The Consul General at Shanghai (Lockhart) to the Secretary of State 24

No. 208

Sir: [Here follows report on “the outbreak of a conflict between the (Communist) ‘New Fourth Army’ and the Kuomintang forces in the Lower-Yangtze region”.]

Admittedly the present conflict between the Right and Left wings of the united front is indicative of the basic ideological cleavage which continued to exist between the Kuomintang and Communist groups even after the Sian agreement of December 1936 brought about a truce between their respective armed forces. It will be noted in the second news item that Mr. Chou En-lai, the Chinese Communist Party representative in Chungking, is quoted as deploring the clash and as indicating that the Communists are still desirous of resisting the Japanese jointly with the National Government. The problem of mutual adjustment does not appear as serious as it was, for instance, at Canton in 1925, when the intervention of General Chiang Kai-shek and the Russian representative, Mr. Borodin, sufficed to compose the difficulties between the same two ambitious political groups, with the result that the national movement was subsequently able to make its drive to the north against the warlords and to achieve victory. On the face of things, and especially in view of the continuation of the Sino-Japanese hostilities, there would seem to be no obvious reason why the present conflict should not be resolved by compromise and the united front maintained against the common enemy as has been the case when similar disagreements have occurred in the past.

The failure of the Kuomintang authorities fully to act upon the original Communist suggestion that the Chinese people be organized in popular bodies for the “national war of resistance” is a matter of common knowledge. It is also well known that the Chinese Communist Party, in the areas allotted to it as bases for action against the Japanese Army, has been active in propaganda and organizational work of the sort which the more conservative elements of the Kuomintang view as a danger to their power. As regards the activities of the Fourth Army, in particular, it is asserted that the establishment of popular organizations of the poorer classes in the area occupied by those forces was considered to constitute a growing menace to the Kuomintang authority. The increasing gravity of the question of food supply in non-occupied China, and the increasing financial difficulties [Page 469] of the National Government, are such that the processes of social revolution would be naturally fostered. Banditry is reported to be increasing in the interior, and there seems as well to have been both corruption and disorder in some of the areas controlled by the New Fourth Army. Presumably, with the experience of 1924–7 in their mind’s eye, the Kuomintang strategists are desirous of early nipping in the bud any growth of radicalism among the masses of China. It is just that circumstance, however, which makes the present conflict more significant than previous disagreements—especially in view of the current trend in international developments.25

Respectfully yours,

Frank P. Lockhart
  1. Drafted by the Consul at Shanghai (Clubb).
  2. In a further despatch on the same subject (No. 229, February 6; received March 4), Mr. Clubb concluded that the result of the conflict “has hardly been either a strengthening of the home front or an improvement of China’s international bargaining position.” (893.00/14664)