893.00 P.R./4

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

No. 1443

Sir: In accordance with the Department’s instruction No. 78, of October 9, 1925,14 I have the honor to submit the following summary, with index, of events and conditions in China during February, 1928.

Expressed in general terms, the state of comparative calm characteristic [Page 126] of the month of January was maintained throughout February as well. It was felt, however, that this equipoise was both precarious and transient. From all quarters came rumors of impending political readjustments and of renewed military operations on an extensive scale in the near future. It was difficult to foresee during February what developments would ensue from the readjustments under contemplation. As the Department is aware from various previous reports from this field, Chinese political thinking is very pliant and it is possible, for instance, and even customary, in the civil wars of the country for direct private negotiations through regular emissaries to go on simultaneously with sporadic and frequently inconclusive military operations.

The American Consul General in Shanghai reported that the month had opened with rumors of a rapprochement between Canton and Nanking, and also with rumors of negotiations between Chiang Kai Shek, Chang Tso-lin, Yen Hsi-shan, and Feng Yu-hsiang. On the other hand, the American Consul General at Tientsin, in a despatch dealing with political conditions in his district during February,15 stated that close observers inclined to the opinion that the situation held all the elements pointing to a successful occupation of the Tientsin-Peking area by the combined Kuomintang, Kuominchun and Shansi forces in the spring or early summer of this year.

That the so-called Northern Expedition had not been abandoned seemed evident from an interview granted the representative of the North China Daily News on February 21st, by Mr. T. V. Soong, Minister of Finance of the Nanking Nationalist Regime. Mr. Soong stated inter alia:

“There may be differences of opinion among your readers as to the North Expedition, but our policy is fixed and we are going ahead with it. To give up the North Expedition would be a betrayal of our cause which is the unification of our country under the leadership of the Kuomintang and for the achievement of the principles of Dr. Sun Yat Sen.”

Military Operations

From a military point of view, the month witnessed no change in the broad alignments already in existence. In Hunan, the Kwangsi generals continued their exploitation of the victory that gained them Changsha, and Chen Chien consolidated his hold on that city. Chang Fa-k’uei was engaged during the month in an endeavor to reorganize his Cantonese troops on the Fukien and Kiangsi borders of Kwang-tung. In the North, there were no hostilities of consequence.

[Page 127]

Activity of Communists

Numerous accounts received during February testified to the fact that communism was not eradicated in China, in spite of the anti-communist propensities of recent months which witnessed the Canton uprising in December and the wholesale executions along the Yangtze. Reports from various sources were received of the capture of villages and towns, notably in Kwangtung, by roving bands of “reds” under circumstances of barbarous bestiality. In a despatch of February 14th16 illustrative of this state of affairs the American Consul at Swatow17 reported that many refugees from neighboring scenes of communist disturbances had fled to Swatow, conservative estimates placing their number at close to fifty thousand. Mr. Berger informed the Legation that the local police had unearthed a plot on the part of the “reds” to seize and loot the city of Swatow itself on the 10th of February. Fifty persons were captured and nineteen men and two women were executed on the 13th, the temper of the authorities and of the populace being such that the police permitted the mob after the executions to commit various indignities upon the bodies. The Consul expressed the opinion that the radicals were at that time the only really unified and purposeful political group in that section of Kwangtung and that it seemed certain that without a marked change of heart and a considerable increase in the political sagacity and honesty of the moderates the radicals must finally triumph. Mr. Berger’s remarks relative to the organization of the communists in Kwangtung apply with equal accuracy to the rest of China.

The Kuomintang Conference

The American Consul General at Shanghai, in a despatch of February 11th,16 stated that December had ended with all eyes focused upon the efforts of Chiang Kai Shek to bring about the convening at Nanking of the Fourth Plenary Session of the Kuomintang. “Bitter factional disputes within the party” Mr. Cunningham continued, “had been only intensified by the Communist outbreak in Canton on December 11th, and in spite of the strenuous efforts of Chiang to compose even temporarily the political differences of the party leaders, the entire month of January passed without the calling of the conference …”18

The Fourth Plenary Session of the Central Executive Committee of the Kuomintang was finally convened on February 2nd at Nanking, [Page 128] adjourning again on the 6th after electing various new committees and officers and adopting a number of resolutions which, however, did not appreciably modify the character of the existing organization. A standing committee of the Central Executive Committee was constituted including among others T’an Yen-k’ai, Chiang Kai Shek, Tai Chi-tao, and Ting Wei-feng. T’an Yen-k’ai was likewise made chairman of the standing committee on governmental affairs. A military committee was appointed with Chiang Kai Shek as chairman. Huang Fu was made Minister for Foreign Affairs of the Nanking regime and Wang Ching-wei Minister of Justice, while T. V. Soong was confirmed in the post of Minister of Finance.

