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

No. 2030

Sir: Referring to my despatch no. 1979 of December 31, 1943,13 in regard to Kuomintang–Communist relations, I have the honor to enclose14 (a) copy of despatch no. 96 of December 27, 1943, and (b) copy of despatch no. 7 of January 8, 1944, from the Secretary on detail at Sian15 reporting recent developments in Kuomintang–Communist relations.

Summary: The secret police on or about December 20 carried out in the Sian area a sweeping round-up of Communist suspects, some of whom were released after preliminary examination, the number still held in custody being estimated at about 500. The Chinese Communists are also said to have instituted a similar round-up of about 200 persons in the southwest Border Area whom they suspect of being Government spies.

The Central Government blockade of the Communist areas is more rigid than before with increased concentrations of Chungking troops along the western flank of the Border Area, the building of fortifications in the Pingliang-Sifengchen (east Kansu), the Pinhsien–Fengsiang (west Shensi) and Sian areas, the construction of a strategic highway from Paochi to Pingliang and a complete ban on the movement of goods into the Border Area. The Communists in turn are said to have increased their forces in Shensi (Mr. Drumright stated in a telegram dated December 24 that Central Government military sources report the transfer by the Communists of one entire division and part of another division from Shantung and Hopei to north Shensi and the appointment of General Ho Lung as commander of the Communist forces in the Shensi Border Area). Clashes between Central Government and Communist forces are reported to have occurred in November and December in the Sanyuan (west Shensi) and Yulin (north Shensi) areas, allegedly precipitated by the Communists. A Wang Ching-wei16 agent is said to make regular trips to Yenan and the Communists are reported to maintain a representative at Nanking. Sian sources state that a large number of disillusioned Communists are leaving Yenan and that Mao Tse-tung17 will not permit General Chou En-lai, formerly Communist representative at Chungking, to leave that city. Kuomintang–Communist relations appear to have deteriorated to a very serious degree, but Mr. Drumright feels that Central Government preparations are essentially defensive in character and that Chungking is not prepared to launch large-scale military operations against the Communists at the present time. [Page 306] Chungking officials profess to fear a Communist attempt to extend the areas of their control. End of Summary.

The Embassy is of the opinion that, while the intensification of the Central Government blockade of the Communist areas and the increase of the Communist forces in that area point to a deterioration in the relations between the two parties, the whole question of Kuomintang–Communist relations is now bound up in the broader issues which confront the Central Government at the present time. The Kuomintang apparently is now no longer confronted with the single problem of the solution of the Chinese Communist question. It has heretofore faced the possibility of active opposition from the Szediuan militarists, whose uncertain attitude was said to have played a part in the decision of the Central Executive Committee at its 11th Plenary Session in September 1943 to take no decisive action against the Communists at that time (Embassy’s despatch no. 1675, October 14, 1943.19) Since that date there has come to the Embassy’s attention the alleged efforts of Marshal Li Chi-shen, former head of the Kweilin branch office of the National Military Affairs Commission, to bring about an understanding among certain military leaders in southeast China for concerted action in the event of a crisis or the collapse of Central Government authority (Embassy’s despatches no. 1829, November 18; no. 1862, November 27; and no. 1943, December 2220). More recently there has come to light the reported organization of a group of young Central Government army officers whose aims were said to be the elimination of corruption and inefficiency in higher places in the Government, in both civil and military fields (Embassy’s telegram no. 34, January 6, 4 p.m.). While this movement reportedly was made known to the Generalissimo some two months ago, its existence and its widespread ramifications, allegedly affecting as it did some five or six hundred officers (from divisional commanders to low ranking officers) and reaching close to the Generalissimo’s own headquarters, indicate that the Kuomintang might have to reckon with dis affection within its own camp if it should take military action against the Communists, action which would be certain to result in civil war.

These circumstances overlook the added difficulties which would confront the Kuomintang should it launch an attack on the Border Area. According to informed and reliable Chinese sources, there has been a certain amount of fraternizing between the Communist troops and General Hu Tsung-nan’s troops blockading the southern border of the Shensi region. It has even been rumored that some of General Hu’s forces have deserted to the Communists. The question of the [Page 307] military strength required to defeat the Communists would seem to make improbable a Chungking attack at the present time, to say nothing of the other factors in the present situation as described in the preceding paragraph.

It is probable that the Central Government genuinely fears an eventual Communist attempt to break the existing encirclement of the Border Area by Chungking forces, either in an attempt to expand the Communist controlled areas or, as is more likely, in an effort to link up with Soviet Russia in the event of the latter’s entry into the war against Japan. The Kuomintang is perhaps fully aware of all possible factors militating against a military solution of the Communist problem, factors which have increased rather than decreased since the C. E. C. session in September 1943 and which now are perhaps weighted more heavily in the domestic than in the international field. The Kuomintang’s own position in relation to the various forces in unoccupied China makes it highly improbable that it will at present take military action against the Chinese Communists, who profess to feel that they are sufficiently strong to withstand any Kuomintang attack and who themselves would be unlikely to bring matters to a head by opening hostilities against the Central Government. In the latter event the onus of civil war would lie on their shoulders and until or unless Soviet Russia is prepared to give them assistance the Chinese Communists stand to gain nothing by civil war during the course of hostilities against Japan.

Respectfully yours,

C. E. Gauss
  1. Foreign Relations, 1943, China, p. 396.
  2. Enclosures not printed.
  3. Everett F. Drumright.
  4. Head of the Japanese-sponsored regime at Nanking.
  5. Chairman of the Central Committee of the Chinese Communist Party, with headquarters at Yenan, Shensi.
  6. Foreign Relations, 1943, China, p. 351.
  7. Ibid., pp. 380, 385, and 390, respectively.