Memorandum by Mr. O. Edmund Clubb of the Division of Chinese Affairs 37

American Policy With Respect to Sino-Soviet Relations

It is known to the United States Government that various leaders of the Chinese National Government entertain fear and suspicion of the motives and policies of the Soviet Union regarding the Far East in [Page 786] general and China in particular. Chinese concern with Soviet Russian policies, as shown by the attitudes of Kuomintang leaders, may be said to fall clearly within three categories: the political influence of the Soviet Union in peripheral areas of concern to China; the influence of the Soviet philosophy on the domestic situation in China; and the international position of the Soviet Union in the Far East generally.

I. Attitude of Chinese Leaders Toward the U. S. S. R.

There is a small number of leaders such as Madame Sun Yat-sen, Sun Fo, and Feng Yu-hsiang, who maintain still a part of that Kuomintang sympathy for the U.S.S.R. which was common in the days of Sun Yat-sen; however, the pro-Soviet members of the National Government, including both Sun Fo and Feng Yu-hsiang, are political personages lacking any major political influence. As observed by the Chungking Embassy38 when submitting a copy of Sun Fo’s speech of January 1, 1944 evincing sympathy for the U.S.S.R., “The majority of the officials of the Kuomintang is …39 so motivated by suspicion of Soviet intentions […] that they can envisage no possibility of Sino-Soviet cooperation and their planning for the post-war period has ever in the background the fear of Soviet Russia …”39

The majority of Chungking leaders, in short, are affected by the political blight which has afflicted Sino-Soviet relations since 1927 (except for the brief interim period 1937–1941 during which the National Government was receiving from the Soviet Union substantial assistance for its struggle against Japan). It may safely be said that practically every important political leader, such as President Chiang Kai-shek himself, Minister of War Ho Ying-ch’in, Foreign Minister T. V. Soong, and Minister of Education Ch’en Li-fu are strongly and probably irrevocably committed to an anti-Soviet trend of thought. The Counselor of Embassy at Chungking, writing as early as July 1942,40 said that for War Minister Ho Ying-ch’in, as for so many Chinese military officers, anti-Communism was an obsession; and that “This gives rise at times to the suspicion that he may be more interested in liquidating the Communist forces than in defeating the Japanese, and to the feeling that Ho and others of his mind would view a Russian victory over Japan in the Far East with only slightly less misgivings than a Japanese victory.” The Counselor suggested that this Chinese attitude might be in part responsible for the insistence of the Kuomintang Government that Japan be defeated first, and Germany only next. That General Ho Ying-ch’in’s views in [Page 787] regard to the Chinese Communist party—which in the Chinese mind is closely and directly related to Soviet policies and thought—still persist, is shown by the information submitted in a Chungking despatch of April 26, 1944,41 enclosing a letter received by General Hearn (Chief of Staff under General Stilwell) from War Minister Ho Ying-ch’in. In that letter it was set forth that the Chinese Communist party was essentially a rebel group which desired to prolong the war in China “in the hope of creating a state of general confusion in the Far East” with the ultimate aim of seizing political power in order to “sovietize” China. General Ho indicated clearly his belief that there was close relationship between the policies of the Chinese Communist party and of the Soviet Union. According to information submitted by the Embassy on February 11, 1944,42 General Hu Tai-wei [Tu Ta-wei], Chief of Ordnance of the Chinese Army, had approached General Hearn with regard to the possible use of U. S. Lend-Lease equipment against the Chinese Communists. The approach was undoubtedly made with the foreknowledge and approval of General Ho Ying-ch’in. It was probably due only to the American expression of lack of sympathy with such a proposed move that there was not launched an attack on the Communists in northwest China at that time.

