observed that although Manchuria was not comprised in the eighteen provinces, it had been brought under the hegemony of China when the Ch’ing dynasty ascended the Dragon throne in 1644 and that, after Manchuria had been thrown open to Chinese immigration, about one hundred and twenty-five year$ ago, the Chinese population had grown very rapidly, at present comprising about ninety per cent of the total population estimated at over 27,000,000.

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I have [etc.]

J. V. A. MacMurray
  1. Not printed.
  2. Index not printed.