740.0011 Pacific War/3288: Telegram

The Secretary of State to the Chargé in China (Atcheson)

758. Following is substance of telegram dated June 4 received from Embassy, London,26 which is sent for your information:

A report which confirms substantially information received by the Department concerning economic deterioration in Free China has been received by the British Foreign Office from the British Embassy in Chungking. Considerable emphasis is placed in the British report on the critical food situation, especially as a result of the capture by the Japanese of rice districts in the Lake Tungting area. Although the information received by the British Foreign Office confirms the belief that the Chinese Government and intellectual leaders have no intention of seeking a settlement with Japan and feel certain that the United Nations will eventually be victorious, a high ranking British official has expressed himself as being fearful that conditions amounting to an undeclared truce, at least in the border districts, might result from a continuation of this economic distress with its consequent increase in smuggling between the occupied and free areas. The possible effect of the present “soft” policy followed by the Japanese toward the Nanking regime on Chinese claims that economic conditions in regions under puppet control are superior to conditions in territory under the control of Chungking is being given serious consideration by the British Foreign Office.

All aspects of the problem of opening a supply route through Sinkiang Province are being studied by the British who are still actively interested in the subject. The transportation monthly of 1,700 tons net of cargo over this route is the present goal. Although this is admitted to be a small amount of cargo the Foreign Office is of the opinion that the moral effect of the transportation of this cargo will be out of all proportion to its size. The plan is to use this route in the first place for industrial and civil supplies which are waiting shipment now in India and which will not be included in the additional supplies which it is planned to transport by air, those being confined to military supplies only. It is the opinion of the Foreign Office that the situation is so grave that no possibility of getting aid to China, regardless of how small such aid might be, should be overlooked.

Although it was agreed that it would be helpful to have Allied air support for an offensive by the Chinese it seemed to be the feeling of the Foreign Office official who was interviewed that the additional air support promised now was about as much as it is possible to expect at this time.

The Department shares the concern of the British Foreign Office and of the Embassy (reference your 803 of May 28, 4 p.m.27) over the seriousness of the general situation in Free China and is continuing, as are other interested agencies of this Government, to give the [Page 605] closest attention to ways of increasing present military and economic aid to China as a means of alleviating the grave situation there.

For the Embassy’s confidential information and guidance it may be added in this connection that the Department’s view with respect to the Sinkiang route under reference continues to be that of which the Chargé was while here aware: that interest in and support of this project by this Government rest on our estimate of the political and moral aspects rather than on any belief that the road has substantial economic or military potentialities. We are supplying trucks in response to Chinese, Russian and British solicitation, and for political effect. We do not oppose, but we also do not advocate, intensive devotion of effort and materials to this project.

  1. Telegram No. 3791, June 4, 11 a.m., not printed.
  2. Ante, p. 57.