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

No. 2461

Sir: Referring to the Embassy’s telegram No. 653, April 14, 4 p.m.30 and related correspondence in regard to the alleged bombing of Sinkiang Provincial troops by Soviet planes, I have the honor to enclose a copy of a memorandum of April 7, 1944, prepared by Second Secretary John S. Service, on detail to General Stilwell’s31 staff, regarding the situation in Sinkiang Province and its relation to American policy vis-à-vis China and the Soviet Union.

Summary. Chinese motives connected with the Sinkiang incident may be as follows: (1) The Central Government desires to gain undisputed control over all of Sinkiang, which would include control over areas under dispute between Sinkiang and Outer Mongolia and the breaking down of the opposition from racial and other minority elements to Central Government control; (2) the incident may be viewed as a test of Soviet policy with regard to Outer Mongolia, possible Soviet aims vis-à-vis the Chinese Communists and the position of Soviet Russia in the Far East; (3) the Kuomintang desires to stimulate anti-Soviet feeling, both in China and abroad; and (4) the Central Government desires to rally Chinese nationalism and divert attention from its own failings. The results of the incident have been (1) to give to the Central Government a pretext for sending Central Government troops into Sinkiang with the aim of possible eventual removal of Sheng Shih-tsai and (2) to indicate clearly that Soviet Russia is prepared to stand by Outer Mongolia as one of the Soviet Socialist Republics.

This incident and the possibility of its repetition in other forms if the Chinese leaders continue in their present course bring into prominence the question of Sino-Soviet relations and the position of the United States in relation to that problem. The United States in its dealings with China should: (1) avoid becoming involved in Sino-Soviet relations; (2) limit American aid to China to direct prosecution of the war against Japan; (3) show a sympathetic interest in liberal groups in China and try to fit the Chinese Communists into the war against Japan; and (4) use our tremendous influence with the Kuomintang to promote internal unity on a foundation of progressive reform. To give, either in fact or in appearance, support to the present reactionary government in China beyond carefully regulated and controlled aid solely for the prosecution of the war against Japan would encourage the Kuomintang in its present anti-Soviet policy. The result would be that the Chinese Communists, who probably hold the key to control of north China and possibly Inner Mongolia and Manchuria, would feel that their only hope for survival lay with Russia and the Soviet Union would be convinced that American aims [Page 777] are opposed to hers and that she must protect herself by any means available, i. e. the extension of her direct power and influence. End of Summary.

Respectfully yours,

C. E. Gauss

Memorandum by the Second Secretary of Embassy in China (Service)

Subject: Situation in Sinkiang

To: Assistant Chief of Staff, G–231a

[Here follows detailed report, summarized above.]

This explanation of the Sinkiang situation as having direct Central Government motivation may be considered too dogmatic. But it is hardly probable that Sheng Shih-tsai, weakened by the withdrawal of his former mainstay—Russian military forces and aviation, and certainly preoccupied with the maintenance of his position in the face of growing Central Government control, would independently, or even willingly, seek trouble for himself by campaigning against the redoubtable Kazaks and attempting to establish his frontier in areas known to be disputed with Outer Mongolia. As mentioned in my memorandum of March 22nd,32 some well informed Chinese believe that Sheng was under direct orders from the Generalissimo to create a military base in this area, strategic for possible future pressure on Outer Mongolia. The fact cannot be denied that China, in the face of internal troubles and a stagnant war effort, is showing an amazing concentration on peripheral problems—Tibet, Northwest development, the status of North Burma, and even the borders of Indo-China and Thailand. Also it cannot be denied that China’s relations with Russia have steadily deteriorated to a point of tension: There was bickering and bad feeling over the withdrawal of Russian interest from Sinkiang; the movement of Russian planes and trucks in China has been practically stopped; Russian military advisors are no longer welcomed or consulted; trade and barter are at a near standstill and Russia claims that the Chinese have not lived up to their promises; attempted transport arrangements have so far been a failure; Chinese feeling against Russia has become more outspoken; and, as mentioned before, the Chinese lost no time in trying to exploit the anti-Russian angles of the present incident.

