893.00 P.R./36

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

No. 408

Sir: In accordance with the Department’s instruction No. 78, of October 9, 1925,23 I have the honor to submit the following summary, with index, of events and conditions in China, during July, 1930:

[Page 27]

Due largely to the excessive heat, the civil war was waged sporadically and without definitive result, prolonging in this respect by another month the indecisive politico-military situation of June. A clear-cut victory to either side did not seem probable. The fronts along the Lung-Hai railway, along the Peking-Hankow railway, and in Shantung remained substantially as before. On the Lung-Hai front, the Kuominchun, under Marshal Feng Yu-hsiang, some 200,000 strong and reputed the best troops of the Northern coalition, were held in check by a corresponding number of troops of the Nanking Government. On the Peking-Hankow railway there was little or no activity. General Chiang Kai-shek concentrated 100,000 of his best troops in the Yenchow-Tsining area in Shantung but his offensive with Tsinan as the objective did not start until August 2nd. Further to the east in that province, the threatened retirement of General Han Fu-chu (who controlled 30,000 men) and the incident probable abandonment of the Kaomi-Weihsien region to Shansi forces, at the end of July, would have been a serious blow to the Nanking Government and made effective action on the Tsinan-Tsingtao railway difficult. The Nanking Government sent additional military equipment and 20,000 men to Tsingtao and apparently persuaded General Han to reconsider his decision. General Liu Chen-nien, controlling 35,000 troops, remained in independent possession of eastern Shantung, impartially accepting consignments of munitions from both sides. In Kwangsi, the “Ironsides”, concentrating at Kweilin and Liuchow, apparently were planning another attack on Canton, although, at the same time, threatened from the rear by Yunnanese forces, which were reported to have captured Nanning at the middle of the month. Marshal Chang Hsueh-liang continued to hold aloof.

As in June, there was extensive communist and bandit activity in July. Under normally peaceful conditions and with a reasonably efficient administration communist doctrines cannot take root in China. For instance, Mr. Chen Kung-po, an influential member of the Left Wing of the Kuomintang, stated, during July, that even members of the Left Wing are not communists, and that “only an idiot or a mad man would deem communism workable in China.”

Mr. Wang Ching-wei, the leader of the Left Wing, came to Peiping in July for conferences with the leaders of the Northern coalition. In interviews here, he redefined, in the following terms, the combined aims of the liberals and their present associates, the conservatives of north China: “If we want to complete the national revolution, there is no alternative but to overthrow the personal dictatorship of Chiang Kai-shek.”

The Northern political leaders were occupied during July with plans for the creation of a formal governmental organization but there was no indication of an intention either permanently to divide the country [Page 28]or to return the capital to Peiping. Civilian activity of this sort, however, remains subject to military developments.

Bandit and Communist Disturbances

The numerous cases of banditry and of communist and/or “Red” activity reported during the month gave evidence of a state of lawlessness which was considered by many people to be as great if not a greater affliction than the continuing civil war itself. As might be supposed, the disturbances were especially severe in places where the local garrisons had been reduced by war concentrations. Hunan, Hupeh, Kiangsi, and Honan were particularly affected and there was considerable danger to Americans living at interior points in those provinces.

On July 28th, a band of some ten thousand communists, under Peng Teh-hwai, took the city of Changsha, Hunan, and, in the days following, systematically looted the city and burned many public buildings and destroyed much Chinese and foreign property, including the Japanese Consulate. All Americans were safely evacuated with the assistance of the U. S. S. Palos and other foreign naval vessels with the exception of a member of the Hunan Faith Mission, who refused to leave. The Legation telegraphed the Minister for Foreign Affairs of the Nanking Government, suggesting that early action for the relief of the city would result in checking the otherwise anticipated destruction of the important American missionary, educational and commercial establishments in the city. At the end of July, however, it did not seem as though the Nanking Government was in a position promptly to take effective action. The exact extent of the damage done was not known at that time. Nanchang, Kiangsi, was threatened also, and press despatches at the end of the month forecast the possible taking of Hankow by communist bands.

