Memorandum by the Counselor of Embassy in China (Vincent) to the Ambassador in China (Gauss)30

Yesterday afternoon I talked with Dr. Tsiang Ting-fu, Chief of the Political Affairs Department of the Executive Yuan and former Chinese Ambassador to Russia, at some length. In reply to my inquiry concerning American technical experts for China, he said that the Executive Yuan was proceeding on a basis of requesting only men who could fill an immediate and urgent need in China and that a list of some ten or eleven experts would be submitted soon.31 I inquired concerning negotiations with the Russians for exchange of materials over the northwest motor truck route. He confirmed the report that agreement had been reached in principle for transportation each way of about 3,000 tons monthly made up of strategic materials for Russia and lend-lease supplies and gasoline for China.32 Thereafter the discussion became general.

Dr. Tsiang does not view the present Japanese campaigns in Chekiang, Yunnan, Kiangsi and the north as a concerted offensive to overthrow the Chungking Government and end Chinese resistance. He added that they would fail if that were their objective. He said however that the campaigns, particularly those in Chekiang and Kiangsi, must be viewed as a serious threat to China and the effectiveness of Chinese resistance. Loss of the Chekiang airfields, of access to the eastern seaboard and to the southeastern area generally would obviously have adverse effects upon the military situation in China but of course would not affect the policy of resistance. He did not subscribe to the thesis of George Fielding Eliot33 that the Japanese were attempting to clear the way for an overland rail route from Manchuria through China to Indochina as an alternative or a supplement to the shipping route along the China coast. He said that such a rail route (single track) could not transport very much and would be readily vulnerable to interruption by guerilla attack. He agreed that, when sea transport between Japan and Indochina was menaced to the point that resort to rail transport through China was necessary, the “beginning of the end” would be clearly in sight and rail transport would do little to retard developments.

Dr. Tsiang referred to conversations with the Russian Ambassador34 in regard to material aid to China (he did not indicate whether [Page 69] he himself had participated in the conversations but it was clear that he was quite familiar with them). The Russian Ambassador apparently raised some question as to the relative needs of Russia and China for aid and had implied that Dr. Tsiang’s plea some weeks ago at a press conference for increased aid to China had been calculated to divert essential aid from Russia. (I am inclined to believe that the discussions were primarily concerned with the question of transit of lend-lease supplies through Russian Turkestan and over the northwest route to China and that the observations mentioned by Dr. Tsiang were incidental to those discussions.35) Dr. Tsiang said that it was pointed out to the Russians that, when war in Siberia between Russia and Japan commenced, it would be very much to Russia’s interest to have a strong Chinese army capable of lending assistance to the Russians by attacks upon the Japanese in north and northeast China; that there would then be one fight and one land front in east Asia; and that the Chinese flank of that front could only operate effectively if supplied with war materials. Dr. Tsiang said that the Russian Ambassador admitted the correctness of this argument. (I know that the Russians are very critical of China for its alleged failure to use war materials sent from Russia during past years, most of those materials having been given to General Hu Tsung-man’s troops whose primary task has been the quarantining of the Chinese communist armies in northern Shensi, and doubt that the Ambassador was impressed by the argument, although agreement to cooperate in the transportation of materials over the northwest route would seem to indicate concurrence.)

I asked Dr. Tsiang whether any question with regard to supplies for the Chinese communist troops had come up during the discussions of exchange of materials through Sinkiang and whether the communist troops would be used in the event of Russo-Japanese hostilities. In answer to the first question, he said he did not think so, and he did not know the answer to the second question. Dr. Tsiang inferred that it was sometimes difficult to arrange for cooperation with the Russians and mentioned a Chinese proposal to establish a Chinese radio broadcast station in Blagoveshchensk to spread propaganda among the Chinese in Manchuria which had been turned down by the Russians.

Dr. Tsiang said that it began to look like Siberia would be the next field for major Japanese operations with concurrent operations in China closely related thereto. He felt that there was greater likelihood that the Japanese would attack in Siberia in the event of German reverses in Russia than in the event of Russian reverses. He thought that the Japanese were conscious of the futility of their fight in the [Page 70] east if Russia defeated Germany. I said I thought the Japanese would attack in either event and that preparations were now being made, in China and elsewhere, against the arrival of an opportune time for such an attack.

In reply to my query regarding developments with respect to Korea,37 Dr. Tsiang expressed fear that Korea was destined again to become a pawn in international power politics. He did not pursue the subject but I inferred that he had in mind Russian ambitions in that area. He went on to say that China would emerge from the war the strongest Far Eastern power; that there would be a strong urge for the Chinesse Government to play power politics in this area; but that it would be a mistake to succumb to that temptation because it would divert strength and attention from China’s real problem which was internal reform and reconstruction. He said that the strengthening of the internal structure of the country should be the Chinese Government’s principal post war occupation for many years to come. He said that post war relations with the United States presented no real problem; that there was a sound basis for exchange of commodities; and that a sound and liberal tariff policy would promote such trade. He remarked, however, that sound tariff policies were only a part of the needed program for adjustment of post war economic relations. The economic strength and weakness and the potentialities of each nation must be taken into consideration and a positive program worked out to meet the needs. In this connection he mentioned Japan as a post war problem and said that a wise policy should be followed in regard to its treatment after the war. He also mentioned Indochina, saying that some solution would be necessary in regard to that area. He referred particularly, as an illustration, to the matter of control of the Yunnan-Indochina railway.

With regard to China’s internal problems, Dr. Tsiang deplored the tendency toward government monopolization in China’s economic life. He said that he did not consider the policy sound and conducive to healthy internal development. He gave the salt monopoly as an illustration of what he considered an unsound venture.

In conclusion, Dr. Tsiang repeated his assertion that internal development should be the Chinese Government’s chief post war job and added that, in the foreign field, adjustment of relations with Russia would be essential.

John Carter Vincent
  1. Copy transmitted to the Department by the Ambassador in China in his covering despatch No. 448, June 9; received July 3.
  2. See pp. 697 ff.
  3. See pp. 632 ff.
  4. American writer and radio commentator.
  5. Alexander Semenovich Panyushkin.
  6. See pp. 591 ff.
  7. See bracketed note, p. 762.