740.0011 European War 1939/29449

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

No. 1113

Sir: I have the honor to enclose for the information of the Department a copy of a memorandum of conversation which I had several days ago with Dr. Wang Shih-chieh, Secretary General of the State Planning Board (Generalissimo Chiang Kai-shek is Director) and Secretary General of the People’s Political Council. Although Dr. Wang, under fire from the Central Executive Committee of the Kuomintang at its last meeting in November (the only criticism which the Embassy heard was that he was accused of being pro-British), has resigned as Minister of Information, he still holds a position of influence and is understood to meet with the Generalissimo at frequent intervals for discussion of China’s problems. It is believed that the Department will find interesting his comments and point of view on Chinese and world situations and problems. The interest which he evinced in certain matters is worthy of note. He himself raised such questions as the coordination of American Government activities in Chungking, the British and American monetary stabilization [Page 847] plans, American participation in a regional European post-war organization, and possible alteration of Casablanca Conference15 global strategy.

Respectfully yours,

John Carter Vincent

Memorandum of Conversation, by the Chargé in China (Vincent)

Yesterday I had tea with Dr. Wang Shih-Chieh, at his invitation, and a two-hour discussion regarding various subjects introduced by Dr. Wang. Dr. Kuo Pin-chia, close friend of Dr. Wang, was present throughout most of the conversation.

Dr. Wang said that he would like to have clarified in his mind the relation between the Embassy and the various other official American organizations represented in Chungking. He mentioned specifically the American Information Service, the Board of Economic Warfare, and the American Army. I told him that the AIS represented the Office of War Information in Washington which was an organization separate from the State Department but that the director of AIS (Mr. Fisher, and in his absence Mr. Stewart) operated under the general supervision of the Embassy and in close cooperation therewith. The same situation, I said, obtained with regard to representatives in China of the Board of Economic Warfare. I described in general terms the personnel, setup, and work of each. With regard to the Army, I told Dr. Wang that General Stilwell’s Command in this area was completely independent of the Embassy but that there were, as occasion therefor arose, exchanges of view between the one and the other on matters of mutual interest or in regard to matters in which the one or the other desired specific information or assistance. In reply to his inquiry I told him that there was no provision for regular conferences between the Army Command and the Embassy. Dr. Wang did not indicate the reason for his inquiry (I think it was simply curiosity) and I did not pursue the subject.

Knowing that Dr. Chien Tuan-sheng was a friend of Dr. Wang, I mentioned two articles which I had read recently by Dr. Chien on China’s post-war peace problems (Embassy’s despatch no. 1062 of April 7, 1943 and despatch no. 1078, April 14, 194315a). Dr. Wang said that he was familiar with Dr. Chien’s ideas on the subject but had not read the articles. I mentioned Dr. Chien’s discussion of “welfare economy” for China as distinguished from “defense economy”. I [Page 848] referred to comments made to me recently by Dr. Tseng Yang-fu, Minister of Communications, who had said that it was impossible in China to make such a distinction with regard to the future economic problems of China and that anyone who attempted to do so was talking hypothetical nonsense; that post-war development of industry and mining, of communications, and of trade, would be for the welfare and defense of the Chinese people. I had pointed out to Dr. Tseng that this might be true with a very large proportion of post-war economic development but that there would be an important minor proportion where a cleavage between the two objectives might exist. The question would arise, for instance, in connection with the steel industry which he had proposed developing; that is, whether the steel was to be used in machinery to produce consumers goods or for armament. It might also arise in connection with a choice of routes over which to build his proposed railways. Dr. Wang commented that the distinction made by Dr. Chien between the objectives of postwar economic development was certainly one which was very much in the minds of Chinese leaders at this time. He did not feel that Dr. Chien’s discussion was irrelevant to China’s post-war economic problems but he did not give any indication of his own views. (I surmise that he inclines toward Dr. Chien’s viewpoint.) The discussion was concluded with my remark that China might find that economic development which contributed effectively toward raising the standard of living of the Chinese people might in the long run prove a better defense for China than a modern military organization on an extensive scale which the Chinese people could ill afford.

