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

No. 2160

Sir: Referring to the Embassy’s despatch no. 2030 of January 15, 1944, in regard to Kuomintang–Communist relations, I have the honor to enclose a copy of a memorandum of January 28, 1944,56 prepared by an officer of the Embassy57 on the provincial factions within China and their relation to the Kuomintang–Communist situation.

Summary. In the memorandum, which presents the views of a well-informed Chinese newspaper man, it is pointed out that free China can be divided roughly into three groups from a standpoint of military power and of the Kuomintang–Communist problem: Kuomintang, Communist and provincial military factions. The Kuomintang, comprising the Central Government and certain of its military commanders, has at its disposal approximately two-thirds of the estimated 300 divisions of Central Government troops. There are, however, nine groups of military leaders in free China who, while not disloyal to the Central Government, do not support the Kuomintang in its desire to liquidate the Communists and who would probably give no aid to the Central Government should it launch an attack against the Communists. These military leaders, possessors of local power in various provinces, see their positions threatened by continued Kuomintang efforts to increase the authority of the Central Government. Centralized governmental power would spell the doom of these factions. The continued existence of the Chinese Communists as a check to the extension of Central Government power is to the advantage of these military leaders. End of Summary.

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The position of these various provincial factions in the event of a Kuomintang–Communist conflict is uncertain. Fear of possible action on the part of the Szechuan militarists, who would lie astride the Central Government’s line of communications with the northwest in the event of civil war, was said to have been one of the factors which prevented a decision by the Kuomintang at the time of the C. E. C. Session in September 1943 to launch an attack on the Communists. It is not believed that any of these local military groups would actively oppose the Central Government at the outset of an attack on the Communists, but it is possible that they might desire to throw their power on the scales if they should become balanced too heavily in favor of either the Kuomintang or the Communists. On the other hand the Central Government might be expected to endeavor to utilize provincial troops as shock troops against the Communists as an instrument of policy designed to overthrow the Communists through weight of numbers and arms and to deplete the troop reserves of those leaders of doubtful loyalty.

These various military factions are said to include the following nine groups: (1) the Kwangsi faction under Generals Pai Chung-hsi and Li Tsung-jen and Marshal Li Chi-shen; (2) the Kwangtung faction lead by Generals Yu Han-mou and Chang Fa-kuei; (3) the Szechuan faction composed of Generals Liu Wen-hui, Teng Hsi-hou, Pan Wen-hua, Yang Sen and Wang Ling-chi (Deputy Commanders in the 6th War Zone); (4) General Lung Yun, Chairman of the Yunnan Provincial Government; (5) Generals Ma Hung-kuei, Ma Pufang and Ma Pu-ching; (6) the Shansi-Suiyuan group under Generals Yen Hsi-shan and Fu Tso-yi; (7) the Shensi group under Generals Sun Yu-ju (Deputy Commander in the 8th War Zone) and Kao Kuei-tzu; (8) the northeastern group under General Yu Hsuehdiung; and (9) the northwestern group under Generals Sun Lientchung (Acting Commander in the 6th War Zone) and Feng Chih-an (Commander of the 33rd Group Army). These groups are believed to control approximately one-third of the Central Government forces in addition to provincial troops.

The Chungking administration is evidently aware that criticism of its policies is becoming increasingly strong. President Chiang Kaishek is at present on a trip to southeast China and is reliably reported to be conferring with the various war zone commanders in that area in connection with questions of military strategy. At the same time, it is believed that his visit to that area may have other significance. General Hsueh Yueh, Commander of the 9th War Zone and listed in the enclosed memorandum as one of the Kuomintang generals whose allegiance to the Central Government is unquestioned, has [Page 333] recently been critical of the Chungking authorities and is said to have refused to come to Chungking (Embassy’s despatch no. 2019 of January 1458 and telegram no. 151, January 24). A mandate of February 9 announced his promotion to the rank of full general. General Pai Chung-hsi, Deputy Chief of Staff, is reliably reported to be endeavoring to effect a revival of provincial military and political power in Kwangsi at the expense of the Chungking administration due to his deep resentment of Kuomintang policies aimed at increased Central Government power and of the “family dictatorship” dominating the Government (Embassy’s despatch no. 2103 of February 1). General Li Tsung-jen is said to be dissatisfied with the Central Government which is apparently unwilling to furnish him needed troops and equipment. The Kweilin office of the National Military Affairs Commission headed by Marshal Li Chi-shen has been abolished and the Marshal, while accepting a new post at Chungking as Chairman of the Military Advisory Council, is expected to retire to his home in southeast Kwangsi (Embassy’s despatch no. 2102 of February 1). The intransigence of the Szechuan triumvirate composed of Generals Liu Wen-hui, Teng Hsi-hou and Pan Wen-hua and of General Lung Yun of Yunnan is well known. Generals Ma Hung-kuei and Ma, Pu-fang, Chairmen of the Ninghsia and Chinghai Provincial Governments, respectively, offer examples of the present-day warlord with near autonomy in their respective provinces. General Sheng Shih-tsai, Chairman of the Sinkiang Provincial Government, although not mentioned in the list of nine military groups has all the necessary qualifications, as a semi-autonomous warlord, for inclusion in that list. Extension of Central Government power in the provinces dominated by local leaders inevitably arouses the opposition not only of the leaders but also of local business interests and entrenched officialdom. The provinces of Szechuan and Kansu are said to resent deeply the replacement of local officials with Central Government officials known as “downriver people” and Central Government banking interests and industrial monopolies tend to arouse provincial opposition.

Other factions which must be taken into consideration in any present estimate of the Chinese scene are such of the puppets as may be expected to turn over to the Central Government at an opportune moment. The way has already been paved for their return to the Kuomintang fold as indicated in a recent press conference at which the Government spokesman stated that many of the puppets would be pardoned because of “extenuating circumstances” which absolved them of guilt in serving the Japanese (Embassy’s despatch no. 2105 of February 1). The puppets are likely to use their bargaining power [Page 334] to the utmost and represent a possible ally for the Central Government against the Communists. Chungking can scarcely be expected to take any action which might drive them into the arms of the Communists.

In the meanwhile the jockeying for position on the part of various factions continues and intra-Kuomintang rivalries tend to play into the hands of the semi-independent groups. The present playing for future alignments both within and without the Kuomintang may be expected to continue with the contest between the Kuomintang and the Chinese Communist Party on the one hand and the conflict between increased Central Government power and retention of provincial power on the other.

Respectfully yours,

C. E. Gauss
  1. Not printed.
  2. Philip D. Sprouse, Third Secretary of Embassy.
  3. Not printed.