893.00 P.R./39

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

No. 600

Sir: In compliance with the Department’s standing instructions, and in continuation of the Legation’s despatch No. 521 of October 12, 1930, I have the honor to transmit herewith a Report on the Political and Military Situation in China for the month of October, 1930.

Respectfully yours,

Nelson Trusler Johnson

Monthly Report for October 1930

1. The Political Situation

(a) Chiang Kai-shek and the Prospects of Unification.

With the successful suppression of the last and most formidable rebellion the National Government of China has entered upon a crucial period of political reconstruction. The crisis which had seriously imperiled its very existence has passed and has left Nanking with enhanced prestige and with decided prospects of controlling most of China. This, in turn, should have a good effect upon internal trade and public finances.

[Page 50]

It is, of course, possible that—as has so often happened in China—the present situation may pass away without bringing any permanent change. It is possible that the last civil war has exhausted the Central authorities physically and financially so completely that the line of least resistance will again be chosen, ending in compromises and arrangements which settle little or nothing.

Even at best the task will not be an easy one. For China is still ridden by particularism, i. e. by a narrow provincial outlook which accentuates the differences of economic status, temperament, and dialect. The Northerners have an instinctive dislike and disdain for the “soft” Southerners, while expressions like “Shansi clique”, “Fengtien armies”, “Kwangsi generals”, etc., are indicative of the jealousies of certain provinces or groups against the predominant group, all of which furnishes the intriguing militarists and politicians an opportunity to exploit the situation for their own selfish ends.

Much will depend upon the character of General Chiang Kai-shek, President of the State Council and Commander-in-Chief of the National forces. It must be recognized that the victory over Feng Yu-hsiang and Yen Hsi-shan is largely a personal triumph for him. He had always maintained that a decisive military victory was the only cure, and his refusal to parley with the northern coalition at a time when even Mukden counseled peace and compromise has been amply vindicated. He has proved himself to be a man of unusual courage and determination, while his personal leadership at the front throughout the campaign won him the confidence of his troops. To show that he is not easily swayed by his emotions the Chinese say of him “he never sheds a tear until he sees the coffin”.

Chiang’s personality can perhaps to a certain extent be judged by extracts from some of his recent utterances. Thus on October 3, 1930, when victory seemed already assured, he sent a telegram from the front to the National Government in Nanking advocating an amnesty for all rebel leaders, except Yen Hsi-shan, Chen Chiung-ming, and the communists. In this telegram he makes the following interesting declarations:

“With peace near realization, the question of punishment and reward should be based on considerations of generosity and magnanimity. A new start should be given to all who have taken sides against the Government.… I am not free from reproach and should, therefore, not be hard on others. I realize that I have not always commanded the confidence of all and that I have made errors of judgment in the conduct of affairs as well as in the employment of men.… Severe punishment is not the only means of exterminating the reactionaries, for with the suppression of the militarists all reactionaries will lose their support. I am confident that they will respond if the Government forgives their past and gives them a new start in life.”

[Page 51]

This was followed on October 10th, on the occasion of the 19th anniversary of the Chinese Republic, by a circular in which he outlined the principal tasks confronting the country. He stated:

“The Central Government which is entrusted with the task of building a new state in China, should address itself to the work of reforming the administration immediately after the campaign against the rebels is brought to a close.… I am firmly convinced that the present war is the last one fought for the cause of unification in China.… Let me outline what I conceive to be the imperative needs of the moment from the standpoint of both the people and the Government:

(1) Suppression of Communist-Bandits.

… I intend to demarcate the country into definite areas and to entrust the work of clearing each district of bandits to responsible commanders so that none of them will be able to shift his responsibility.… It is my expectation that the country should be rid of all communist-bandits within three or six months at the most.…

(2) Reorganization of Finance.

The Government has repeatedly gone on record as favoring the adoption of a budget and an auditing and accounting system.… Concerning the expenditures and revenues of both the central and provincial governments, full publicity should be given in order that the people may have a clear idea of the accounts. Besides, the unification of the currency of the country and the abolition of likin should be effected within the shortest period possible.…

(3) Purification of Administration.

