893.00 P. R./3

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

No. 1403

Sir: In accordance with the Department’s instruction No. 78, of October 9, 1925,2 I have the honor to submit the following summary, with index, of events and conditions in China during January, 1928:

The month under review was a relatively quiet one due in part to the traditionally thoroughgoing observance of Chinese New Year, which fell on January 23rd, and in part to the cold weather which hampered military operations. The state of comparative calm was also due in large measure to lack of cohesion among the various so-called Nationalist factions.

The power and influence of the Kuomintang continued to diminish during January. The importance of a group of Kwangsi militarists increased correspondingly and interest during the month may be said chiefly to have centered in its activities. The aim of the group, generally speaking, appeared to be to control Kwangtung, Hunan, and Hupeh, and then to attack the position of Chiang Kai-shek.3 The plan was not carried out during the period covered by this report. As indicated below, some progress, however, was made in this direction.

Conditions in Canton

One of the prominent Kwangsi military leaders was Li Chai-sum, whom the radical Cantonese leader, Chang Fa-kwei, had ousted from Canton in November. As it turned out, General Chang’s control over the city was short-lived. His influence as well as that of the [Page 120] subordinates of Wang Ching-wei, who appear to have been associated with him, were undermined by the Communist disturbances which racked Canton during December and, early in January, the American Consul in charge at Canton4 telegraphed the Legation that Li Chai-sum had returned on the 4th of the month. It was Mr. Huston’s opinion, under the disturbed conditions existing in that region, that the group headed by General Li was the greatest hope of the moderate elements of Kwangtung. The report was current that Li Chai-sum found the Central Bank emptied of all its silver reserves, several million dollars in silver having been removed by Chang Fa-kwei, by his generals, and by his political followers. It was further stated that Chang had attempted to remit half a million Mexican dollars to Chiang Kai-shek in Shanghai.

On January 20th Mr. Huston apprised the Legation of a reported re-alignment of forces which, while it did not take definite shape during the period covered by this report, served at least to indicate certain of the numerous possibilities inherent in a complex situation. He stated that the Kwangsi leaders expected to call a secret conference at Canton after Chinese New Year to be attended among others by Pei Chung-hsi, Li Chung-jen, and Wu Pei-fu, the last named remaining in the background. T’ang Sheng-chih5 was to be restored to power and in this readjustment a combination was to emerge which would associate itself with Generalissimo Chang Tso-lin against Feng Yu-hsiang and Chiang Kai-shek. The mooted plan was for Feng to be allowed to penetrate well into Shantung where he would be attacked from two sides and for Marshal Wu to draw the “Red Spears” of Honan into the fray.

Events in Shanghai

On January 4th the American Consul General at Shanghai6 informed this Mission that Mr. C. C. Wu had been appointed Minister for Foreign Affairs of the Nationalist Government with instructions to proceed to the United States immediately to conclude a new treaty on the basis of the statement of the Secretary of State of January 27, 1927,7 in which were laid down the conditions under which the United States was willing to negotiate. In this relation it was the Legation’s understanding that Mr. Frank W. Lee had been sent to the United States last autumn by the Nanking authorities on the double mission of securing American recognition of the regime he [Page 121] represented and of negotiating for treaty revision. Furthermore, the Nanking Nationalist authorities appeared to envisage the possibility of affecting [sic] a diplomatic rapprochement with Peking through Minister Alfred Sze,8 as the potential head of a united Chinese delegation to the United States charged with bringing about a revision of existing treaties. These matters remained inchoate during January.

Early in the month General Chiang Kai-shek, accompanied by Tan Yen-kai and certain other members of the Central Executive Committee of the Kuomintang, left for Nanking. Mr. Cunningham informed the Legation that before their departure it was semiofficially announced that C. C. Wu would retain the portfolio of Foreign Affairs but that Quo Tai-chi would be the acting Minister during Wu’s absence. T. V. Soong was slated for the post of Minister of Finance and Sun Fo for that of Minister of Reconstruction. The Consul General stated that it was assumed from this reorganization either that Chiang Kai-shek had already received the endorsement of the Central Executive Committee of the Kuomintang or that he would do so upon its assembling in Nanking. The date of assembly was postponed again and again, however, and it did not take place during the period covered by this report.

In a telegram of January 21st Mr. Cunningham reported that C. C. Wu, Sun Fo, Hu Han-min, and four other prominent Nationalists procured Section Six certificates at the Consulate General with the intention of leaving for the United States on the 25th. He expressed the opinion that this exodus indicated disappointment on the part of certain of the conservative members of the Nationalist Government and of the Kuomintang with the efforts which were being made to create a government.