The Nanking Consulate reported that there was promise at the end of July of excellent crops throughout the whole of the Yangtze Valley and the adjacent agricultural regions but that lawlessness in large areas in addition to the continuing military operations threatened to curtail the harvesting and marketing of the main crops which will mature in late August and September. Aside from the possibility of disturbances incident to the possible collapse of the Nanking Government as at present constituted, the Consulate pointed out that the extent to which the Yangtze valley regions might reasonably be expected to return to comparative order in the near future depended considerably (1) on the extent to which farmers will be able to harvest their crops and (2) on the somewhat doubtful ability of the responsible military leaders, when the civil war comes to an end, to pay and maintain discipline among troops rendered intractable by war hardships and privations.

[Page 29]

Enlarged Plenary Session of the Central Headquarters of the Kuomintang of China

A significant development of the month was the fact that it was felt to be possible and timely to hold an inaugural meeting, in Peiping on July 13th, of the “Enlarged Plenary Session of the Central Headquarters of the Kuomintang of China.” The specific purposes of this conference (composed of representatives of the Kuomintang opposed to the Nanking Government under General Chiang Kai-shek) were understood to be:

To invalidate the work of the Kuomintang as carried on under the leadership of General Chiang, especially the Third National Congress of the Kuomintang which convened at Nanking on March 15, 1929.
To make preparations for convening a “legal” Third National Congress through which a civilian, democratic, and truly representative government will be established.
To signalize the consolidation of the interests of the Left and Right wing members of the party with a view to assisting in carrying out the immediate objectives of the Northern military leaders.

It was rather difficult to estimate the extent to which the representatives participating in the conference could speak for the Kuomintang as a whole since there was reason to suppose that many members, adopting an opportunist policy, would be influenced by the course of events in the continuing and still indecisive conflict between the Northern coalition and the Nanking Government. Apparently disinterested observers estimated that the conference gave expression to the views and convictions of fifty per cent of the members of the party or, in other words, that fifty per cent of the members of the party were opposed to Chiang Kai-shek. The first formal meeting was scheduled for August 7th.

After explaining the significance of the plenary session, Dr. Tchou Ngao-hsiang,25 “Director of the Department of Foreign Affairs” of the Northern coalition, stated in an interview with foreign correspondents that plans were being drafted and discussed for the early establishment of a formal government. Dr. Tchou recalled the following four general principles in Marshal Yen Hsi-shan’s governmental program:

Maintenance of peace and order and suppression of bandits, so that life and property can be made safe.
Purification of the civil service and eradication of avarice and corruption, in order to establish a clean government.
Reduction of taxation by abolishing all extra and oppressive taxes which might prove too much a burden to the people.
Publication of receipts and disbursements of all government offices, so that peculation would be rendered impossible.

[Page 30]

A government founded on these lines, created by the combined votes of all factions of the Kuomintang, enjoying the full support of the military leaders, and having gone through all the formalities of legal procedure, was to be not only the “legal” but the “stable” government of China as a whole.

Shortly after the inaugural meeting of July 13th, Mr. Wang Ching-wei, the influential leader of the Left Wing of the Kuomintang, arrived in Peiping, from Hong Kong. In interviews and statements here he made a number of interesting observations which, at the risk of repeating what has already been stated above in this section, may be outlined as follows:

The main task of the enlarged plenary conference of the Kuomintang is to prepare the way for the convocation of the people’s conference as urged by Dr. Sun Yat-sen in his declaration upon his arrival in north China in the winter of 1924, and also of the third national congress of the Kuomintang, since the one held in Nanking last summer has been repudiated by all the allied leaders. Mr. Wang maintains that at the citizens’ conference the program and principles of the Kuomintang should be brought up for discussion and approval. If adopted they will become the platform of not a single party but of the entire nation.
The Kuomintang should recognize the right of other political parties to exist and carry on their activities, so long as those activities are not subversive of the social order or the form of government. (This is regarded as particularly significant, indicating as it does a great change in the way of thinking of the leader of the Left Wing. Up to the present, despite differences over the interpretation of the three people’s principles of Dr. Sun, no leader of importance has felt impelled to question the stand that the Kuomintang, dominating the government, is the only ruling party in China).
He believes in a free press and strongly assails General Chiang Kai-shek for his alleged suppression of the freedom of speech and the press in Shanghai and other areas controlled by the Nanking Government.
Mr. Wang is in favor of Marshal Yen Hsi-shan as chairman of the new national government to be formed.

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

Respectfully yours,

Nelson Trusler Johnson
  1. Not printed.
  2. Also known as Chu Ho-hsiang.