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

No. 384

Sir: I have the honor to transmit, as of possible interest to the Department, a condensed translation of an article,50 outspokenly critical of deficiencies of the Chinese war effort, which appeared in the Ta Kung Pao, Chungking, of April 13, 1942:

The gist of the article is as follows:

Although complete mass mobilization is essential in modern warfare and China has been at war for five years, her mobilization is still far from complete and is much behind that of other countries. The causes are the slackness of the Government and the lack of a sense of responsibility of the people.

The two most immediate problems are conscription of man-power and wealth: neither have been properly dealt with. Government monopolies of commodities do not tax the rich. Students and other influential classes have been exempted from military service. Conscription must be made universal.

It is rather surprising to find these ideas so strongly and openly advocated by a journal of the influence and general reputation for conservativeness of the Ta Kung Pao. It is almost exactly what the Communist Hsin Hua Jih Pao has been saying in a much milder way in order to circumvent the rigid censorship to which it is subjected. The Embassy believes, however, that these ideas are representative of a large body of Chinese opinion.

There has been in recent months a general criticism—usually, it is true, more implied than expressed—of the Government’s failure to take more positive measures to enforce its war time economic and conscription laws, and to impose a proportionate burden on the wealthy by checking speculation and hoarding and requiring subscription to government bonds.

Hoarding, for instance, is prohibited by law and is punishable by death. But a Chinese newspaper reader cannot but gain the impression that it is universally prevalent (which is true) and is chiefly responsible for present high price levels. Likewise, almost all papers have editorialized for compulsory purchase by the well-to-do of government bonds as a measure of financial support of the war and to reduce hoarding. This attitude has been reinforced by the recent announcement and subsequent disappointing public sale of savings certificates backed by the American loan.

Monopolies have not been openly criticized (they are a part of the sacrosanct theories of Sun Yat-sen) but the news of their inauguration [Page 509]has produced little enthusiasm except in the more official organs; and there have been numerous suggestions that close supervision will be necessary to avoid malpractice and corruption, while some of the privately owned papers have raised the question of the livelihood of the merchant whose business has been in goods now being monopolized.

The exemption of students from conscription has likewise not been openly criticized, probably because such exemption is a part of the “Reconstruction” which the Kuomintang and Chiang Kai-shek insist is a fundamental basis of national policy, not less important than “Resistance”. Some papers, such as the military organ Sao Tang Pao, have editorially complained that the conscription law is not being strictly enforced, that it is possible for sons of officials and well-to-do to avoid conscription, and that the exemption of students is a loophole for shirkers. The Ta Kung Pao, itself, has been the leader in questioning, in a rather cautious way, whether or not “reconstruction” should not, in view of the desperate situation of the country, be considered more realistically and subordinated to the present problem of “resistance”, or, winning the war.

Respectfully yours,

C. E. Gauss
  1. Not printed.