893.00 P.R./5

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

No. 1468

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, of events and conditions in China during March, 1928:

The most significant occurrence of the period under review, at least as far as Sino-American relations are concerned, doubtless was the settlement of the Nanking incident of March, 1927, after extended conversations at Shanghai between the Nanking Minister for Foreign Affairs and myself.26 The United States was the first of the powers concerned to arrive at an adjustment of this matter with the interested Chinese authorities. …

The Northern Expedition

From a military point of view, or in other words from the point of view of the so-called “Northern Expedition”, the state of comparative calm characteristic of the months of January and February was maintained during March as well. In spite of sundry disquieting rumors of imminent hostilities, no major military operations took place.

The following Reuter despatch, published locally under the date line of Shanghai, March 5th, regarding an interview granted a representative of the North China Daily News by General Chiang Kai-shek, is illustrative of the numerous reports on military affairs current during the month. The General is reported to have said:

“The Northern Expedition will proceed according to programme. I cannot divulge the date on which we shall commence operations but all arrangements have been made. There is the closest cooperation between Marshal Feng Yu-hsiang, General Yen Hsi-shan and ourselves. We are being supported by Canton and when Hunan difficulties have been cleared up the Hankow faction will also join us.”

In evaluating this pronouncement it may be noted, in passing, that Chiang Kai-shek’s influence is dependent upon his success as a military leader and that it is thus to his interest to emphasize the inevitability of a military adjustment of present dissensions in this country. It is probable that the opportunist civilian leaders of the [Page 133] Kuomintang would not be averse to abandoning the much discussed Northern Expedition and to arriving at an adjustment of the differences between the North and the South by other than military means. They are without ultimate authority, however, and their hesitant administrative labors cannot prevent and only inadequately screen the internecine maneuverings of the dominant militarists.

In a report of the middle of the month the Military Attaché to the Legation indicated, in this relation, that the spirit which energized the Nationalist armies in 1926 and 1927 was lacking among the disillusioned and ill-paid soldiers who would attempt the continuance of the temporarily quiescent drive against Peking. “With the exception of Feng Yu-hsiang’s own personal army”, Major Magruder stated, “the will-to-fight is probably no more pronounced among the Nationalists than among the Fengtien soldiery”. Major Magruder further stated that the indifference of many of the Southern leaders, the near-hostility of the Kwangsi Party, the internal communist disorders and the dubious aims of Feng Yu-hsiang, all constituted an unhappy augury for a successful campaign against the Northern militarists.

General Chiang Kai-shek asserted in the statement quoted above that the Nanking faction would be joined by Hankow as soon as the latter’s differences with Hunan had been adjusted. The situation in this regard remained indeterminate during March. On the 4th I had a conversation in Hankow with the local Commissioner for Foreign Affairs in which Mr. Kan, in answer to a question regarding the northern expedition, frankly stated that he did not believe that troops from the Wuhan area would participate actively in the campaign. He gave as the reason for this that the Hunan situation was still unsettled and that, in any event, Feng Yu-hsiang and Yen Hsi-shan had an adequate number of troops on the Kin-Han Railroad. Commissioner Kan stated that of course help would be welcome on the Tientsin-Pukow line but that the local military authorities would be afraid to undertake operations in that area. They were not certain of Chiang Kai-shek’s attitude toward them and consequently would not like to have General Chiang’s troops in their rear. The Commissioner concluded in view of these circumstances that the assistance rendered by the Wuhan area probably would take the form of money and ammunition but that at any rate that much assistance would be forthcoming if only to satisfy public opinion. He gave me to understand that some money and ammunition was being supplied to Feng Yu-hsiang at that time and that further contributions of the same sort would be sent to him.

[Page 134]

The American Consul General at Hankow informed the Legation in a telegram of March 28th,27 in this matter of cooperation between the two factions, that for the first time some evidence was then on hand that preparations were being made for Hankow troops to join in the Northern drive. Mr. Lockhart added that General Li Tsung-jen was expected to arrive there the next day from Nanking to assume the duties of Chairman of the Wuhan Political Council and to compose alleged differences between Hankow and Nanking.

Fengtien, on its side, was reported, at the end of the month, to be on the point of undertaking an offensive against the Kuominchun. The object of this maneuver, as the American Consul General at Tientsin noted in a despatch27 dealing with conditions in his district during March, apparently was to crush Feng Yu-hsiang before a synchronized general push materialized against the whole northern position by the associated Nanking, Shansi, and Feng Yu-hsiang forces. Mr. Gauss considered the weak point in the northern lines to be in the southern Chihli-Tamingfu area where were stationed the poorly disciplined and generally unreliable forces of Chu Yu-pu, Tupan of Chihli. The Consul General added that Chu Yu-pu was reported to be greatly exercised over the fact that control of military and civil affairs in the province largely had been taken from his hands by the appointment of Chang Tsung-chang, Tupan of Shantung, concurrently to control military affairs in Chihli, and by the appointment of Sun Shih-wei, a councillor to Chang Tsung-chang, as Civil Governor of the province.