Dr. Wang asked me about the post-war monetary plans and ideas that had recently been given prominence in the press. He had heard that America was making a strong bid for Russian adherence to the American monetary stabilization plan. He subsequently expanded this statement by saying that Britain was also making a bid for Russian support of the British plan. I told Dr. Wang that I had no official information on the subject. He said that he understood the British envisaged discussions only between Great Britain and America in the initial stages, whereas the Americans seemed to have left the matter open with a view to general discussion among all interested nations. I told him that I knew nothing of the British ideas for consideration of their scheme (I understand that the British scheme has been submitted to the Chinese Government for its consideration) but that I thought we were prepared to discuss our scheme with interested nations; that these discussions would be more or less along the line of an informal exchange of views; and that the participants would probably be our own Treasury officials and the financial experts of various interested countries some of whom were already in the United States. [Page 849] Dr. Wang said that he did not feel there was any fundamental difference in the American and British objectives which would prevent an agreement with regard to a stabilization plan. He expressed preference for the British emphasis on trade rather than gold as the basis for a stabilization fund, and he thought that the Russians might also find the British scheme preferable. With regard to the Russians, he said that any scheme which envisaged that the Russians might be willing to abandon or modify their managed socialist economy, particularly with regard to foreign trade, would be unrealistic. He suspected that the Americans were inclined to be naively sanguine in this regard. He said that probably many countries would have government-controlled foreign trade after the war. Such would be the case with China, he felt sure. I told him that from what I had heard and read I thought that our Treasury officials and others had a fairly clear, as well as sympathetic, understanding of the Russian post-war economic position. Dr. Wang said that he had seen the British scheme and asked me whether I had a copy of the American scheme. I told him I did not but would endeavor to get one from Mr. Adler, our Treasury Department representative on the Chinese Stabilization Board.

[Here follow four paragraphs of comment regarding post-war Europe.]

Dr. Wang next spoke of global strategy in the war and asked whether I thought that, if an offensive in Western Europe failed to come off this year or was inconclusive by next autumn, a revised strategy might not be decided upon to take the place of the strategy which he assumed was adopted at the Casablanca Conference. He had in mind obviously the question whether or not greater attention might be given to the Pacific theater of the war. I remarked that, as he clearly understood, I was not competent to comment on military strategy and that I did not have any “inside” information. He asked for my personal view. I said that my own view was that an offensive in Western Europe would take place this year and that it would be sufficiently conclusive to indicate clearly that the end of the war was approaching in Europe if in fact it did not actually bring about the defeat of Germany. I went on to say, however, that there seemed to me to be some confusion in Chinese thinking regarding the American, and the British, attitude toward the two principal theaters of the war—Europe and the Pacific. America and Britain were in complete agreement regarding prosecution of the war, but the roles they had to play were not identical. Great Britain must of necessity devote its principal if not its entire attention to the European theater. Transference of any considerable British strength from Europe to the Far East would be unsound. Therefore when Churchill spoke of [Page 850] giving prior attention to the battle in Europe he was not simply expressing a preference but was stating a necessity. With America the situation was not exactly the same. We were aiding in Europe and would continue to do so in increasing degree but this did not mean we were neglecting the Pacific area. To commence a real offensive in the Pacific additional naval strength was a necessity. Air strength was a vital adjunct to a navy but it could not operate successfully without a navy in the type of warfare which must be conducted in the Pacific. It was my thought therefore that from the American point of view an offensive in the Pacific was not contingent, as in the case of the British, upon victory in Europe but upon the progress made in our construction program of naval and merchant vessels. From what I had heard, progress of this program was very encouraging and would, I thought, warrant greatly increased activity in the Pacific area, if not an all-out offensive, before the end of this year. I again pointed out that, while success in Europe obviously would be an aid to our offensive in the Pacific theater, that offensive was not actually being made contingent upon success in Europe. Referring back then to Dr. Wang’s question, I said that, whereas developments might call for alterations in tactics, American strategy with regard to the Pacific area was already decided upon and would be pursued irrespective of the question which he had raised regarding developments in the European theater.

Dr. Wang and Dr. Kuo expressed appreciation of this viewpoint. Dr. Kuo made the startling statement, for a Chinese, that he believed the American offensive would be carried out in so far as possible directly against Japan and that offensives in Burma and China would be of secondary importance.

The conversation closed. Dr. Wang said that we should have another meeting very soon at which time we could discuss problems more directly concerned with the situation in China and in relation to China.

  1. The records of the Casablanca Conference are scheduled for publication in a subsequent volume of Foreign Relations.
  2. Neither printed.