793.94/11367: Telegram

The Consul General at Hong Kong (Southard) to the Secretary of State

Following telegram sent at the request of the Ambassador at Hankow:

“6. November 29, 2 p.m.

From information gathered from Chinese sources since my arrival at Hankow it would appear that the Chinese Government is preparing for a contest of endurance with Japan and it is believed in Chinese circles that at a suitable juncture the Soviet Government will assist China in a more positive way than by supplying aircraft as at present. Only key officers numbering less than one-fifth of the entire number have been retained in Government departments and the rest [Page 734] dismissed with 2 months pay. Of the Legislative Yuan for example there remain only the President, Sun Fo, Vice President and the heads of five departments. It is reported that Sun Fo and two department heads are now en route by plane via Europe to Moscow. T. V. Soong is reported as having left Shanghai by a British naval vessel for Hong Kong whence he will join the Government.
A Chinese news correspondent believed to be well informed and reliable confirms the earlier forecast that the Government will be located at Hengyang in Hunan and the Foreign Office at Chungking. It is hoped that foreign diplomatic representation will be established at Chungking encouraged by the presence there of suitable foreign buildings and by relative immunity from bombing as compared with Hengyang. Informant states that General is now at Nanking but will proceed to Hengyang when the Japanese capture Kwangteh on their anticipated march on Wuhu to encircle Nanking.
Same informant stated that the Soviet Government would defer active assistance to China until the Japanese capture Hankow which the Chinese think will occur after 3 months but the Russians predict in 2. Reason for selection of this juncture is said to be the Russian belief that by awaiting this event they will be able to force a change in the form of the Chinese Government and that the Chinese can then cooperate more effectively by cutting a long Japanese line of communication. Moreover, the delay until a critical point is reached will enable the Soviet Government to arouse popular opinion in favor of a war of assistance to China.
Informant stated that during a confidential conference in Nanking recently Chen Li Fu who lately returned from a hurried trip to Moscow asked General Chiang who would replace the latter as the leader of China if Chiang should be forced to retire and that Chiang answered that his successor would have to be a military man and would be either Pai Chung Hsi, the Kuangsi leader, or Mao Tse Tung, the foremost Chinese Communist. Informant thought that Chiang himself would be willing to change the form of government somewhat to meet Soviet desires if necessary in order to enlist active Russian support against Japan. This confirms the opinion I have for some time shared that the Japanese war against Communism is likely to drive China at least toward an alliance with the Soviet Union if not into the Third International”.

Sent to the Department. Repeated to Tokyo. By mail to Peiping.