Memorandum of Conversation, by the Adviser on Political Relations (Hornbeck)

I called on Dr. Soong at his home last evening, and there ensued between us a lengthy conversation.

Dr. Soong said that he had enjoyed his recent trip to London. He said that he had acquired for the first time confidence that the British could be relied on to fight with full vigor until victory over the Japanese has been gained; they have given him emphatic assurances and have explained to him their plans and intentions; he was sure that they had abandoned their erstwhile political affection for the Japanese.

In continuance Dr. Soong made a very interesting observation to the effect that discussion of policies and procedures with the British is very different from discussion of similar subjects with American officialdom. Americans, he said, begin with principles and discuss possibilities and courses in the light thereof, with a certain emotional accompaniment. The British, he said, are matter-of-fact, “realistic”, unemotional and they have constantly in mind the question of quid pro quo.

Dr. Soong said that he had had a conversation with the Secretary yesterday, earlier in the day, and that he wanted to inform me about something of which he had given the Secretary an account. He then gave me an account of the agreement which he had made with the Canadian Government for the supplying to China of 60,000 tons of military materials and of interference by certain American officials or officers—of which account I have made record in a separate memorandum.16

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I then said that, not having had a chat with Dr. Soong for some time, I had accumulated several topics regarding which I wished to speak to him.

I handed him a copy of a press report from a Russian source in which examination was made and emphasis was laid on an estimate that 38,000,000 Russians had had to leave their homes in consequence of the ravages of war on the German front. I also handed him a copy of an excerpt from a radio bulletin wherein attention had been called to the disparity in numbers between personnel of British Foreign Services and personnel of Chinese Foreign Services. Dr. Soong commented on this to the effect that the Chinese Diplomatic Service was terribly short-handed, especially in the lower brackets and the clerical fields, and he remarked that China must give attention to the training of adequate personnel.

I then said that there had been recently, as Dr. Soong probably had noticed, a great deal of “chatter” in some quarters about alleged tension between the Chinese National Government and the Chinese Communists. Dr. Soong remarked that he had observed this. I said that Dr. Soong would remember a conversation which he and Ambassador Hu Shih and Mr. Hamilton and I had had many months ago17 at a time when the press had been full of items on that subject. Dr. Soong said that he recalled that conversation. I said that the feeling of the Department of State about the whole matter was now what it had been then: that Dr. Soong would perhaps recall that Mr. Earl Browder18 had made some charges against the Department of State some months ago in relation to this subject, and that the Under Secretary had talked to Mr. Browder,19 had refuted those charges, had stated what was this Government’s attitude, and that Mr. Browder had thereupon made a retraction. Dr. Soong said that he remembered this also. I said that we had recently received information from Chungking that an official agent of another power had alleged to an American officer that the American and the British Governments were urgently pressing upon the Chinese Government a course of action regarding the Communists; and that I wanted to say that any allegation that the American Government was thus proceeding was false. I then gave Dr. Soong a copy of the statement which Mr. Welles had made to Mr. Browder; and I said that that statement was accurately expressive of the official opinion of the American Government; that so far as the Department of State is concerned we do not entertain apprehension of an armed clash in the near future between [Page 98] the Chinese National Government and the Chinese Communists; that we have never concealed expression of hope on our part that civil strife in China—as elsewhere—will be avoided, but we have scrupulously refrained from urging upon the Chinese Government any particular course of action in connection with or in regard to matters of Chinese international politics. Dr. Soong said that he was sure that he had for some time past accurately understood the official position of the American Government on these points. He said that some weeks ago a highly placed American military authority (whom he named) had informed him of receipt by that office of a report circumstantially stating that the Chinese National Government was planning to make an attack on the Chinese Communists on or about August 15, and that that officer, who is friendly to China, had expressed to him, Soong, solicitude and had emphasized the detriment that would accrue to the position and effort of the United Nations were a civil armed conflict to break out in China. Dr. Soong said that this officer had spoken in good faith and with good intent on the basis of misinformation given him from some source which must in turn have been misinformed. He, Soong, wondered whether these things originated from Russian sources. He, Soong, could assure me that the National Government has no present intention of forcing the issue with the Communists. He, Soong, felt no present uneasiness on this score. And, he, Soong, appreciated the State Department’s calm view and correct attitude regarding the subject.