The two greatest evils afflicting officialdom today are the dilatory way in which the officials go about their duties and the prevalence of corruption.… the result of the inability of the Government to make a clean sweep of all of the accumulated evils of the past. The hopes of the people have thus been disappointed.…

(4) Development of National Economy.

… In recent years the aggressive economic policy of the imperialistic Powers have combined with the influence of the reactionaries to wreck the foundations of industry.… We should absorb foreign capital in the development of China’s industries under mutually profitable and equitable conditions.…

(5) Enforcement of Local Self-Government.

… Very little has been accomplished in this direction. Indeed, the failure of the Government in this regard is responsible in no small measure for the audacious attempts of the militarists, politicians, and Mandarins to browbeat the people.… The period of political tutelage should be completed at an early date and true democracy be brought into existence.”

On October 14th General Chiang Kai-shek issued a statement entitled “Consolidation of National Unity and Preservation of Peace.” In it he pointed out that it was the aim of the Government to effect the [Page 52] reconstruction of the State on the basis of Sun Yat-sen’s “Three People’s Principles”, and continued:

“The Government will hereafter welcome and follow as much as possible the views of the people, insofar as they are not in conflict with the Three People’s Principles and the fundamental principles of national reconstruction. Threats of force, however, to back up any such proposal will not be countenanced.… Any attempt on the part of any military entity to disrupt the national unity should under no circumstances be tolerated.… Military units, constituting as they do the armed forces of the nation and not of private individuals, should naturally be used only for the welfare of the entire nation. Violation of this fundamental principle amounts to sedition and rebellion.…

The Party will, on the one hand, carry out the program of political tutelage in order to pave the way for democracy and, on the other hand, seek the cooperation of the entire people in the execution of various political programs. It is not, and never has been, the policy of the Party to disregard public opinion or to deny any qualified citizen the right of participation in public affairs.…

If revolts against the Government are considered merely as factional disputes, and no distinction is drawn between the rebels and the Central Government, the foundation of national unity will never be consolidated nor can peace be permanently preserved.… It is hoped, therefore, that henceforth our compatriots will change their present attitude of apathy to one of frank criticism. All views, whether constructive or critical, insofar as they are not in conflict with the teachings bequeathed by the late Party Leader, will be followed and acted upon. Those who are willing to shoulder the burden of government jointly with the Party will also, if found qualified, be welcomed.”

And on October 20th, after his return to Nanking from the front, he made the following unusually frank statements which have created something of a sensation:

“There are no limits to political improvement. We must seek progress every day. We have many weak points and if we know them and correct them there will be hope for us.

We have frequently been criticized on the ground that we know only how to talk but not to perform, and how to draft paper schemes but not to carry them out; indeed, if we examine our record during the last few years we cannot but admit that there is some truth in the criticism.…

Party leaders should abide by the regulations of the Kuomintang and should not consider party organizations as special organs to be exploited for personal purposes. There is a general feeling abroad that Kuomintang members only work for self-aggrandizement and do not care a fig about the interests of the people or the country. This accounts for the large measure of popular dissatisfaction with our Party.”

Reference must also be made here to Chiang’s recent conversion to Christianity. There had been no intimation of such a possibility and it took everybody completely by surprise. It should, however, [Page 53] be remembered that Chiang’s wife is a Christian and that she is the daughter of Mrs. K. T. Soong. The latter’s husband became a Christian many years ago and at one time was pastor of a Methodist church. Their children were brought up in the Christian faith, among them being T. V. Soong, the Minister of Finance, and T. L. Soong, Chairman of the Whangpoo Conservancy Board. It is interesting to note that General Chiang Kai-shek is the third son-in-law of old Mrs. Soong who has embraced Christianity, the others being the late Dr. Sun Yat-sen and Dr. H. H. Kung, the Minister of Commerce, Labor and Industry. He is also the third Chinese general to become a Christian, following in this respect in the footsteps of Feng Yu-hsiang, the Kuominchun leader, and Chiang Chih-chiang, the Chairman of the National Opium Suppression Commission. Chiang was baptized on October 23rd in his mother-in-law’s home at Shanghai by a Chinese pastor of the Southern Methodist Church. Dr. C. T. Wang, the Minister for Foreign Affairs, who is also a Christian, witnessed the ceremony. The strictest secrecy was observed and no mention of the event was permitted in the Chinese press. It is probable that the Generalissimo was actuated solely by personal motives and that no political significance need be attached to the step. But in view of the intense persecutions the missionaries are at present suffering in the interior at the hands of bandits, and the anti-religious educational policy of the Nanking Government, the conversion of the head of the State is not without its dramatic poignancy.

