The Consul General at Kunming (Langdon) to the Secretary of State 4

No. 51

Sir: Referring to the Consulate General’s despatch no. 48 of July 11, 1944, in regard to the petition to the Central Government for certain governmental reforms circulated at Kunming by a group of Chinese liberals, I have the honor to inform the Department of the activities of the Federation of Chinese Democratic Parties* at Kunming and their relation to future political developments in China. The information contained in this despatch was obtained during conversations with members of the Federation and with other Chinese liberals at Kunming.

Summary: The Federation of Chinese Democratic Parties at Kunming functions partly under the cover of the Cultural Circles Association for the Study of Constitutional Government and apparently operates with relative freedom under the protection of General Lung Yun, Chairman of the Yunnan Provincial Government. Representatives of the Federation at Kunming state that Generalissimo Chiang Kai-shek himself is solely responsible for the weakness of the Chinese Government, that there is no hope that the Kuomintang under his leadership will carry out any reforms in the Central Government and that there must be a movement to oppose the Chungking regime, described as threatened with military, economic, financial and political collapse. The Federation members state that they will be supported in such a movement by General Lung, the Szechwan militarists, Kwangsi provincial leaders and liberal democratic groups and reveal that they have reached an understanding with the Chinese Communists for a common front. The Federation plans to hold a convention, probably at Chengtu, within the next three months, which will be attended by delegates from the above-named groups. At that time a definite program for a united front will be announced. Independent Chinese liberal observers at Kunming, while sympathetic with the general aims of the movement, feel that, in spite of the growing opposition to and criticism of the Generalissimo and his government, General Chiang Kai-shek is too strongly entrenched in power to be overthrown by dissident elements, and that these elements, if unitable at all, have insufficient following to set up any central authority—the movement would appear to be inchoate and still far from attaining concrete form. These observers claim that only American support prevents the collapse of his regime, and that our Government has within its grasp the opportunity not only of reviving a China that will make some positive contribution to the war, but [Page 476] laying the foundations of a pro-American, democratic China that will be a force for peace in the future. End of Summary.

[Here follows detailed report.]


There is genuine bitter opposition to the Generalissimo and the Kuomintang leadership among Chinese liberals at Kunming, which is increasingly directed against the Generalissimo himself. Some Chinese liberals apparently feel that there is no hope for governmental change so long as the Generalissimo lives while others are less defeatist in their attitude and are prepared to contest his dictatorial control of the Chinese Government. Whether a movement against the Chungking Government can succeed would seem at present to depend partially on the extent of Japanese military successes in the China theater, which, if sufficiently far-reaching, might make inevitable the fall of the Central Government, as well as the economic deterioration. There is evidence of widespread discontent with the present regime, but it would seem that unless the dissident elements can organize themselves and bring to bear strong military pressure instead of drawing up manifestos and demands, it is unlikely that such discontent will have any noticeable effect on the Generalissimo’s power or willingness to reform the Government. Leadership and cohesion are lacking in the opposition and there seems to be no figure who could rally the Chinese people around a group bent on the overthrow of the Chungking regime.

Influence of the United States on the Chinese Government

Referring to the dependence of the Generalissimo upon the United States and the possibility of American influence in bringing about liberalization of the Chinese Government, one well-placed Kuomintang liberal at Kunming states that unless American pressure can be brought to bear on the Generalissimo and the Kuomintang during the present critical period, when Kuomintang susceptibility to American criticism is greatest, it is inevitable that the end of the war will find reaction so firmly entrenched in power in China that the prospect for the future will be a dictatorial Chiang Kai-shek who would set the pattern for a fascist China for the next two or three decades. This observer describes the Generalissimo as fundamentally anti-western, Chen Li-fu as anti-foreign and General Ho Ying-chin as anti-western and asserts that China cannot embark upon a progressive program of national reconstruction under such leadership. This Kuomintang liberal sees only one course which can succeed, even partially, in providing encouragement and assistance to liberal elements in China, [Page 477] both within and without the Party. He states that American press criticism of the totalitarian aspects and weaknesses of the Kuomintang should continue as the Generalissimo is sensitive to that criticism and would probably feel it necessary to take steps to meet the criticism, however much he might resent it. He cites as an example of Kuomintang reaction to American criticism the decision of the Twelfth [Eleventh] Plenary Session of the Kuomintang Central Executive Committee in September, 1943 to establish constitutional government in China a year after the end of the war and states that the Generalissimo himself was responsible for that decision. He states that the Generalissimo has been reliably quoted as saying, prior to the Cairo conference, that he could not face President Roosevelt unless he were able to give a satisfactory answer to any question the President might ask regarding constitutional government in China. The informant feels that, supported by American press criticism of China, President Roosevelt, who, he states, is looked up to by the Generalissimo as a “big brother”, might by tactful suggestion or inquiry point the way to the Generalissimo for democratic reform in the Chinese Government. In the absence of American pressure, along the above-described lines, he does not see any hope for liberalism and democracy in China.

It is generally felt by Chinese liberal observers here that the alternative to American pressure, in some form, for governmental reform in China will be the strengthening by American military and financial aid of a reactionary regime which cannot by its very nature and character be to the long-term advantage of the United States. These observers believe that the United States is now in a position, which may never return, of being able to aid in bringing about needed internal reform in China in such a way that a more liberal and representative government can arouse the full support of the people and contribute more than a negligible and negative share to the defeat of Japan. They point out that a China led by a representative government, in which liberal elements in China would have a voice, would be a greater force for peace in the Far East and a more natural friend of the United States than one under the repressive control of the present reactionary regime, which already gives indication of possible future trouble by its blind antagonism toward Soviet Russia, its continued refusal to settle the Communist question and its under-cover machinations directed toward Indochina. They assert that such a China can be dangerous to the peace of the Far East and that American pressure alone and at this juncture may possibly prevent the emergence of such a postwar China.

Respectfully yours,

Wm. R. Langdon
  1. Drafted by the Consul at Kunming (Sprouse).
  2. Now translated by Federation members as “Democratic League.” [Footnote in the original.]