I then said that there was another matter about which there had recently been, unfortunately, a good deal of unnecessary, not to say harmful, “chatter”: namely, a small flood of critical articles expatiating unfavorably on the subject of Chinese military performance and capacities. I mentioned several such articles and asked whether Dr. Soong had read them. In each case Dr. Soong replied in the affirmative. I then asked whether he had read Rodney Gilbert’s two articles of recent date in the New York Herald Tribune. Dr. Soong replied that he had, and that he was pleased with and especially interested in those articles because he remembered that some years ago Mr. Gilbert had written a book severely critical of China. There followed some discussion of the points of view of some of the writers under reference, the substance of some of the articles, and the sources and the motivation of various of the statements which they carried. In the course of this discussion, Dr. Soong mentioned Mr. Gilbert’s comments upon military observers and mentioned critically one American officer by name. I said that I had brought this subject up in order to suggest to Dr. Soong that, although this little flood of adverse criticism must be and is known to be distasteful to the Chinese, especially in official [Page 99] circles in Chungking, it ought not be taken too seriously; it must be remembered that a number of Chinese have said a lot of harshly critical things about the United States during recent years and especially since Pearl Harbor; that it must also be recalled that there has existed in Chungking a pretty severe censorship, in the presence of which, when news critical in character does leak out, there is a tendency for publicists to make the most of it; and that the thing that is really important is not what a few critics say but what is the opinion of those persons in official circles who have the responsibility of making decisions. I suggested that Dr. Soong suggest to his official associates that we must all try to see these things in perspective and on balance. I remarked that the Chinese censorship apparently tries to impose some worthwhile restrictions, for instance the prohibition upon export of Chinese criticism of allies; and I said that I wished our censorship might be as effective in a similar direction as it is in some perhaps less important fields. Dr. Soong appeared to be arriving at a revised concept of what should be the Chinese reaction to the type of criticism which was under discussion. I endeavored to clinch the point by referring to the traditional impression that the Chinese as a nation react cheerfully or with indifference to criticism which they believe to be unwarranted, in contrast to the hyper-sensitiveness of a near neighbor of theirs which has been terrifically sensitive to any and all types of criticism.

The conversation having reached this point, I said that there were other subjects which I still wanted to discuss but which were not of immediate or urgent concern, but the hour was growing late and that it might be well to “call this a day”. Dr. Soong said that there were also other matters about which he would like to talk and that we must get together again soon and continue therewith.


In the course of the conversation Dr. Soong made a number of observations indicative of gratification on his part over progress that is being made in supplying airplanes to China and over the improvement in the situation as regards China’s defense. He said that the airfields in Assam are rapidly being improved; that planes are now being supplied to the Chinese air force and General Chennault; that China’s defensive position is, thanks to these developments, now secure.

I took occasion to inform Dr. Soong of our views and effort in regard to the question of allocating five additional planes to CNAC;21 and I asked whether Dr. Soong would wish to offer any comment regarding the desirability of our persevering in or desisting from effort in that connection. Dr. Soong replied that he felt that CNAC had a [Page 100] real need for those planes; that acquisition of those planes by CNAC would be helpful from every point of view; that the Chinese greatly appreciate the service which CNAC has rendered and is rendering. He expressly mentioned their appreciation of Mr. Bond and of his spirit of cooperativeness. He said that “CNAC should by all means have these planes if it is at all possible”. I asked whether, in the event of the allocation being affected, there would be any assurance that Chinese authorities might not transfer these planes away from CNAC. Dr. Soong replied that he thought there need be no apprehension on that point; that the Chinese authorities wanted CNAC to have additional planes; and that if any trouble should by chance arise, he would be willing to intervene on CNAC’s behalf. He then expressed emphatically an appreciation of General Chennault, Chennault’s services, and the effective cooperation which prevails between Chennault and Chinese authorities.

S[tanley] K. H[ornbeck]
  1. Not printed.
  2. See memorandum of March 7, 1941, by the Chief of the Division of Far Eastern Affairs, Foreign Relations, 1941, vol. v, p. 610.
  3. General Secretary of the Communist Party in the United States.
  4. October 12, 1942; for correspondence, see Foreign Relations, 1942, China, pp. 244 ff.
  5. China National Aviation Corporation; for further correspondence on this subject, see pp. 661 ff.