(b) Nanking and Mukden.

The elimination of Feng Yu-hsiang and Yen Hsi-shan as factors of immediate political consequence leaves the fate of China in the hands of virtually only two outstanding figures, viz. President Chiang Kai-shek in the South and Marshal Chang Hsueh-liang in the North. It is true that neither Feng, with his genius for campaigning and his uncanny faculty for making his soldiers follow him even without pay, nor Yen, the old feudalist whose political astuteness has enabled him to survive twenty years of storm and stress, have officially retired or resigned. But they no longer cooperate, and there are rumors that Yen is negotiating with Mukden while Feng may join the Nanking Government. It will be remembered (see page 3, above35) that Feng was included in the Generalissimo’s amnesty proposal, but Yen was not. Chiang Kai-shek has always been more bitter against Yen than Feng, besides being still a little afraid of the latter’s military talents. On the other hand, both Yen and Feng may decide to go abroad, and it is rumored that Chiang has offered Feng $3,000,000 (Mex.) if he would do so.

[Page 54]

The National Government knows, of course, that it cannot afford to quarrel with Mukden, for apart from the possibility of driving Yen and the Shansi faction into Chang Hsueh-liang’s arms, it seems extremely likely that the so-called “Grey Generals”, e. g., Shih Yu-san, etc. (see page 1516, Legation’s Despatch No. 521, October 12, 193036), would have to side with Mukden.

Mukden’s invasion of North China—which was discussed in the Legation’s report for September—may have been peaceful, but it may be doubted whether it was disinterested. The Young Marshal’s public statements as to his plans and aims have been too meagre and ambiguous to be very helpful, beyond indicating a desire on his part to assume a “correct” and benevolent attitude towards Nanking. There seem to be many powerful but invisible factors at work beneath the surface whose influence it is impossible to gauge.

Outwardly the relations between the Manchurian warlord and the Central Government are very friendly. On October 9th Chang Hsueh-liang took the oath of office as Vice Commander-in-Chief of the National Armies, a title which was formerly held by Marshal Yen Hsi-shan, and which had been conferred upon Chang last June, but had been ignored by him. He now pledged himself to support the National Government and to submit the names of his principal appointees to Nanking for approval, while the Generalissimo reciprocated by decorating a number of prominent Mukden officials and by appointing others to positions of authority under the Central Government. Military orders of importance are now signed by both Chiang Kai-shek and Chang Hsueh-liang.

In an effort to legalize this situation General Chiang sent the Young Marshal a telegram on October 21st, of which the following is a summary:

  • “1. In view of the long distance between Nanking and north China, the government entrusts the final settlement of all political, military and financial problems in Hopei, Honan, Shansi, Shensi, and Kansu provinces to the hands of the Mukden administration subject, of course, to the final approval of the central government.
  • 2. In view of the coming convocation of the joint Plenary Session of the members of the Central Executive Council and of the Supervisory Committee of the Kuomintang as well as the 4th Plenary Convention of the all-Kuomintang Party, Marshal Chang is requested to draw up concrete plans for the final dissolution of the Yen–Feng–Wang alliance and also the reorganization of the Kuominchun and the Shansi armies for consideration and approval.
  • 3. If possible, the Mukden leader should avail himself of the occasion to pay a visit to Nanking so that all national questions can be discussed and settled in person, or he should thoroughly discuss them with General Wu Tien-cheng who has, therefore, been ordered to remain at Mukden for some days after his return from Peiping.”

