The Consul at Tihwu (Ward) to the Secretary of State 79

No. 2

Sir: I have the honor to refer to the Consulate’s telegrams nos. 2 to 9, inclusive, 11 to 21, inclusive, 24, 25, 28 and 29, despatched between the dates of November 16 and December 10, 1944 to the Embassy at Chungking, on the subject of the Ining Uprising, the gist of which telegrams will probably have been repeated to the Department,80 and, further in that connection, to submit the following report.

Summary. An uprising began on November 7 in the city of Ining in the western part of the Province not far from the border. Participated in by Kazaks, Turkis, Tatars, and White Russians, it gained control of Ining, the greater part of the Chinese garrison being at the time away on a punitive expedition, and the remainder being annihilated or driven back into an area roughly oval in shape north of Ining proper which the Chinese, based on the airfield, the Air Corps Barracks, and the Kuei Wang Temple, have been successful in defending to date. Until the insurgents drove to a point close to the west of the airfield, it was feasible for the beleaguered garrison to receive supplies and light reinforcements by air, but this is no longer possible, and supplies have to be dropped to the field. The despatch of reinforcements by road has been delayed by the fact that the insurgents have until very recently held Erht’ai, a strategic pass on the Horgos-Tihwa Road. The capture of this pass by the Chinese, and the arrival in Tihwa of two divisions of Hu Tsung-nan’s troops from “within the Pass” has occasioned a recovery of confidence among the Provincial authorities which at this writing causes them to feel that the uprising may shortly be suppressed. The insurgents, meanwhile, appear to be well armed, and are carrying on propaganda for the so-called “East Asia Turki Republic” which they have set up, and which they evidently hope to base on a Province-wide union of Muslims against the Chinese minority. The Chinese are unanimous in believing that the uprising is Soviet inspired, but it seems unlikely that, in a situation in which the Russians could achieve whatever end they might seek by simply abstaining from action—a course which has the advantage of being blameless—they would do anything which would compromise their position or lend any color to the extravagant anti-Soviet [Page 818] allegations of the Chinese. It appears more probable that the uprising is what it purports to be: a revolt against years of misrule. End of Summary.

[Here follows detailed report.]

III. Imputation of Soviet Complicity.

Every Chinese with whom the Consulate has been in contact since the uprising began has seemed to be, and in many cases has actually been, sincerely convinced of the complicity of the U. S. S. R. In the course of my first call on General Chu Shao-liang, he stated flatly that the uprising was Soviet inspired; it had been started in the White Russian quarter of Ining on Red Army Day (November 7) by a group of White Russians who held Chinese citizenship but who were also secretly registered at the Soviet Consulate, the General alleged. Two prisoners had identified the White Russian leader, he said, as one Polinoff, a former Soviet Russian advisor to General Sheng Shih-ts’ai. The real base of the rebellion, according to the General, was in the Russian border town of Horgos; Suiting, between Horgos and Ining, was also controlled by the rebels, who were in constant contact through it with Horgos and who received their arms and supplies from Russia by that route. To prove these contentions he produced a 20mm. anti-tank anti-aircraft shell and five 25 calibre rifle shells.

The rebels had taken up positions around and back of the Soviet Consulate in Ining, the General further stated, to make it difficult for the Chinese to attack them without running the risk of damaging the Consulate as well.

In a second and subsequent conversations the General developed these charges. There was a wall around the Soviet Consular compound, he said, on which numerous machine guns were set up; these guns were constantly engaged in support of the rebels; when a Chinese plane passed over the compound, it was shot at by machine guns from within the Soviet compound. He also asserted that at night one could see the constant blinking of the lights of trucks passing up and down the Suting–Kwangjen–Horgos Road carrying Soviet supplies to the insurgents. In answer to a question during one of these conversations as to whether he had any further evidence of the Soviet character of these supplies, he produced a machine gun magazine, a metal carrying case, several anti-tank shells, and five or six small trench mortar shells. Other evidence, comprising principally a pass-port reported to have been taken from the body of the leader of the original attack on the Ining Police Station, he had turned over to the Special Commissioner for Foreign Affairs, who would doubtless be glad to show it to us.

The Special Commissioner, Chaucer Wu, not only showed us the pass-port, but produced an invitation written in Russian, presumably [Page 819] issued by the Soviet Consulate in Ining, to the bearer of the pass-port, inviting him to a celebration of Red Army Day on the evening of November 6. There were three hundred White Russians invited to this party, the Special Commissioner stated, and it was this same three hundred who in the early hours of the next morning issued out fully armed to capture Ining. These proofs were being forwarded, accompanied by a full report, to the Generalissimo.

These statements are fairly representative, both in tone and content, of others made to me by every Chinese accessible to the office; they are cited here not as much for the reason that they were made by persons in authority as because in these two cases—and in them alone—there was some attempt to produce proof of what was being said.

