The Second Secretary of Embassy in China (Drumright) to the Ambassador in China (Gauss)50

No. 28

Sir: Referring to my despatch No. 10, January 24, 1944, on the subject “Kuomintang-Communist Relations”,51 I have the honor to report that when General Li Kun-kang, General Hu Tsung-nan’s Chief of Staff, made a courtesy call on me this afternoon we had a long conversation in regard to the communist problem.

General Li, while seemingly very frank on the subject, really told me nothing that I have not already heard and reported to the Embassy. He recounted all the various charges against the communists that are commonly made, termed them “traitors” and “organized bandits”, depreciated their military strength, asserted that they are hated by the people of north Shensi and north China because of their exactions, declared that the communists are facing a supply crisis in north Shensi at present, said that many of the youth who went to Yenan five or six years ago with great hopes in the communists are now fleeing from their soviet associations, asserted that the communists are only “shadow fighting” with the Japanese, etc., etc.

General Li said that the Central Government is still pursuing a policy of magnanimity toward the communists, a policy that is too liberal and “soft” in the eyes of most Chinese military officers. In the course of the conversation he stressed the point that the Central authorities still hope to solve the communist problem by political and pacific means, not by warfare.

General Li said that the communists continue to transfer troops into north Shensi. While he did not refer to any figures he said that these troops were coming from all parts of north China and are the cream of the communist forces. General Li said that intelligence reports [Page 327] have been received of communist collusion with the Japanese, but that there is little evidence behind these reports. He added, however, that the manner in which the Chinese communists are withdrawing their best troops from the Japanese-occupied areas inevitably suggests that the communists have some kind of working agreement with the Japanese.

General Li repeated the oft-told report of dissension in the communist ranks and said that Mao Tse-tung is resorting to high-handed measures to maintain his supremacy in Yenan. Contrary to the report carried in my reference despatch, General Li said that Chou Enlai (whom he termed a liberal communist) is still in prison in Yenan, a victim of Mao’s policy. Like many another Central Government official, General Li seemed to entertain the notion that China’s communist problem might in the final analysis be solved by a collapse from within.

Several times during the course of the conversation I referred to Government-communist relations as being very “critical”. General Li did not refute this description of the present state of relations. In this connection he said that there are no Central Government representatives in Yenan (he professed to know nothing about the person by the name of Ho mentioned in my reference despatch) and he said that absolutely no negotiations are now going on between the two sides.

During the course of the conversation which lasted for upwards of an hour I asked General Li whether there was anything the United States could do to assist in solving the Government-communist crisis. General Li replied that a number of American newspapermen, deceived by communist propaganda—which he admitted to be very excellent—had encouraged the Chinese communists to take a strong stand because of the good press they had received in the United States. He went on to add that accurate reporting of the communist problem by American correspondents might have a beneficial effect on American public opinion. I made no comment on this suggestion.

General Li expressed the view that there is now no direct relationship between the Chinese communists and the U.S.S.R. When I raised the question of the Tass correspondents reported to be in Yenan, General Li rejoined that they had left for the Soviet Union toward the end of last year.

I might comment that while General Li made no effort to conceal his hostility toward the Chinese communists (a trait of most Chinese military officers with whom I have come in contact), I could detect nothing in his conversation which seemed to suggest that the high command in Shensi plans to set in motion an offensive against the communists in north Shensi in the near future.

Respectfully yours,

Everett F. Drumright
  1. Copy transmitted to the Department by the Ambassador in his despatch No. 2206, February 21; received March 6.
  2. Not printed, but see despatch No. 2100, February 1, from the Ambassador in China, p. 316.