893.00/14630: Telegram

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

25. My 23, January 16, 11 a.m.

1. Drumright16 went to see Hollington K. Tong17 this morning and inquired whether the latter could shed any light on the clash reported in my telegram under reference. Tong confirmed the occurrence of the clash, adding that on January 12, 7,000 Communist troops had been disarmed and the commander of the New Fourth Army, Yeh Ting, and other high ranking officers captured. He explained that the clash occurred as a result of the failure of the Communist unit in question to follow the prescribed route in crossing the Yangtze; the Chief of Staff of the Communist unit had admitted that this rear unit was attempting to move into Kiangsu south of the Yangtze rather than cross the river as the preceding units had done; and that having failed to comply with the prearranged plan of march this unit of the New Fourth Army was attacked by Government troops which had received no instructions to permit it to proceed by the route it was following.

2. Tong went on to explain that relations between the Government and the Communists had now reached a “showdown”. During the first period of the war, he said, the Communists had cooperated very well; during the second period they had cooperated to a slight extent; and during the third period scarcely at all. The Government, he said, viewed this development with increasing disquietude: The Government could not longer look on while Communist commanders violated orders and sabotaged the efforts of a unified command; the Government could no longer tolerate the Communists’ inactivity against the Japanese while increasing their army to a self-admitted total of 500,000 men and expanding their areas of control even to the point [Page 464] where they were threatening to sever the National Government’s communications with the sea through the Yangtze area so long as the situation remained as at present. He went on to say the Government could not proceed with plans for the counterattack against the Japanese; the Communists had a powerful army, their actions gave rise to great anxiety and they could not be depended upon as repeatedly shown to obey military orders: In recent months an opportunity to annihilate 4 Japanese divisions in Shansi had miscarried because of Communist failure to heed commands and 25 of Chungking’s best divisions are now and have been watching the Communists rather than engaging in the struggle against Japan. Tong went on to recount that the Central authorities headed by General Chiang had now come to the conclusion that they must abandon the past policy of compromise—which merely enabled the Communists to grow more powerful and to pay increasing disregard to the commands of Chungking—and that they must demonstrate to the Communist commanders once for all that the latter must come to realize the necessity of following the instructions of the Central High Command. The Government while willing to tolerate opposition political parties could not tolerate the existence of such a party with an independent army; the Chinese Army must be unified. Therefore, Tong continued, when the Government ordered the Communist forces from Central to North China they expected the instructions to meet with its compliance; when the Central authorities stipulated that the Communist forces should comprise a certain strength they expected them to act accordingly.

Unfortunately the Communists had not indicated a disposition to comply; on the contrary they were gradually adopting a more independent attitude. The Government have always found it necessary to adopt a policy of firmness for want of a suitable substitute, a policy which would reveal the determination of the High Command to require the implicit obedience of all subordinate armies, including the Communists. The foregoing, Tong declared, constituted a resume of circumstances leading to the present impasse.

3. When asked whether the recent action in Anhwei might not lead to a further opening of the schism and possibly to general strife and a collapse of resistance against Japan, Tong replied that he did not think so. He expounded the view that the Generalissimo is fully competent to handle an admittedly grave situation; that the firm and judicious use of pressure will amply reveal to the Communists the determination of the authorities in Chungking to require their obedience and compliance with instructions. He thought that following a show of firmness and force the Communists would see the desirability of moving all their forces north of the Yellow River where they would be given a relatively free opportunity of exercising their talents [Page 465] against the Japanese. As regards the attitude of Soviet Russia, he said that the Russians had at no time indicated a desire to intervene on behalf of the Chinese Communists; it was his opinion that the Soviets are at this time more interested in our Chinese resistance to Japan than in aiding the Chinese Communists.

4. Yesterday when the Soviet Ambassador18 brought his new Military Attaché (a Lieutenant General who is reported to have commanded 12 divisions in the Finnish campaign) to call, he seized the opportunity to sound me out on the Chinese Communist question. I gathered from the tone of his remarks that he is concerned over and deplores the continuing friction between Chungking and the Chinese Communists, that he does not, however, regard internal strife as an immediate outcome, and that the Soviet Union is not prepared to intervene in any way.

  1. Everett F. Drumright, Second Secretary of Embassy in China, at Chungking.
  2. Chinese Vice Minister of Information.
  3. Alexander S. Panyushkin.