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

No. 2267

Sir: Referring to the Embassy’s despatch No. 2241 of February 29. 1944, in regard to the proposed trip of foreign newspaper correspondents to Yenan, I have the honor to enclose excerpts from a memorandum [Page 372] of March 2, 1944,93 prepared by an officer of the Embassy, reporting discussion of the trip at the Government press conference of March 1.

Summary. Mr. H. C. Liang, Minister of Information, stated that the trip to Northwest China would be made within a month although a definite date had not yet been set. The Minister said that the trip is not solely for the purpose of visiting the “so-called Communist area” but rather for the purpose of visiting the Northwest, including the Communist region. The correspondents were informed that the trip would probably last from four to five months with only a part of that time being spent in the Communist areas. Mr. Liang stated that questions of censorship would be decided in Chungking which would clear all messages sent by the correspondents. End of Summary.

From available information, it seems probable that the foreign newspaper correspondents will be permitted to visit the Communist areas as indicated in recent government press conferences. The Embassy has been reliably informed in the strictest confidence that Dr. Hollington K. Tong, Vice Minister of Information, feels assured that the plans for the trip will be carried out and he is said to be somewhat anxious in regard to the stories which the foreign correspondents may file on the Communist areas. Dr. Tong has suggested to one of the news specialists sent by the Department for service with the Ministry of Information that the latter accompany the group to Yenan and write the story either for the Ministry of Information or for an American newspaper. Dr. Tong is said to feel that this specialist will be able to counteract the influence of some of the foreign correspondents who are considered as being favorably disposed toward the Communists. The specialist has informed Dr. Tong that lie is not, of course, at liberty to join the trip in the capacity suggested, but that if Dr. Tong wishes to pursue the matter further it must be referred to the Embassy for decision. This action by the Vice Minister of Information indicates that the Chinese authorities apparently intend to carry out the plans for the trip. It is not yet known whether Chinese correspondents will be permitted to accompany the party, but the foreign correspondents are informing the Minister of Information of their desire to have Chinese correspondents join the group in order to avoid the possibility of a Chinese charge that the foreign correspondents objected to their going.

There is still much debate here regarding the reason behind the decision to permit the correspondents to visit the Yenan area. It has been suggested that the Government will be pleased to have the correspondents out of Chungking for a period of several months in view of their recent persistent questioning of the Government at the weekly [Page 373] press conferences and that the correspondents will not know until months after their despatches from the Northwest are filed how much of the material has been censored, thus allowing for the possibility of a distorted picture of the situation. However, the Government has suggested that news agencies and newspapers whose representatives desire to join the party make necessary arrangements for coverage of Chungking during their absence, and such arrangements should enable the foreign correspondents to have some check on their despatches filed from Communist territory.

In connection with the Kuomintang–Communist situation, the secretary of General Chou En-lai at Chungking has now received permission to return to Yenan along with the majority of the personnel of the 18th Group Army Headquarters (Communist) at Chungking, which has been ordered to reduce its personnel to a maximum of 26 persons. It is understood that this order has been applied to all Group Army Headquarters located at Chungking since the closing of their radios (Embassy’s telegrams No. 119, January 18, and No. 258, February 8). Communist representatives at Chungking state that the order for the closure of all Group Army Headquarters radios was issued two weeks after the closure of the 18th Group Army radio and only after the foreign newspaper correspondents questioned the Government spokesmen regarding the matter.

Respectfully yours,

C. E. Gauss
  1. Not printed.