740.0011 Pacific War/2665

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

No. 486

Sir: I have the honor to refer to the Department’s telegram no. 527 of June 18, 7[6] p.m. and my telegram no. 743 of June 23, 5 p.m.,42 and to transmit as being of possible interest to the Department the following material43 which is typical of Chinese interpretation of and reaction to Japanese victories in the recent Chekiang-Kiangsi campaign:

A summary translation of an editorial in the Sao Tang Pao–Chung Tang Pao of June 20; and

Excerpts from a statement by General Liu Fei of the Chinese General Staff to the United Nations Joint Military Council at Chungking on June 9, 1942.

The editorial minimizes the importance of the Japanese campaign, claiming that it is to save “face” lost by the bombing of Tokyo and to cover up Japan’s inability to undertake offensives against Australia, India, the United States or Russia. It maintains that the initiative throughout the campaign has been in Chinese hands, and reiterates the familiar theme that the further Japan advances into China, the quicker and surer its defeat. The Sao Tang Pao-Chung Yang Pao, a recent consolidation of the Army’s Sao Tang Pao and the Kuommtang’s Chung Yang Jih Pao (Central Daily News) is the official party news organ in Chungking, and this explanation of Japanese advances as deliberate Chinese withdrawals is the official propaganda line which is constantly held before the Chinese people and the only one permitted to appear in print.

The same interpretation of military events in China has been well propagandized abroad by China’s spokesmen, especially Madame Chiang Kai-shek, as the Generalissimo’s “magnetic strategy”. It is so described, for instance, in Madame Chiang’s address of June 14, 1942, to the alumnae of Wellesley College.

The excerpts from the statement by General Liu, Deputy Chief of the Board of Military Operations of the Military Affairs Commission, are interesting, not only because they show a following of this line even in confidential consultations with allied military representatives in Chungking, but also because they reveal something of the apparently fundamental defensive bias of Chinese military psychology. The Department may be interested in referring to the full statement [Page 87] which is an enclosure to the Military Attaché’s report no. 72 (confidential) dated June 22, 1942, to the Chief of Military Intelligence.44

The General says, in effect: that the initiative remained in Chinese hands because they withdrew according to plan; that if the Japanese continue to advance, they will not be resisted; that Chinese refusal to give decisive battle will keep Japanese forces in the area; that good Chinese troops were not used because it was known that the Japanese were strong; and that strategically the Japanese have not won a victory because they have not been able to meet with (catch) the main Chinese force. Worthy of note are the implied admissions that fighting has not been serious (despite the extravagant Chinese communiqués which have been released daily and published and commented on abroad).

Five years of withdrawals cannot but have an effect on Chinese psychology. The man in the street is inclined to be a little skeptical of military communiqués: experience has taught him how to evaluate them and to recognize signs of another retreat. This partially accounts for panics such as occurred in Kunming when Japanese troops began their drive into the province of Yunnan: the average Chinese does not expect the Army to hold a line against a Japanese drive. At the same time, he has had dinned into his ears for five years this “magnetic strategy”; and experience has likewise taught him that these successive Japanese victories (or Chinese withdrawals) do not have particularly disastrous effects nor cause the end of resistance and collapse of the country. Even Chinese victories such as those at Changsha are explained in terms of magnetic tactics: the enemy is encouraged to over-extend himself, then his weakened lines of communication are attacked and his retreat threatened, forcing him to withdraw. The whole theory appeals to the Chinese, whose traditional idea of warfare, derived from fictionalized history in stories such as those of “The Three Kingdoms”, is one of cunning, maneuver and strategy, rather than the frontal clash of heavy forces.

In summary, the reaction of the average Chinese to military reverses is complacence. It might be paraphrased as follows: “One can’t believe all the communiqué—after all, the general must save his face. But it does seem reasonable that if the Japanese advance too far, they will get themselves into difficulties. Meanwhile the country will continue to be able to ‘take it’. And help from America and other countries is going to beat Japan.”

Respectfully yours,

C. E. Gauss
  1. Latter not printed.
  2. Enclosures not printed.
  3. Not found in Department files.