033.1193 Currie, Lauchlin/9: Telegram

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

48. 1. I went to see General Chiang Kai Shek late yesterday afternoon at his request. He inquired whether I had any information regarding the mission of Mr. Currie43 whereupon I handed him the text of the announcement contained in the radio bulletin dated January 2344 and outlined to him the context of the Department’s telegram No. 17, January 23, 6 p.m.45 Subsequently he indicated that he was anxious to see Currie at the earliest possible moment and that he would send Hollington K. Tong to Hong Kong to accompany Currie to Chungking by aeroplane on the day following the latter’s arrival in Hong Kong.

Acceding to his request I said I would inform the American Consul General at Hong Kong of his desire that Currie proceed immediately to Chungking.

2. The General then referred to the International News Service despatch alluded to in my telegram No. 43, January 26, 11 a.m.45 and asked whether I had any information on the subject. I replied that I had heard of the receipt of the despatch in Chungking and was vaguely familiar with the contents but that I had no other information [Page 480] on the subject. He went on to say he had learned that in recent weeks certain New York newspapers had published news reports to the effect that China was suffering internal disruptions and that civil war was imminent. He explained that these reports were spread by Japanese domineered Communist elements for obvious reasons and pointed out that the latter are particularly adept at utilizing propaganda in which activity they are assisted by certain American journalists (in this connection see my despatch No. 758, January 23 which went forward by air mail on January 25). He was apprehensive, he said, that the American people and authorities might not be correctly apprised of the real situation in relation to the Chinese Communist question and asserted that according to a report from T. V. Soong48 the Secretary of Navy49 had inquired regarding it about 2 weeks ago. He therefore desired that I inform Washington of the actual facts of the situation. I replied that I had endeavored to keep the State Department fully informed of all pertinent developments governing the relationship of the Central Government to the Chinese Communists and that that very day I had sent a message conveying a summary of his remarks made at the memorial service on January 27 (my 46, January 29, 11 a.m.).

3. The Generalissimo then tersely declared that the recent action taken against the New Fourth Army (my telegrams numbers 23, January 16, 11 a.m.; 25, January 17, noon; despatch 751, January 1850) was purely a question relating to the enforcement of military discipline; that this action was absolutely essential; and that it was solely a military, not political, matter. He went on to say that the Chinese Communists are not an important or powerful group, explaining that whereas the Government has some 120 army corps, the Communists possess only 2 which are filled with troops that are not well trained or vitalized campaigners.

4. Continuing, Chiang asserted that Soviet Russia has not been giving the Chinese Communist armies any assistance whatsoever in the way of personnel, equipment or finances. However, he said, according to a statement made by General Yeh Ting, Commander of the New Fourth Army and now a prisoner, the Third International at Moscow has been “directing[”] the 18th group army (eighth route army) instead of New Fourth Army. These directions were, he continued, that the Chinese Communists should

Expand their influence and strength in the occupied areas,
Prolong Sino-Japanese hostilities and thus prevent peace as long as possible and
Delay the transfer of the New Fourth Army northward, keeping it in its present areas. For the foregoing reasons, he went on, the [Page 481] New Fourth Army wished to remain in the lower Yangtze areas and trade there. He added that orders from the Third International to the New Fourth Army were to the effect that while the Government’s orders were not to be complied with, nevertheless the Army was to see to it that the Government’s orders were not openly flouted.
Bearing in mind the Department’s No. 216, December 28, 6 p.m.,51 I seized the opportunity to emphasize to Chiang that I had been of the view all along that the Communist question would not lead to general internecine strife; that I had reported that view to my Government (in this relation see especially my telegram number 592, November 29, noon52) that Americans and their Government are very much interested in China and its ability to maintain an independent existence; that they deeply hope that China will continue to exist as an independent nation; and that however when they hear of internal difficulties and friction in China they are naturally concerned and hopeful that these difficulties will be surmounted. I added that I did not consider it necessarily harmful that these matters be publicized as they inevitably would be; that I regarded the Communist problem chiefly as an internal problem and that I felt that the Government and Communist authorities would find it mutually appropriate and desirable to bury their differences and work together for the welfare of the country. To this the General merely replied that these troubles often occur when an army is fighting a war and that from 1911 to 1927 there were many such struggles in China.

  1. Lauchlin Currie, Administrative Assistant to President Roosevelt. See also telegram No. 48, February 24, 1 p.m., p. 602, and subsequent correspondence.
  2. See press release by the White House on January 23, Department of State Bulletin, January 25, 1941, p. 110.
  3. Not printed.
  4. Not printed.
  5. Personal representative in the United States of Generalissimo Chiang.
  6. Frank Knox.
  7. Despatch not printed.
  8. Foreign Relations, 1940, vol. iv, p. 476.
  9. Ibid., p. 450.