Nanking Embassy Files Lot F–73

Memorandum Prepared in the Division of Chinese Affairs 27

Political Appreciation of the Situation in China

a. If the Japanese Capture Kunming and/or Chungking.

The capture of Kunming would involve the loss of the most important military base in Free China and the cutting of the supply route from India and might render the Chengtu bases untenable. The capture of Chungking would result in the liquidation of the Central Government’s stronghold in Szechwan and force the Generalissimo to remove his Government to the west or northwest. Neither area is sufficiently developed or populated to support an army of any size.

These military consequences, together with the accompanying losses in personnel, maneuvering space, economic resources, industrial production, interior transportation routes, government operating efficiency and prestige which would be involved in the loss of Kunming and/or Chungking would seriously if not fatally weaken the Central Government’s armies and its already precarious internal position. They would encourage disintegration in the Central forces and disaffection [Page 170] of military elements whose complete loyalty to the Central Government has long been in doubt. They would serve to activate the dissident elements and probably consolidate them in a movement which would result in the formation of a “representative” government either through successful pressure on Chiang Kai-shek to form such a government or, as is more likely, through its establishment independently of him. The “Communists” would probably participate in such a government and in any case the weakening of the Kuomintang armies and the heterogeneous, incohesive character of other groups would make the “Communists” the dominant force in China.

b. If the Japanese fail to capture Kunming and/or Chungking or make no attempt to do so.

If the Japanese should attempt to seize Kunming and/or Chungking and be defeated in such an effort, the result would be a strengthening of the Generalissimo’s position, as criticism of his regime has been based partially on the failure of the Central Government armies to stop any Japanese drives against objectives in Free China. Agitation by dissident elements would decrease for a time and a continuation of the present character and policies of the Government could be expected.

If the Japanese should not attempt to drive against Kunming and/or Chungking, the situation would probably continue much as it is with a gradual deterioration of conditions and of the Central Government’s position, and with increasing dissatisfaction which the Generalissimo would be expected to meet with inadequate gestures of reform. No important change in the situation would be expected to come until an American landing on the China coast or the possible entrance of the Soviet Union in the war against Japan.

c. The chances of rapprochement between the Central Government and [the Communists and?] to what extent.

A Kuomintang–“Communist” rapprochement which would provide the basis for real cooperation, is believed unlikely. If Chiang should succeed in defeating Japanese drives, his recovered prestige would encourage him to maintain or even stiffen his attitude toward the “Communists”, but the latter would almost certainly not be disposed to modify their terms. Conversely, a further weakening of Chiang’s position, through Japanese successes or through gradual deterioration (in the event of no major Japanese efforts) would encourage the “Communists” to press for terms which the Generalissimo would stubbornly oppose. The Generalissimo will probably agree to “Communist” participation in the Government but not to a coalition government in which the “Communists” and other non-Kuomintang elements would have a real voice. Informed Chinese observers are of the [Page 171] opinion that in a genuine coalition government the Generalissimo would gradually lose his position and power and that he is probably aware of this possibility.

Prospects for the conclusion of a Kuomintang-“Communist” agreement involving only the coordination of military activities through a coalition military council or through an Allied command of the armies of the two factions would probably be considerably better than prospects for a complete rapprochement involving full “Communist” participation in the Government, especially in the event of the Japanese capture of Kunming and/or Chungking.

d. Possibilities for continued Chinese resistance should the Central Government fall, and for American cooperation therewith.

It is believed that virtually all other elements in Free China would continue resistance even though the Central Government should fall. It is only within the Kuomintang Party [sic] that a group favoring a separate peace with Japan has been known to exist and it exists no longer. Aside from the genuine patriotism of many elements, there would be a natural desire to participate on the side which is obviously going to win the war. There is no reason to doubt, from present indications, that the “Communists” would continue their active resistance, and other important elements (such as those headed by Li Chi-shen, Hsueh Yueh and Chang Fa-kwei), including many members of the presently constituted Kuomintang, could be expected to participate actively in a movement for more effective resistance. All these groups would not only be willing to deal with Americans but would expect American supplies with other assistance.

It is to be expected, however, that a considerable period of confusion might ensue before a new government could be established and its machinery put into operation, and that during this period resistance would be disorganized and, very likely, even less effective than it is at present. Moreover, with the Japanese holding Kunming and/or Chungking, even an efficient government would find great difficulty in maintaining contact with the various resistance groups. Under such circumstances the extension of American assistance would be complicated and might have to be conducted largely on a local basis.

e. Possibilities of dealing with elements other than the Central Government while that Government is in power.

Under existing circumstances it would not be advisable to deal with other elements as long as the Central Government remains in power and opposed to such dealings. Such action would seriously impair our relations with the Central Government and endanger its very existence. As long as the United States continues to recognize the Central Government as the legally constituted government of China, [Page 172] any attempt, under the existing military situation in China, to deal with other elements, including the arming of such elements, would be a breach of faith.

In the event, however, of American landings in areas where Central authority is non-existent, the American commanders could not be expected to deal with friendly local groups through the medium of Chungking or to await Chungking’s approval of supplying them with arms. Under such circumstances, military exigencies would justify the extension of aid on an ad hoc basis to all local groups believed capable of and willing to fight the Japanese irrespective of such groups’ political affiliations and the state of their relations with the Central Government.

  1. For the Joint Chiefs of Staff, undated, but about January 12; transmitted to the Ambassador in China by the Secretary of State in his instruction No. 33, February 8, which said in part that the Department hoped that this and other papers being forwarded under the same cover “may be helpful to the Embassy as indicating general lines of policy and thinking in the Department with regard to China and to matters affecting present and post-war international relations in the Far East”. (893.00/2–845) For memorandum prepared in the Division of Chinese Affairs on January 9 entitled “Political and Military Situation in China in the Event the U. S. S. R. Enters the War in the Far East”, see Foreign Relations, The Conferences at Malta and Yalta, 1945, p. 351.