Developments in the Hankow Area

Hostilities between the Wuhan cities and the militarists of Hunan, to which reference was made in the Legation’s report for December,9 persisted during January. Conditions along the upper reaches of the Yangtze also continued to be unsettled.

The American Consul General at Hankow10 telegraphed the Legation on January 5th that he was reliably informed that the 19th army under Hu Tsung-tu, the Wuhan garrison commander, was at that time proceeding from Hankow against Yang Sen, the Tupan of Szechwan, at Shasi and Ichang and that there was a possibility that Liu Hsiang at Chungking would cooperate in this move by [Page 122] sending an expedition against Yang Sen’s forces at Wanhsien. Mr. Lockhart reported further that Changsha, in whose neighborhood many mission properties were occupied by troops, was at that time still controlled by former subordinates of T’ang Sheng-chih who were driven from Wuhan in November by Nanking forces.

By January 19th reliable information had reached Mr. Lockhart that Chiang Kai-shek had persuaded the Hunan generals, Liu Hsiang, Ho Chien, Li Ling-hsi, and Chou Lan, to make war on Hankow and that Mexican $200,000 had been remitted to Changsha from Shanghai for that purpose. It seemed that the Hankow regime then dominated mainly by Generals Chen Chien and Pei Tsung-chi was becoming more and more isolated from Nanking.

On January 25th Mr. Lockhart reported that Hankow was definitely allied with Li Chai-sum at Canton against Chiang Kai-shek and that the latter thus would be compelled to align himself with Chang Fa-kuei, at that time in northern Kwangtung, as well as with other radical elements in the Nationalist party. A few days later the Consul General informed the Legation that the Hunan campaign was progressing favorably for the Hankow faction and that Changsha was captured by Hu Tsung-tu’s troops on the 25th. At Hankow the strictest martial law continued to be maintained.

Military Activity

In the Legation’s monthly summaries for November and December11 reference was made to the fact that serious fighting was confined during that time to North China. The elements involved were the Fengtien forces and their associates, and Chihli-Shantung armies, in opposition respectively to Shansi troops and to the supposedly allied forces of Feng Yu-hsiang and the Nanking Nationalists.

Active hostilities during January, on the other hand, were restricted largely to Hunan, in South China. The Military Attaché to the Legation, in reports from which this section is taken, affirmed that the outcome of the military operations in that province constituted a victory for the Kwangsi faction, at present apparently the only cohesive group in South China, over Hunanese elements associated with Nanking and General Chiang Kai-shek.

In the north the outstanding military event of January was the final capitulation on the 11th of the Shansi garrison which had held the city of Chochow since October 11, 1927. The surrender of the town occurred in a general lull on the Fengtien-Shansi conflict. Peace negotiations between Generalissimo Chang Tso-lin and Governor [Page 123] Yen Hsi-shan were carried on sporadically during the month without definite result.

During the latter part of January the Kuominchun made gains in southern Chihli, northern Honan, and western Shantung. Kuominchun elements were reported as far north as Hantan on the Kin-Han railway, while to the east they were in the vicinity of Taming. The defense of Shantung from the Nanking armies was assigned to General Sun Ch’uan-fang and Chihli-Shantung concentrations of doubtful military value were made against Feng Yu-hsiang on the Tsinpu railway in the vicinity of Tehchow.

On January 24th and 25th a conference was held in Peking among the Ankuochun leaders, presided over by Generalissimo Chang Tso-lin. The one concrete accomplishment of the meeting apparently was the appointment of General Yang Yu-t’ing as commander of the 3rd and 4th army group (the true Fengtien Army) in conjunction with Chang Hsueh-liang and in succession to Han Lin-ch’un.

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

I have [etc.]

Ferdinand Mayer
  1. Not printed; it instructed the Minister to supplement his political reports by a brief monthly summary of events and conditions in China.
  2. Generalissimo of the Chinese Nationalist armies.
  3. Jay C. Huston.
  4. Former commander at Hankow, who lost control to the Nanking forces in November 1927.
  5. Edwin S. Cunningham.
  6. See telegram No. 28, Jan. 25, 1927, to the Chargé in China, Foreign Relations, 1927, vol. ii, p. 350.
  7. Sao-Ke Alfred Sze, Chinese Minister at Washington.
  8. Foreign Relations, 1927, vol. ii, p. 38.
  9. Frank P. Lockhart.
  10. Foreign Relations, 1927, vol. ii, pp. 34, 38.