II. Political influence of the U. S. S. R. on Peripheral Areas.

The events which led to the withdrawal by the Soviet Union of its advisers and technicians, technical equipment, the closing of its monopoly trade organizations, and the near stoppage of trade between Sinkiang and the Soviet Union in 1942 and 1943, are well known. The inception of that current worsening of political relations between the two countries was marked by the “Molotov Note”, reported—without confirmation—to have been submitted by Moscow to the National Government in May or June 1942 setting forth the position of the U. S. S. R. in respect to Sinkiang Province and Defense Commissioner Sheng Shih-ts’ai. It appears to be generally admitted in informed circles that one consequence of the increased tension in Sino-Soviet relations was the Soviet refusal to permit transit via the Soviet Union of Lend-Lease supplies destined for China. The most recent development in that region has been the Sinkiang-Outer Mongolia border incident of March 11 last. According to a despatch of April 21, 1944 from the Embassy at Chungking,43 agreeing in general with previous information reaching the Department, Chinese troops on that occasion actually crossed the border into Outer Mongolia. It may be commented generally that there are indications that the Chinese are of the [Page 788] conviction that relations between the U. S. S. R. on the one hand and Great Britain and the United States on the other are strained and that it is to China’s interest to aggravate the tension. The Chinese motives in the particular case in point, according to the Embassy’s analysis, are (1) to establish undisputed control of the National Government over the whole of Sinkiang; (2) to test Soviet policy in respect to (a) Outer Mongolia, (b) the Chinese Communist Party, and (c) plans regarding Sinkiang, Manchuria, China as a whole, and for eventual participation in the Far East war; (3) to stimulate anti-Soviet feeling in China and abroad; and (4) to rally Chinese nationalism and to divert Chinese attention from other Kuomintang failings. Foreign Minister T. V. Soong stated in conversation with an officer of the Embassy in regard to the incident that he regarded it as more than a border clash, and as an indication of the Soviet attitude in the Far East. General Wu Teh-chen, Secretary-General of the Kuomintang, was quoted by the Embassy as stating that there was clear indication, in the Soviet attitude regarding the matter, of a Soviet determination that Outer Mongolia should not return to China.

Chinese fears in respect to Soviet ambitions regarding Manchuria are indicated clearly in the conversation of Chinese Ambassador to Moscow Foo Ping-sheung with the Counselor of Embassy on March 25, 1943,44 when he said that the Chinese National Government harbored serious apprehension with respect to the Soviet Government as regards possible future developments in the Far East. If the U. S. S. R. were in due course to join the United Nations in the Far East in the war against Japan, he said, it would have to be anticipated that considerable numbers of Soviet troops would be found not only in Sinkiang Province and Outer Mongolia but in Manchuria as well. From there, he suggested, they would support the Chinese Communists, to the obvious detriment of the Kuomintang. There are indications that the Kuomintang, besides fearing Soviet ambitions in respect to Sinkiang, Outer Mongolia, and Manchuria, is concerned with regard to the possibility that the Soviet Union may also have a plan for influencing the course of events in Korea. The Kuomintang is itself evidently laying plans to influence the growth of the Korean political system along Kuomintang lines at such time as Korea receives back its independence but it is cognizant of the Soviet interest, and of the existence of trained Korean troops in the Siberian Army.

III. Soviet Influence on the Chinese Domestic Situation.

In the ultimate analysis, the greatest Kuomintang fear is probably of the influence that the Soviet Union may be able to exert on [Page 789] the domestic situation in China itself. Contemporary developments are such that the Kuomintang, it would appear, has sound basis for its anticipation that it may in due course face a difficult domestic situation. There are increasing indications that the Kuomintang, besides having alienated an important part of the popular sympathy it once enjoyed in the United States, Great Britain, and the Soviet Union, has lost major contact with, and thus major support of, the mass of the Chinese people, who are becoming dissatisfied with Kuomintang rule. In the summer and fall of 1942 there was a popular revolt, supported by a number of troops, in Kweichow Province; in the spring and summer of 1943, there was a similar revolt in Kansu Province; and in the early spring of 1944 there was discovered within the ranks of the Kuomintang army proper an incipient plot of Chinese military officers, including by repute an important number of general officers, for the ousting from power of important Kuomintang officials, prominent among whom were Finance Minister H. H. Kung, Education Minister Ch’en Li-fu, and War Minister Ho Ying-ch’in. There exists no known evidence, and it has not even been charged, that the Soviet Union or the Communist International were concerned in any of the above developments; in fact, it would appear that not even the Chinese Communist Party was concerned. Kuomintang leaders nevertheless, when confronted by unfavorable developments, tend ordinarily to seek to place the blame for such developments on “outside influences” maliciously disposed toward Kuomintang power. Presumably the National Government feels at the present time largely dependent upon continued American and British governmental support for its very existence; it therefore fears more than ever before possible fomentation by political agents of activities which would constitute a danger to its authority. It fears, rightly or wrongly, that Soviet agents may become active in China when the social conflict there becomes sharper. The most experienced Chinese revolutionaries are in the Chinese Communist Party, which has the sympathy of the U. S. S. R., and which the Kuomintang leaders suspect still receives ultimate inspiration and even direction from Moscow. The Kuomintang fears the consequences at such time as the war in Europe may be over.