Of the nature of this evidence, it may be noted that: (1) no proof was adduced of charges of dual citizenship; but if any were, it might also be pointed out that the ablest pilot on the present Ining run has sound claim to American citizenship, but is regarded by the Chinese as a Chinese citizen, as are thousands of other Chinese born and living abroad; (2) the Chinese themselves have long averred that a person can be made to say anything under a sufficiently severe examination; (3) there are two towns named Horgos, one Chinese and the other Russian, half-kilometre apart; the Soviet Government could not control what went on in the Horgos nearest to Suiting and Ining; (4) if the possession of Soviet-made ammunition—if it is in fact Soviet made, which has not been established—proves Soviet complicity, then the United States could with equal justice be said to have been busy inciting revolutions throughout a whole hemisphere for forty years, and is still a staunch supporter of the Japanese; (5) none of the other statements was put in evidence by a witness who saw what he was describing; who saw the lights of the trucks, and how did he know they were truck lights? Which pilot can say that his plane was shot at from the Soviet Consulate? If, as has been stated, the insurgents grouped themselves around the Soviet Consulate, and were amply equipped with machine-guns, what person will state that he got close enough to those machine-guns to be sure that they were on the walls of the Soviet Consulate, rather than on adjoining walls deliberately selected because they were close to the Consulate? (6) Of the invitation, it may be observed that, assuming it to be genuine, there is still no indication of how the other 299 alleged guests got to the party, if there was one.

There remain to be recounted two incidents illustrative of the political atmosphere of Tihwa. At the height of the tension generated by the Chinese conviction that the Soviet Government was engaged in an immense land grab at China’s expense (one ranking Chinese [Page 820] official asserted that everything from Ining to Mukden was at stake), Acting Consul General Evseef of the U. S. S. R. and Consul Constantinov of his staff called on General Chu. After they had discussed their business, the General invited his two visitors to take drinks with him. They accepted, and, after the Russian fashion, drank rather more than less, feeling increasingly cordial as they progressed. Finally Constantinov assured the General that they thought he was a fine fellow and would do what they could to help him. Would he come to dinner some night and talk things over? A small dinner, just the three of them, if he would prefer. They then took their leave.

The same day it occurred, this “incident” was reported in a long secret telegram to the Generalissimo hotly averring that the Soviets were now trying to catch General Chu in the same trap with which they had taken Sheng; they had created the Ining Incident in order to make their support in its suppression indispensable to Chu; once the latter became dependent on them, he would have to obey their orders and not those of the Central Government. The Generalissimo was assured, however, that Chu would have none of it; the General would not go to the dinner.

[Here continues detailed report.]

It is even said that Sheng himself still maintains a very real influence in the affairs of the Province, and although the present Chairman and General-in-Command are both able, sincere, and well-intentioned men, the control of the administration by the CC81 Clique would seem to make unlikely the type of swift, clear, and imaginative action which might save Sinkiang from the already looming shadow of possible future events even more serious than the present uprising.

V. Conclusions.

The first conclusion which the observer of the Ining uprising is forced to draw is that it is very unlikely indeed that that uprising is actually Soviet inspired, since the present situation of the Province is such that all the Soviet Government need do is to continue to forbear from any action of any kind, in the complete assurance that, given a long enough time and the persistence of a pathological incapacity to face the facts, the Chinese will exhaust their mandate to govern Sinkiang. To do anything which would justify the charges of intervention which the Chinese make so readily would only weaken the Soviet position.

For the Chinese, a conviction that it is all the fault of the Soviets is a psychic necessity. China has been badly mauled and has suffered deeply: it would be too much to have to recognize that part of this suffering is her fault; that, in the case of Sinkiang, the grossest [Page 821] misgovernment for year after year can in the end only bring revolt, even from the meekest of peoples, against the governing minority. The British governed well in Hong Kong, but without taking account of the susceptibilities of the 97% of the population which comprised those who were governed, and in a very critical moment they paid dearly for that lapse. In Sinkiang the Chinese are the governing minority, and they are now, at their own moment of great crisis, having to meet a small part of a much more staggering account than was ever chargeable to the British in Hong Kong. It is small wonder that they cannot face the truth, but must, like the sailor Ahab, persuade themselves that all this evil is the work of a Great White Whale, in whom all evil is incarnate. And while with feverish hatred they pursue their Whale, the sea gathers round them.

Respectfully yours,

Robert S. Ward
  1. Approved by the Appointed Ambassador in China (Hurley) for transmission to the Department.
  2. Embassy telegrams giving substance of reports from the Consul at Tihwa not printed.
  3. The Chen brothers, Kuo-fu and Li-fu.