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

No. 1410

Sir: I have the honor to report briefly as follows with reference to certain political and military movements and tendencies in China which are beginning to be apparent with sufficient definiteness to warrant their informal discussion.

Feng Yu-hsiang, to my mind the principal figure among the Chinese militarists whose progress we must watch the most carefully from the point of view of concern for American lives and interests, seems to be growing more influential in the Nanking regime. According to recent newspaper accounts whose accuracy I do not doubt, his staunch adherent, Mr. Huang Fu, has become Minister of Foreign Affairs, and two others of his associates have taken office under Nanking, Mr. H. H. Kung, whose wife is the sister-in-law of the late Dr. Sun Yat-sen, as Minister of Industry, and a Mr. Hsueh Tu-pi as Minister of the Interior. The local newspapers now carry the report that Mr. Y. L. Tang, one of Marshal Feng Yu-hsiang’s closest advisors both by reason of his relationship and otherwise, has been made Vice Minister of Foreign Affairs at Nanking. There is an added significance in this appointment since it is the first time that [Page 124] Mr. Tang has accepted high office, hitherto having confined himself to very important but informal negotiation and effort in behalf of the Marshal, his brother-in-law. The fact that Chiang Kai-shek recently went to Chengchow for a conference with Feng Yu-hsiang rather than vice versa is evidence of the position which Feng Yu-hsiang occupies vis-a-vis Nanking in general and Chiang Kai-shek in particular. And the strong tie now existing between Feng Yu-hsiang on the one hand and Chiang Kai-shek on the other through H. H. Kung, Feng Yu-hsiang’s close partisan, whose wife is a sister of Madam Chiang Kai-shek, is an item to be considered in this general relation.

I believe that we may accept as correct that Feng Yu-hsiang is gradually gaining an ascendency in the Nanking regime, either in order to come to grips with the Fengtien forces this spring or to consolidate himself in the area under the control of that regime, prior to a northern campaign. It is not possible to tell which course Feng will choose. He … has had no opportunity to accumulate a war chest other than what the Soviets have given since ousted from the Peking-Tientsin area in 1926. The logic of the situation would seem to be for Feng to try to establish himself at least in Nanking and if possible in Shanghai before developing any real offensive against Chang Tso-lin. But as is so frequently the case logic is not followed in China and Feng Yu-hsiang, being in addition an exotic, may quite possibly attempt some tour de force of a nature corresponding to his surprise attack and capture of Peking on October 23, 1924.12

In the south there is a further interesting development away from both Nanking and Feng Yu-hsiang on the part of the Kwangsi group now controlling Hankow, and making progress in the capture of Hunan doubtless with the idea of linking up with Li Chai-Sum at Canton. This faction appears so hostile to the present Nanking regime that it does not seem improbable that they would prefer to associate themselves with Chang Tso-lin rather than with Chiang Kai-shek. It is quite likely that the latter’s visit to Feng Yu-hsiang was made with the idea of coming to some arrangement with Feng in defense of Nanking against the Kwangsi generals rather than in connection with the immediate initiation of a campaign against the north. The situation as regards the Kwangsi group is still too inchoate to arrive at any understanding of the definite state of affairs around Hankow. It bears watching however as possibly the crucial factor in any military movement that may take place this spring. It is interesting to note that from their position at Hankow the Kwangsi [Page 125] generals constitute a threat both against Chiang Kai-shek and Nanking and against Feng Yu-hsiang in Honan.

In the north there appears to be a regrouping of the component parts of the old Ankuochün. For a considerable period of time it has been felt that Chang Tso-lin has considered Chang Tsung Chang rather a debit than an asset. The latter’s army has been growing less and less effective and it is therefore not a surprise to note in the newspapers that he has been named Tupan of Chihli concurrently with that of Shantung, with his headquarters moved to Tientsin from Tsinan. Sun Ch’uan-fang has taken over the latter place and, it would seem, the control of Shantung. Chang Tsung-chang’s retention of the title of Tupan for that province is apparently a mere face-saving device, a step along the line of a surrender of his prerogatives there. This movement on the part of the Tayuanshuai13 will undoubtedly strengthen its position if reliance can be placed upon Sun Ch’uan-fang’s loyalty. Mention should be made of Chang Tso-lin’s efforts to come to an understanding with Nanking for the purpose of gaining a free hand to deal with Feng either defensively or offensively and with the idea of being able to bring about an appearance of political unity in China sufficient to persuade the Powers that they are warranted in commencing negotiations for tariff adjustment and treaty revision. It is not known what success Chang Tso-lin has met with in this respect. He is undoubtedly playing off the Kwangsi group against Chiang Kai-shek and vice versa.

I venture to hope that the foregoing brief sketch may prove of some interest as a background for possible future activities in China. As the situations develop a further report will be made to the Department.

I have [etc.]

Ferdinand Mayer
  1. See Foreign Relations, 1924, vol. i, pp. 383385.
  2. On June 17, 1927, Marshal Chang Tso-lin proclaimed himself Dictator, with the title “Tayuanshuai”.