793.94/12082: Telegram

The Ambassador in Frace (Bullitt) to the Secretary of State

63. Dr. Tingfu Tsiang [who] recently resigned as Chinese Ambassador in Moscow and will return to China next week via Singapore to become Secretary to the Cabinet called on me this morning and made a number of statements which seemed to me important.

He said that he was convinced that the Soviet Union would refuse to enter the Sino-Japanese conflict under any and all conditions. He believed that internal difficulties in the Soviet Union were such at the present time that the Russians would be afraid to attack the Japanese even if the Japanese Army should be greatly weakened by a prolonged Chinese resistance.

He said that Litvinov36 had stated to him repeatedly that the Soviet Union would declare war at once on Japan if England, France and the United States should declare war on Japan. He said that he did not [Page 20] believe that this was true and that in his final conversation with Litvinov he had pinned down Litvinov and compelled a reply. He stated that he had asked Litvinov if he meant the Soviet Union would enter war against Japan if any one of the three nations named above should go to war with Japan or only if all three together should go to war with Japan. Litvinov had become completely evasive and finally had made it clear that the Soviet Union had no intention whatsoever of going to war with Japan under any circumstances.

Dr. Tsiang stated that on the other hand the Soviet Union was being much more generous in its support of China by munitions and supplies than he had expected. Russia had at first demanded gold from China in payment for supplies, but when the Chinese had insisted that they were unable to pay gold the Russians had agreed to supply them with everything possible on credit. The only payments that the Russians were receiving from China were in the form of antimony and other minerals which the trucks carrying war supplies to China brought back with them on their return journey.

Dr. Tsiang stated to me that most of the Russian supplies to China were not going overland but by sea, especially by way of Hong Kong and Canton, although the French railroad from Indo-China was carrying to full capacity.

The overland route from Alma Ata in Russian Turkestan to Urumchi in Sinkiang and thence to Lanchow, Sian and Chungking was now a thoroughly passable motor road but it took the best trucks under the best conditions, with no delays or accidents, at least 18 days from the Russian border to Chungking. This made the problem of supplying gasoline almost insuperable and the Chinese had now organized camel caravans to carry supplies of gasoline for the trucks.

Dr. Tsiang stated that the whole problem of Chinese resistance was one of obtaining military supplies. He believed that the Soviet Union would continue to furnish all the supplies possible on credit. It was, however, clear that the Japanese might soon blockade the main route of supply by way of Hong Kong, Canton, and Hankow. They might also be able to frighten the French into closing the route of supply by way of French Indo-China. This would leave open only the extremely difficult overland route from Alma Ata to Chungking. It would be impossible to install even a field railway on this route and as a result it might become a matter of life and death for the Chinese to find some other route to supply Chiang Kai Shek’s armies if he should be compelled to repeat [retreat?] to Szechuan.

Dr. Tsiang stated that there was another excellent route which it might be possible to use: The route by way of Burma. The British railroad from Rangoon to Mandalay and thence to the border of Yunnan had been completed to within 2 miles of the Chinese frontier. [Page 21] The road from that point to Yunnanfu was an old one but could be put in order comparatively easy for the transit of modern trucks. Dr. Tsiang stated that he was on his way to London this evening to attempt to make arrangements for the supplying of Chiang Kai Shek’s armies by this route. He stated that the roads from Yunnanfu to Chungking were thoroughly passable. He considered that this route by way of Burma might become China’s life line and hoped that the British Government would do everything possible to assist in the supplying of China through Burma.

In the course of our conversation Dr. Tsiang said that China was still receiving large quantities of military supplies from Germany and Italy and added that the German military mission in China so far as the Chinese could discover was still working loyally and efficiently in assisting Chiang Kai Shek to direct the Chinese armies.

  1. Maxim Litvinov, Soviet Commissar for Foreign Affairs.