[Page 55]

It was not believed, even by well-informed people, that Chang Hsueh-liang would accept the invitation to go to Nanking, but that a meeting between him and the Generalissimo would take place at Weihaiwei or Tsingtao. When questioned by a newspaperman regarding such a possibility the Young Marshal admitted that he would meet Chiang “in the near future to discuss arrangements for putting the stabilization of China on a sound and peaceful basis. There is no foundation for the rumored friction between General Chiang and myself.”

Yet it would be idle to pretend that ample possibilities of friction do not exist. In the first place, it is well known that Chang Hsueh-liang dislikes the one-party system which was imposed upon the country by the Nationalists when the latter were under Soviet influence. He, therefore, favors a thorough reorganization of the Kuomintang, whose district councils (Tang-pu) he will not permit to interfere with the local administration. But there is a graver peril: Chang may sooner or later yield to the temptation of perpetuating his present military power north of the Yellow River by organizing a Northern Government of his own, and by creating an army strong enough not only to destroy all other military groupings in China, but to protect Manchuria against Russia and Japan. Incidentally, both Mukden and Nanking may be strongly influenced in their relations with each other by their respective attitudes towards Soviet Russia. Mukden may insist, for example, that Chiang instruct the Chinese delegation in Moscow more in accordance with the Young Marshal’s ideas on the subject of the Habarovsk Protocol and the Chinese Eastern Railway.

The future will depend largely upon the degree of cooperation between Nanking and Mukden. Together they could doubtless prevent further civil wars, provided the National Government does not insist too strongly upon asserting its authority in the North, and the Young Marshal is willing to support the Kuomintang without insisting upon too radical reforms. But—as has been aptly said by a recent observer—“sound reasons of State and a consideration of the future welfare of China count for little compared with the urgent need of ready money and the opportunity of obtaining it.”

(c) The Kuomintang and its Critics

When Marshals Yen Hsi-shan and Feng Yu-hsiang challenged the regime at Nanking to mortal combat last spring they did so with the avowed purpose of defending the principles of Sun Yat-sen and of rescuing the Kuomintang (“People’s Party”) from dominance by a clique headed by Chiang Kai-shek. However, they were careful to state that they were not revolting against the party itself but merely against the dictatorship of one man who had gained control of one [Page 56] section of the party. By this means they sought to preserve their own standing within the Kuomintang, and at the same time to gain the support of all those opposed to the Generalissimo on personal grounds.

The immediate object of the revolution, namely the elimination of Chiang Kai-shek, was not attained, but it would be misleading to assume that the victory of the government in Nanking brought about complete unity and harmony within the Party. On the contrary, there are today in the Kuomintang many dissentients who, because they lack the courage of Feng and Yen to fight in the open, are privately intriguing with the Opposition. Chiang, as we have seen (page 6, above37), admits many of the shortcomings of the government, but has doubtless felt that he had a right, if not a duty, to use the resources of the country for the purpose of strengthening his military position and of maintaining himself in power, and that until the rebellion was quelled all questions of reform or reconstruction must wait.

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

2. Military Events

The civil war of 1930 may be said to have ended with the occupation of Sianfu, the capital of Shensi, by government troops on October 27th, 1930, although there had been little fighting since the middle of the month. . . .

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

The greatest problem now confronting the Nanking government is the disbandment of all superfluous troops. Several divisions which have been withdrawn from the Honan front are being concentrated in the Wuhan (Hankow) area to be used for the suppression of banditry, (see page 19, below), and some of the former Kuominchun generals have been appointed “bandit suppression commissioners”. The danger is that if the troops are disbanded on too large a scale and are without provision for their absorption in peaceful occupations they may join the “communists”. After so many years of a demoralizing life—half soldier, half bandit—many of them have probably become unfitted for regular employment. They will have to be dispersed very gradually and cautiously, even though their presence causes great congestion and the occupation of much private property by the military.