In a despatch on political conditions in his district during February Mr. Cunningham made the following comment on the conference20:

“While this session was under party law perhaps illegal and served to accentuate the split between the right wing and the center groups of the Kuomintang, its mere meeting and assumption of responsibility and staunch insistence upon a continuance of party rule have served, for the time at least, to infuse a certain amount of vitality into the party.”

New Ministers for Foreign Affairs

Mr. Wang Yin-t’ai submitted his resignation as Minister for Foreign Affairs of the Peking regime on February 24th giving as his reason his inability to handle the diplomatic situation. In his memorial of resignation he stated that the question of treaty revision was the most urgent task confronting the Peking Ministry of Foreign Affairs at the present time and a matter to which the whole nation attached paramount importance. However, he stated also, with unusual candor, that the powers had adopted a policy of watchful waiting in this regard “for the unfortunate reason that as a result of years of civil strife the nation is unable to speak with one united voice”.

Mandates of the Generalissimo promulgated February 25th appointed Wang Yin-t’ai Minister of Justice and Dr. Lo Wen-kan, who had been the President of the Board of Audit, the new Minister for Foreign Affairs. In a statement to the press upon assuming his duties Dr. Lo stated inter alia that he would do his best to continue the work of his predecessors for the revision of China’s unequal treaties and that he hoped the whole country would cooperate in that task. In a statement issued to the press on February 28th, however, he made the penetrating comment that only when internal [Page 129] affairs are put in order can success be expected in the intercourse between nations.

On February 22nd General Huang Fu assumed office as Minister for Foreign Affairs of the Nanking regime and shortly thereafter made a statement to the press,21 the first section of which reads in translation as follows:

“With a view to hastening the early abrogation of China’s treaties now universally recognized to be unequal, the Nationalist government will make all necessary preparations in the hope of opening negotiations at the earliest possible moment with the friendly powers for the conclusion of new treaties on the basis of equality and mutual respect for territorial sovereignty.”

He added that pending the conclusion of such new treaties his government was prepared to maintain and develop friendly relations with the foreign powers and to protect the lives and property of foreigners in China in accordance with international law and usage.

General Huang Fu is commonly regarded as an adherent of the “Christian General” Feng Yu-hsiang and the Department will recall that he functioned for a time as Acting Premier after Feng Yu-hsiang seized control of Peking in October, 1924.

The statements of the retiring and the new Ministers for Foreign Affairs of the Peking regime as well as of the new Minister for Foreign Affairs of the Nanking regime reveal a more moderate attitude toward the foreign powers and a franker acceptance of the realities inherent in the present situation than was the case in the utterances of Chinese politicians during the past years.

It may also be of interest in this relation to record, as among the occurrences falling in some measure within the period under review, that the Ministers of France, the United States, and Great Britain recently undertook trips to South China to familiarize themselves at first hand with conditions there and met with friendly receptions.

Mr. MacMurray left Peking on February 20th and both he and Sir Miles Lampson, the British Minister, were still in South China at the end of the month.

Count de Martel, the French Minister, returned to Peking during the middle of February. In an interview granted the press upon his return he stated that he had arrived at the conclusion, as a result of his trip, that an early union among the southern factions was unlikely. He indicated that the division among the Kwangsi, Nanking, and Wuchang political bodies was still apparent and that however much friends of China might hope to see greater cohesion [Page 130] and stability it would not seem as if much progress were being made in that direction. Count de Martel expressed the opinion that the outstanding cause for the recent suspension of concentrated military activity and for a growing inclination toward compromise was lack of money.

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

Developments in Szechwan

Certain new political and military alignments in Szechwan Province were brought to the attention of the Legation during February by the American Consul General at Hankow and the American naval authorities on the Yangtze. It seemed that Szechwan was, for the first time in a year, free from outside military influences. Liu Hsiang and Lai Hsin-whei at Chungking and Liu Wen-whei at Chengtu controlled those two places and the river territory between them, while Yang Sen and his associates were reported to control the Yangtze River east of Chungking, approximately as far as the Hupeh border, together with northern Szechwan. Wu Pei-fu, who appeared to be a factor in Szechwan affairs, was being mentioned as a possible head of the Yang Sen group and was understood, at the middle of the month, to be residing at Suifu under Yang Sen’s protection.

I have [etc.]

Ferdinand Mayer
  1. Not printed.
  2. Not printed.
  3. Not printed.
  4. David C. Berger.
  5. Not printed.
  6. Omission indicated in the original.
  7. Despatch not printed.
  8. For complete text of statement, see telegram No. 42, Feb. 28, from the consul general at Shanghai, p. 406.