Crediting the Chinese with at least a lack of concern over complicating their own and their allies relations with Russia may also be objected to on the ground that China is anxious to have Russia [Page 778] enter the war against Japan. I do not believe that such is actually the case. General Chinese public opinion may desire to have Russia enter the war at an early date in the hope that this will ensure the speedy defeat of Japan. But the Kuomintang’s leaders, I suggest, give only lip service to this idea. On the contrary, if they are as calculating as we must assume they are, they will very much prefer to have Japan defeated by the United States, which they hope will continue to be friendly to the Kuomintang and opposed to the spread of Communist influence in China. By the same reasoning the Kuomintang dreads the active participation by Russia in the defeat of Japan because this will give Russia an undeniable voice in Far Eastern affairs and will greatly increase her prestige and the influence of Communism with the people of China. We can expect, therefore, that as American strength in the Pacific increases and our war against Japan progresses favorably—as it is doing at present—the Chinese government will become more and more anti-Russian.

These may have been the Chinese motives in Sinkiang. What has been the Chinese success?

The pretext has been provided for sending large Central Government military forces into Sinkiang. These may by force, overcome any unorganized local resistance and break up minority groups such as the Kazaks inside of Sinkiang. They should also ensure—perhaps after a period of maneuver and face saving—the eventual removal of Sheng Shih-tsai and his replacement by a nominee of the Central Government. They probably will not, however, be able to establish the disputed boundary claimed by China, because the Outer Mongols, even without direct Soviet participation, appear to have an efficient and well equipped military force. There is also the danger that Central Government military control may prove a boomerang by provoking rebellion in Sinkiang, either spontaneously from the resentment of the largely Mohammedan population, or through Russian connivance and support of such leaders as the mysterious General Ma Chung-ying—reportedly “kept” by the Russians for the past ten years for just such a possible eventuality. Chinese concern is shown by the numerous rumors of Ma’s appearance and by the anxiety to get the Chinese 42nd Army—one of General Hu Tsung-nan’s best units—to Sinkiang as rapidly as possible. All trucks in Kansu are reported to have been commandeered for this purpose.

Russian policy, at least in regard to Outer Mongolia, appears to have been clearly tested. It is obvious that the Russians intend to stand by Outer Mongolia and to keep the country free—in other words, an autonomous republic under Soviet influence.

This stand which the Russians have been maneuvered into taking may convince some sections of Chinese and foreign opinion that [Page 779] Russia has sinister designs in China and the rest of East Asia. But if the Chinese expected active British and American support, they have so far been disappointed. The foreign press seems to have given the matter little notice. The United States has shown little desire to complicate its relations with an important ally over what appears to be a border incident, possibly arising from Chinese provocation. And we have declined the bait of modified involvement by sending representatives to investigate, under Chinese auspices.

It seems significant that up to the time that the Tass report reached the world press and it had become obvious that foreign reaction was slight, the Chinese emphasized the aspect of Outer Mongol-Russian aggression and made sure, officially in Sinkiang and unofficially in Chungking, that the story was spread widely in all quarters. After that time, however, the Chinese have shown obvious confusion over the publicity policy which should be adopted and have stopped any efforts to play up the story. The Tass report was excluded from the Chinese press, and any news of the present situation in Sinkiang is unobtainable. The attitude of the spokesmen at the reported press conference strongly supports the general rumor that no Sinkiang news is to be released except by or with the express approval of the Generalissimo himself. Exceptions to this behavior have been a few officials, such as Sun Fo, who from the beginning seem to have seen the dangers of the situation and disagreed with attempts to distort and magnify it, even though these attempts seem to have sprung from the Generalissimo.

The occurrence of this incident, and the likelihood of its repetition in other forms if the Chinese leaders continue in their present course, raises the important question of the attitude which the United States should adopt toward Sino-Soviet differences. In a broader sense this question involves our over-all relations with both Russia and the present Chinese Government.