IV. International Position of the U.S.S.R. in the Far East.

Finally, the Kuomintang is fearful of such enhancement of the international position of the Soviet Union in the Pacific area as would give the Soviet Union not only more prestige among the oppressed peoples under Kuomintang rule but a position among the Pacific powers higher than that of China—so jealous of its prerogatives and “face”. It seems reasonably certain that, in order to have a counter [Page 790] to the growth of Soviet influence in the Pacific area, certain Chungking leaders would probably desire not to see Japanese military and economic power finally crushed, but would prefer instead to have preserved intact enough of Japanese political and military influence to check a further anticipated, increase of Soviet influence in Asia. It is of course not established that those leaders will exercise ultimately sufficient power to be able to influence developments with respect to Japan. It may be noted, as indicative of Chinese reactions to Soviet-Japanese relations, that although most observers viewed the recent Russo-Japanese agreements governing oil concessions in northern Sakhalin and fisheries as constituting a Soviet diplomatic victory and as being indicative of a stronger Soviet attitude vis-à-vis Japan, Chinese political leaders in private conversation with American officials endeavored generally to interpret the development as a sign of Soviet “appeasement” of Japan.

It is anticipated that the problems of mutual interest to China and the Soviet Union may conceivably arise in future in respect to (1) questions of boundaries (for instance, between Sinkiang and Outer Mongolia), (2) political jurisdiction (for example, in connection with relations of the two States in Outer Mongolia), (3) minorities (for instance, as regards treatment by the Chinese of Kazaks, Kirghiz, or other Turki or Mongol groups in Sinkiang), or (4) political structure of border areas (for instance, in Inner Mongolia, Manchuria, or Korea). The United States considers Sinkiang Province to be admittedly a part of the Republic of China, and sincerely hopes that that province will be wisely administered and consideration given to the large Turki population of that province. In regard to Outer Mongolia, the United States Government is cognizant of the 1912 declaration of independence of the Mongol Princes, the Russo-Chinese treaties of 191345 and 191546 incorporating joint recognition of the autonomous status of Outer Mongolia (which was related to China only in the latter’s capacity of “suzerain”), the 1921 agreement between the Soviet Union and Outer Mongolia,47 and Soviet Russian recognition in 1924 of Chinese sovereignty over Outer Mongolia. Despite the circumstance that Declaration III appended to the Sino-Soviet Treaty of May 31, 1924, provided that agreements with Tsarist Russia which infringed China’s sovereignty were to be considered void, the present indications are that the Soviet Union, especially after the signing in 1936 of a Treaty of Mutual Defense with the People’s Republic of [Page 791] Outer Mongolia,48 views the practical situation as being essentially closer to that of 1913 and 1915 than to that of 1924. In the event of a Chinese attempt to assert full Kuomintang control over Outer Mongolia, especially if that attempt were implemented by the use of force, the Soviet Union would probably insist that the Chinese were acting outside their rights and might back up that insistence by direct support of the “People’s Republic of Outer Mongolia”.

Inner Mongolia and Manchuria are considered to be integral parts of the Chinese Republic, and the Cairo Declaration49 specifically provided for the return of the latter area to China. The United States Government possesses no evidence tending to substantiate Chinese apprehensions of Soviet designs on Manchuria, where there is a population of something in excess of 30,000,000 Chinese. In regard to Korea, the United States Government has committed itself to the principles that Korean independence shall be reestablished and is desirous of seeing established in Korea a government incorporating substantial democratic elements; it would not itself undertake, however, or view with favor any attempt by other governments to interfere in the development of the future political structure of Korea. It assumes that the Koreans themselves enjoy the ultimate right of determining their own form of government without outside interference.

