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

No. 2900

Sir: I have the honor to refer to my telegram no. 1397, August 12, 5 p.m., and subsequent telegrams in regard to the projected establishment of a provisional or coalition regime in Southeast China, [Page 513] and to enclose herewith copies of two letters34 dated August 14 and August 18, 1944, which have been received from Consul Philip D. Sprouse at Kunming on this subject.

In his letter of August 14 Mr. Sprouse reports in regard to a conversation which he had with three leaders of the so-called “dissident elements,” including a Communist, at Kunming. The Communist representative at Kunming suggested that the United States should facilitate the activities of the dissident groups, and that it is American assistance that is prolonging the existence of the National Government in Chungking. The Communist representative is also reported as having made the interesting observation that Soviet Russia is sympathetic toward the so-called coalition movement; that Soviet action would depend on the attitude of the United States and Great Britain; that if the United States and Great Britain assisted the Chungking Government the Soviet Union would actively and openly support the coalition movement; but that if the United States and Great Britain adopted a “neutral attitude” the Soviet Union would follow the same policy. Mr. Sprouse cited Mr. Lo Lung-chi, a leader of the so-called “Democratic League”, as asserting that the movement is a revolution for reform of government, the aims of which are formation of a representative democratic government, prosecution of the war against Japan, and the granting of freedom of speech, press, assembly and organization; and as stating that, in the absence of a powerful and influential leader, a “council” would be formed to direct the movement. Mr. Sprouse states that his informants insisted that General Chiang Kai-shek is not cognizant of the extent to which the movement has grown and that they expressed hope that American press criticism of the “fascist” tendencies of the Chinese Government would be continued. Mr. Sprouse expresses the view that this conversation is a further indication of Communist connection with the movement. He states that he has gathered the impression that the movement is being retarded for reasons that are not clear, although he hazards the assumption that adequate support therefor has not been assured. With reference to the possibility of Russian intervention on the side of the movement, Mr. Sprouse suggests that the threat thereof is a further reason for American pressure to compel the Generalissimo to effect reforms.

Mr. Sprouse’s letter of August 18 is of interest in that it suggests that General Yang Chieh, former head of the Central Military Academy and onetime Chinese Ambassador to Russia, may be associating himself with the movement.

As was set forth in our telegrams nos. 1423, August 17, 11 a.m., and 1424, August 17, noon, we have not received evidence that the Chinese [Page 514] Communists are actively aligning themselves with General Li Chi-shen or other “dissident elements” to form a new regime or are encouraging or instigating those elements to such activities. There is a possibility of course that the Communists may wish to associate themselves with such a movement in order to further their own ends. It seems obvious that if such a movement should succeed, whether with or without the connivance of the Communists, the latter would by virtue of their organization and power be placed in a favorable position to assume the mantle of power in China. It may be that the Chinese Communists prefer to bide their time, feeling that the time is not ripe to come out in alignment with other elements in opposition to the present Kuomintang Government.

We likewise lack information as to the attitude of the Soviet Union toward the dissident elements, although it is well known that the attitude of the Soviet Union to the present Chinese Government has become increasingly critical. On the whole, we are inclined to doubt whether the movement fostered by General Li Chi-shen and others has reached sufficient proportions to evoke any particular recognition or response from the Soviet Government. The apparently cautious attitude hitherto adopted by the Soviet Union toward the Chinese Communists suggests that it is not likely to adopt a contrary or opposite attitude toward dissident elements in the Southeast. We doubt whether the Chinese Communist representative in Kunming is qualified or in a position to define or interpret the present or future Soviet attitude or views with respect to Chinese groups that may offer opposition to the Kuomintang Government.

It is believed that the Generalissimo is aware of the activities of General Li Chi-shen and other leaders of the opposition movement. In all probability, General Pai Chung-hsi, Deputy Chief of the Chinese General Staff, who has recently arrived in Chungking after a stay of several months in Kwangsi, has acquainted the Generalissimo with the ramifications of the movement. Moreover, General Tai Li, head of the Generalissimo’s secret police, returned from an extended trip to Kwangtung and Kwangsi in the first week of August during the course of which he may be assumed to have gathered some inkling of the movement. So far as is known, the Generalissimo has taken no open steps to suppress the movement, although, according to a recent telegram from the Consul at Kweilin, the reported movement of the Chinese 9th Group Army from Yunnan to eastern Kweichow was interpreted in some Kweilin quarters as indicating a design on the part of the Generalissimo to exert pressure on the opposition elements headed by General Li Chi-shen.

If a movement in opposition to the National Government materializes, it is likely to be confined, at least in its initial stages, to Kwangsi, Hunan, Kwangtung and perhaps Fukien. It seems doubtful [Page 515] whether it could spread, without meeting the determined opposition of the National Government, to Kweichow, Yunnan or Szechuan. If it does materialize and is limited to Kwangsi and adjacent areas it is not likely to gain much momentum. Indeed, General Li Chi-shen may not risk an opposition movement at all unless he is assured of encouragement and help from Yunnan and Szechuan and perhaps from abroad. Without assistance the base of his military and economic power in the Southeast seems too narrow to risk a move which might bring about his engulfment either by the Japanese or the Chinese National Government.

Respectfully yours,

C. E. Gauss
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