We must be concerned with Russian plans and policies in Asia because they are bound to affect our own plans in the same area. But our relations with Russia in Asia are at present only a subordinate part of our political and military relations with Russia in Europe in the over-all United Nations war effort and post-war settlement. We should make every effort to learn what the Russian aims in Asia are. A good way of gaining material relevant to this will be a careful firsthand study of the strength, attitudes, and popular support of the Chinese Communists. But in determining our policy toward Russia in Asia we should avoid being swayed by China. The initiative must be kept firmly in our hands. To do otherwise will be to let the tail wag the dog.

[Page 780]

As for the present Chinese Government, it must be acknowledged that we are faced with a regrettable failure of statesmanship. Chiang’s persisting in an active anti-Soviet policy, at a time when his policies (or lack of them) are accelerating economic collapse and increasing internal dissention, can only be characterized as reckless adventurism. The cynical desire to destroy unity among the United Nations is serious. But it would also appear that Chiang unwittingly may be contributing to Russian dominance in Eastern Asia by internal and external policies which, if pursued in their present form, will render China too weak to serve as a possible counter-weight to Russia. By so doing, Chiang may be digging his own grave; not only North China and Manchuria, but also national groups such as Korea and Formosa may be driven into the arms of the Soviets.

Neither now, nor in the immediately foreseeable future, does the United States want to find itself in direct opposition to Russia in Asia; nor does it want to see Russia have undisputed dominance over a part of [or?] all of China.

The best way to cause both of these possibilities to become realities is to give, in either fact or appearance, support to the present reactionary government of China beyond carefully regulated and controlled aid directed solely toward the military prosecution of the war against Japan. To give diplomatic or other support beyond this limit will encourage the Kuomintang in its present suicidal anti-Russian policy. It will convince the Chinese Communists—who probably hold the key to control, not only of North China, but of Inner Mongolia and Manchuria as well—that we are on the other side and that their only hope for survival lies with Russia. Finally, Russia will be led to believe (if she does not already) that American aims run counter to hers, and that she must therefore protect herself by any means available: In other words, the extension of her direct power or influence.

It is important, therefore, that the United States have the following aims in its dealing with China:

Avoid becoming involved in any way in Sino-Soviet relations; avoid all appearance of unqualified diplomatic support to China, especially vis-à-vis Russia; and limit American aid to China to direct prosecution of the war against Japan.
This may involve soft-pedalling of grandiose promises of post-war aid and economic rehabilitation—unless they are predicated on satisfactory reforms within China.
Show a sympathetic interest in the Communists and liberal groups in China. Try to fit the Communists into the war against Japan.
In so doing, we may promote Chinese unity and galvanize the lagging Chinese war effort. The liberals, generally speaking, already consider that their hope lies in America. The Communists, from what little we know of them, also are friendly toward America, believe that democracy must be the next step in China, and take the view that economic collaboration with the United States is the only hope for speedy post-war rehabilitation and development. It is vital that we do not lose this good will and influence.
Use our tremendous and as yet unexploited influence with the Kuomintang to promote internal Chinese unity on the only possible and lasting foundation of progressive reform.

There is no reason for us to fear using our influence. The Kuomintang knows that it is dependent on us; it cannot turn toward a Japan approaching annihilation; it is inconceivable that it will turn toward communistic Russia; and Great Britain is not in a position to be of help. American interest in the Chinese Communists will be a potent force in persuading Kuomintang China to set its house in order.

The Communists would undoubtedly play an important part in a genuinely unified China—one not unified by the Kuomintang’s present policy in practise of military force and threat. But it is most probable that such a democratic and unified China would naturally gravitate toward the United States and that the United States, by virtue of a sympathy, position, and economic resources, would enjoy a greater influence in China than any other foreign power.

John S. Service
  1. Not printed.
  2. Gen. Joseph W. Stilwell, Commanding General, U. S. Army Forces in China, Burma, and India.
  3. Intelligence section at headquarters, XL S. Army Forces, China, Burma, and India
  4. Not found in Department files.