V. American Policy With Respect to Sino-Soviet Relations.

The National Government, which is the government recognized as the primary political authority in China, is in alliance with the United States and Great Britain and at war with the common enemy Japan. The Chinese people as a result of their armed resistance to the aggressor over a period of seven years have made a considerable contribution to the cause of the United Nations. The National Government, and its leaders, are also performing a useful function in the cause of the United Nations against the aggressors. The sufferings of the Chinese consequently constitute just cause for sympathy with many of the contemporary problems facing the people and the government. Nevertheless it is felt that China can and should be able in various ways to make a greater contribution to the prosecution of the war in the China theater. It is therefore an objective of the United States Government that the Chinese armed forces, some of the best of which are maintaining a blockade of the Chinese Communist areas, shall be utilized more fully than heretofore against Japan.

[Page 792]

The United States is committed to fight by the side of China in the war against Japan and to extend aid to China in resisting aggression. Nevertheless, it is not committed to support the National Government in any and all circumstances, and in general does not sympathize with mutual fears and suspicions among the several United Nations or with attempts by any one of them to work for individual selfish advantage against the common interests of all. In respect to domestic problems in China it might be observed, that the United States is not concerned with doctrinal questions between contending Chinese groups. It is desirous generally of seeing effected in China a program which will redound to the general benefit of the Chinese people without regard to the political complexion of the Chinese group which effects that program. It is the steadfast desire of the United States Government to see the Chinese people receive a greater share of the equities and goods of China and participate more fully in their government.

The United States Government regards both the Soviet Union and China as allies in the present world war and desires that relations between these Allies should be maintained on a cordial and amicable basis. The United States, on its part, is primarily concerned with, the task at hand, which is the achieving of victory. It is felt that the general policy of any one of the United Nations should be directed toward the same common goal, which is to destroy fascist power and to establish an order of things in which there is more regard for the feeling of common humanity and less for autocracy and power politics.

The United States Government has stood in the past for the territorial integrity of China and an open door for equal commercial opportunity. Those basic policies will continue to guide this Government in the future and are in no sense in conflict with this country’s traditional policy of friendship for the Russian nation. The relative geographical positions of the United States, the Soviet Union, and China in the Pacific region are natural facts the significance of which cannot be altered. It is essential that Sino-Soviet relations be amicably maintained if there is to be peace and stability in Asia in the decades ahead. On the part of China there would presumably be some domestic reorientation by the Kuomintang of its attitude and policies vis-à-vis the Chinese people, particularly where “leftist” groups are concerned and also toward minority groups under Chinese jurisdiction. On the part of the U. S. S. R. it is believed that a sympathetic appreciation of the position of China, and of the problems confronting the Chinese nation, would contribute substantially to the readjustment of Sino-Soviet relations. The United States is directly concerned with conditions in the Pacific area, and is itself desirous of [Page 793] aiding in the solution of outstanding Pacific problems. Such solution can come only through a sympathetic understanding and generous; consideration by the several States concerned of their interrelated positions and interests. It is felt by the American authorities that; anything the United States might be able to do toward bringing about; more cordial relations between China and the Soviet Union would be a major contribution to the future progress of humanity in the Pacific area.

  1. Initialed by the Deputy Director of the Office of Far Eastern Affairs (Ballantine) and submitted to the Secretary of State.
  2. See despatch No. 2013, January 11, from the Ambassador in China, p. 758.
  3. Omission indicated in the original memorandum.
  4. Omission indicated in the original memorandum.
  5. Memorandum of July 22, 1942, by the Counselor of Embassy in China to the Ambassador in China, Foreign Relations, 1942, China, p. 212.
  6. No. 2496, from the Ambassador in China, p. 399.
  7. Telegram No. 277, February 11, noon, p. 330.
  8. No. 2461, p. 776.
  9. See Foreign Relations, 1943, China, p. 218.
  10. Signed at Peking, November 5, 1913, J. V. A. MacMurray, Treaties and Agreements With and Concerning China, 1894–1919, vol. ii, p. 1066.
  11. Signed at Kiachta, June 7, 1915, ibid., p. 1239.
  12. Signed at Moscow, November 25, 1921, British and Foreign State Papers, vol. cxxxii, p. 854.
  13. Signed at Ulan Bator, March 12, 1936, British and Foreign State Papers, vol. cxl, p. 666.
  14. See White House press release of December 1, 1943, Department of State Bulletin, December 4, 1943, p. 393.