3. “Communism” and Banditry

Although official reports usually minimize the dangers of the situation and constantly claim successes against the “Red” bands that prey upon the helpless population in many of the southern provinces, evidence [Page 57] before the Legation seems to indicate that the month under review saw an increase in the insecurity prevailing in these provinces. Their ascendancy in certain regions of the Yangtze Valley appears to be quite unchallenged, especially on the river between Kiukiang and Ichang, where passing ships are constantly being fired on, and lights and beacons have been removed in the hope of capturing ships that might run aground. It is officially announced that during the months of September and October there were no fewer than 107 instances of merchantmen being fired on above Hankow, and this does not include numerous encounters which the gunboats of various nationalities have had. Fortunately the fire from the banks is not very scientifically directed or the damage would be considerable.

Whole villages continue to be wiped out, the well-to-do inhabitants being carried off as hostages or killed, but since the sack of Changsha the bandits have shown a disinclination to attack the larger cities. They captured Kian, Ining, and Tungku in the early part of October, leaving a trail of fire and pillage. Kingtehcheng was also looted and burned and nearly all prominent inhabitants were murdered in cold blood.

Outrages on foreigners are also becoming more frequent, and not for many years have there been so many missionaries in captivity. The brutal murder of two British women missionaries, Miss Eleanor J. Harrison and Miss Edith Nettleton, who had been kidnapped in June, was followed on October 5th by the capture at Kwangshan of the Rev. Bert N. Nelson, an American missionary, who is still held. The government garrisons in southwestern Honan, especially those of Sinyang and Loshan, were instructed to effect Mr. Nelson’s release but apparently did nothing. Nelson is now reported to be held at Hwangan, in the province of Hupeh. Miss B. Evenson who was captured at the same time was released on October 23rd on the payment of $3000 (Mex).

This outrage was, in turn, followed on or about October 12th by the capture at Kian of a number of French and Italian priests and nuns, including a Bishop and a Filipino sister by the name of Ramos. The Catholic fathers were tied together, paraded through the streets, and beaten by the bandits. A fantastic ransom of $10,000,000 (Mex.) has been claimed by their captors.

Altogether 21 foreigners are being held to ransom in the Hankow consular district alone, and the Central authorities do not seem to be making any determined efforts to effect their release.

Most of the missionaries at Nanchang have been evacuated to Kiukiang, but the latter place too was in danger towards the end of October. The government forces in that area, mostly Hunanese of doubtful loyalty, have been instructed to hold Nanchang and the railway to Kiukiang.

[Page 58]

Some anxiety is also being felt for the safety of the missionaries at Kanchow, in Kiangsi, while both Nanchow and Hwayung, in Hunan, were occupied by bandits (October 22nd).

In Fukien conditions have been getting worse, especially in the northern and western districts, while along the coast pirates have been active. The National Government has stopped the monthly subsidy which it used to send to Foochow for bandit suppression.

Even in Manchuria bandits and communists have recently been more than usually active and have been cooperating with Hunghutze bands, while in northern Manchuria a considerable amount of Soviet propaganda was in evidence.

In an interview with a representative of Reuter’s on October 24th, the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Dr. C. T. Wang, stated that all the information at his disposal showed that the communists in Central China were seeking out and attacking foreigners, particularly missionaries, in a deliberate effort to embroil the National Government with the Foreign Powers. He said he had requested diplomatic representatives more than once to advise their nationals to leave the danger points, adding that he admired the courage, but not the wisdom, of the missionaries in remaining in places where very disturbed conditions rendered it impossible for them to carry on their labors. He added that the Red movement was well coordinated and equipped, necessitating a military campaign and the employment of large bodies of troops for its suppression.

The Government is said to have already prepared 12 divisions for a vigorous campaign against the outlaws: six have been moved into Hupeh, two into Anhwei, and four into Kiangsi. It is reported that they will tackle Kiangsi first, but it is to be hoped that they will preserve a little more secrecy than in the past regarding their plans, for the newspapers have been discussing freely the disposition and movements of the government forces, which are therefore also doubtless known to the communists and their agents.

  1. See p. 50, fourth paragraph.
  2. Ante, pp. 38, 45.
  3. Ante, p. 52.