Li Chai-sum

Considerable interest was aroused during the period under review by General Li Chai-sum’s visit to Hongkong early in March and his official reception there as the Governor of Kwangtung Province. The Governor General of Hongkong returned the visit shortly afterwards. In a telegram of March 13th the American Consul in charge at Canton stated28 that, as a result of the Governor General’s return visit to Canton, it was reported in Chinese circles that Hongkong was to lend Canton thirty million Mexican dollars to complete the loop around the city connecting up the Canton-Kowloon Railway and the Canton-Hankow Railway.

Belief in the relative permanence of Li Chai-sum’s tenure of office may have been strengthened by these visits but it was somewhat shaken again by the General’s sudden and secret departure for Shanghai with Chen Ming-chu on March 15th to consult with General Chiang Kai-shek. General Huang Shao-hsiung29 who was in [Page 135] control of Kwangsi was left in charge of Canton during Li’s absence. In a telegram of March 16th30 Mr. Huston reported that the city was quiet and the government functioning as usual, although an undercurrent of anti-British feeling aroused by the exchange of visits was to be noticed. The Consul added in this telegram that, as far as he had been able to gather from conversations with several members of the local government, the local military leaders had agreed to cooperate with Li Chai-sum in clearing the province of bandits, pirates, and communists.

Li Chai-sum reached Shanghai on March 19th, and, in a telegram of the 21st, the American Consul General at Shanghai informed the Legation30 that the General stated to the foreign press upon his arrival that he had come (1) to discuss the anti-Northern expedition with the Military Council at Nanking, (2) to report directly on the political situation at Canton, and (3) to discuss with the Nationalist government the future policy with reference to Canton and China as a whole especially in reconstruction measures.

General Li Chai-sum did not return to Canton during the period covered by this report. Mr. Huston telegraphed from Canton on March 28th,30 however, that he was expected back on April 4th. Apparently Huang Shao-hsiung had stationed his troops in and about the city in such numbers that it was not thought that Li Chai-sum would be ousted.

Foreign Policy of Nanking Regime

Early in the month General Huang Fu, the Minister for Foreign Affairs of the Nanking regime, gave out an interesting statement of his government’s foreign policy.31

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

Boycott at Amoy

In telegrams from the Commander-in-Chief of the United States Asiatic Fleet32 and in reports from the American Vice Consul in charge at Amoy,33 the Legation was apprised of a boycott against Japanese shipping at that port during March which for a time seemed to foreshadow other more serious disturbances. The boycott had its origin in the arrest in the native city on March 2nd by Japanese Consular police of four Koreans who were accused of communist activities. The local authorities actuated by the local Kuomintang and the General Labor Union demanded (1) the release of the [Page 136] Koreans, on the ground that having expatriated themselves they were not amenable to Japanese jurisdiction, (2) an apology by the Japanese Consul, and (3) the abolition of the Japanese Consular police force at Amoy. The Japanese Consul refusing to accede to these demands a boycott of Japanese shipping was declared, starting on March 10th. On the 23rd, following the removal of the Koreans to Formosa, the General Labor Union declared a general strike. On the 24th Admiral Bristol telegraphed the Legation that press reports concerning the general boycott indicated that all harbor transportation had been stopped. He added that he planned to have a destroyer division arrive at Amoy on the 26th to cooperate with the American Consulate in the protection of American interests. However from subsequent telegrams from the Admiral and from Vice-Consul Milbourne it appeared that the newspaper accounts of the Amoy labor troubles had been much exaggerated. Mr. Milbourne stated in his telegram of March 30th in the premises that the general strike of the 24th had lasted only half a day; that the situation was quiet; and that the continuing boycott was confined to Japanese shipping.

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

I have [etc.]

J. V. A. MacMurray
  1. Not printed.
  2. See pp. 323 ff.
  3. Not printed.
  4. Not printed.
  5. Telegram not printed.
  6. Member of the Canton branch of the Kuomintang Central Political Council.
  7. Not printed.
  8. Not printed.
  9. Not printed.
  10. See telegram No. 153, Mar. 9, from the Chargé in China, p. 407.
  11. Admiral Mark L. Bristol, U. S. Navy.
  12. Harvey Lee Milbourne.