893.00 P.R./6

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

No. 1503

Sir: In accordance with the Department’s instruction No. 78, of October 9, 1925,40 I have the honor to submit the following summary, with index, of events and conditions in China during April, 1928:

Although tension and uncertainty persisted, the first three months of 1928 were characterized by a relative freedom from military operations. During April hostilities were so vigorously resumed that all significant occurrences of the period under review were either secondary to or associated with the Nationalist drive northward.

Military Activity

According to reports by the Legation’s Military Attaché, from which this section, in the main, is derived, the date of the opening of the long predicted spring campaign may be set down as April 1st. Since that time military operations, at first not of great magnitude but of constantly increasing intensity as the month wore on, gradually spread to all the fronts. Hostilities began with Fengtien pressure against Feng Yii-hsiang on the Kin-Han Railway in the vicinity of Tzechow and against Shansi on the Chengting-T’aiyüan Railway. Up to the middle of the month no serious fighting had developed in Shantung. Rumors of fighting around Hsuchowfu during the first fortnight of April could not be confirmed, indications having been rather that Chiang Kai-shek would delay until Fengtien became committed to the Honan drive. It remained doubtful, furthermore, whether the Shansi, Hankow, Nanking and Feng Yü-hsiang groups were effectively cooperating. It seemed evident at that time that it was the desire of the Peking régime to defeat and drive out Feng but to come to some compromise with Shansi and Nanking.

By the 18th of April a Nationalist offensive in southern Shantung became general and this development gave evidence of the fact that Feng Yü-hsiang and Chiang Kai-shek at any rate were supporting one another. This drive was successful, due in part to lack of both discipline and a desire to fight on the part of Chang Tsung-ch’ang’s soldiers and in part to impulsive and ill-considered maneuvering by Sun Ch’uan-fang. The Nationalist armies in Shantung made steady progress to the vicinity of Tsinanfu so that by April 30th that city was being evacuated by disorganized Shantung soldiery and its early [Page 144] fall was expected. Sun Ch’uan-fang had suffered a débâcle. He moved north of the Yellow River with what remained of his former army, the Shantung forces suffering complete disintegration. Chang Tsung-ch’ang appeared to have been definitely abandoned by Chang Tso-lin.

Feng Yü-hsiang, at the end of the month, was held by Fengtien in the vicinity of Changte on the Kin-Han Railway. He had to recall the forces of General Lu Chung-lin, which had been operating in the direction of Tsinanfu, to maintain his position. Shansi remained bottled up.

Despatch of Japanese Troops to Shantung

The Department will recall that following the Southern advance into Shantung in May, 1927, the Japanese Government sent some 2,000 troops into the province for the protection of its nationals resident there and also expressed the intention to despatch a further contingent of 2,000 to the Peking-Tientsin area should the situation seem to require it.41 The troops were withdrawn again during September, the object for which they had been sent having been accomplished, and the scene of hostilities having shifted to the Yangtze. This indication of the determination of the Japanese Government to provide for the protection of its nationals was felt at the time to have done much to lessen the potential hazards then faced by foreigners in North China. The very success of the expedition as a stabilizing force, however, evoked the charge in Chinese circles that the real object in the minds of the Japanese authorities was not the protection of Japanese nationals in Shantung but the prevention of any further progress northward on the part of the Nationalists.

It was not clear, during the period under review, to what extent these developments would be repeated in 1928, although a certain similarity already existed between the occurrences of April and those of May and June of last year. It was not long after the Southern offensive in Shantung had become general when, on the 19th, according to information received from the American Embassy in Tokyo, the Japanese Emperor sanctioned an order for the despatch of troops to that province to be stationed on the railroad between Tsingtao and Tsinan, with the mission of protecting the life and property of Japanese nationals. The elements involved were reported to be the greater part of the 6th Division stationed in Kyushu, consisting of eight battalions of infantry, one battalion of field artillery, [Page 145] and a small number of auxiliaries, totaling approximately 5,000 men. Furthermore three companies of infantry stationed in Tientsin were to be sent immediately to Tsinan by rail, to be relieved later if circumstances permitted, or if not, to be replaced in Tientsin by other troops.

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Hankow’s Attitude Toward Its Associates

As suggested above, Hankow’s relations with Nanking and with Marshal Feng Yü-hsiang during April remained delicately responsive to the fluctuations in the fortunes of the other Nationalist groups.

In a confidential telegram of the 26th of the month the American Consul General at Hankow informed the Legation that, in spite of repeated declarations of cooperation with Feng Yü-hsiang and Chiang Kai-shek, Wuhan was still lukewarm in its support of the northern campaign if indeed it could be said that any actual support had been given beyond the despatch of troops up the Peking-Hankow Railway, a measure which would be more likely to be one of defense of that area than of offense against the North. It seemed, as suggested by Mr. Lockhart, that the Hankow faction desired to prolong its semi-independent existence as long as possible and that some new political alignment with which it would appear to its advantage to affiliate would have to arise before those in control would render any material aid to General Chiang or Marshal Feng.

On April 28th, however, the Consul General telegraphed that Hankow troops had then been moved up the railway to Chengchow, in northern Honan. Marshal Li Tsung-jen informed Mr. Lockhart, in this relation, that there were no Hankow soldiers at the front, but that the Marshal was proceeding to Chengchow to be close at hand should his forces be needed. Mr. Lockhart thus concluded that the interest of the Hankow faction in the northern campaign was increasing in the same degree that the prospect of the success of the Nationalist drive heightened.

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Repercussion From Nanking Settlement

In a telegram of April 6th the American Consul General at Shanghai informed the Legation that Quo T’ai-chi had been relieved of his duties as Commissioner for Foreign Affairs at Shanghai and that Mr. W. W. [S.] King had been appointed in his place, the change indicating that General Hwang Fu’s position had been strengthened by the Sino-American settlement of the Nanking incident. …

[Page 146]

Return of Li Chai-sum to Canton

Reference was made in the Legation’s monthly report for March to the interest and apprehension aroused by the Governor of Kwangtung’s sudden and secret departure from Canton for Shanghai on March 15th, to consult with General Chiang Kai-shek. It was wrongly feared that during his absence unruly elements would gain the upper hand.

The American Consul General at Canton telegraphed the Legation on April 18th42 that General Li Chai-sum had returned there the day before and that in general the situation was quiet.

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I have [etc.]

J. V. A. MacMurray
  1. Not printed.
  2. See telegram No. 236, May 28, 1927, to the Minister in China, and the Minister’s telegram No. 601, May 31, 1927, in reply, Foreign Relations, 1927, vol. ii, pp. 123, 124.
  3. Not printed.