740.0011 P.W./1–2045

The Vice Consul at Chengtu ( Service ) to the Ambassador in China ( Hurley )38

No. 1

Sir: I have the honor to submit a report based on information which I recently obtained at Kunming with regard to an understanding which is reliably stated to exist between certain provincial leaders on the question of future cooperation with the National Government in military action against the Japanese. In view of the confidential contents of this despatch, and the personal danger to which my principal source of information would be exposed if his identity became known to the Chungking authorities, his name is being withheld for the present. Because of the potential military significance of the movement which was described by my informant, I placed him in touch with a responsible U. S. Army officer at Kunming who has reported the results of their interview to the Commanding General, China Theater.

Summary: The principal provincial warlords in Free China have reached an agreement not to use their troops against the Japanese in the event of further enemy offensive action. The warlords’ decision is the result of their conviction that the Generalissimo intends to continue to withhold American military equipment from distribution to [Page 179] provincial forces, and, on the other hand, is determined to destroy these forces by using them in the front lines against the enemy. The most influential among the provincial leaders are P’an Wen-hua (Szechuan) and Lung Yun (Yunnan); the former has taken the initial step of providing an individual at Kunming with an officially sealed letter authorizing him to approach Allied military authorities on the matter of supplying his troops with modern weapons. It is the sincere conviction of this individual (my source) that the provincial troops, if equipped by the American Army, can be persuaded to accept American leadership and will shoulder their share of fighting against the Japanese. While this move is an obvious effort on the part of provincial leaders to obtain from the Americans equipment which they cannot receive from the Generalissimo, it is also indicative of the military and political demoralization which saps China’s strength today. End of Summary.

(I present below the summarized information given me by my source; my own comments and observations are enclosed in parentheses.)

Opposition in China to the Generalissimo has increased rapidly during the past two years, and has been augmented greatly since the Honan, Hunan and Kwangsi military debacles. While there are many who hold no brief for the Chinese Communists, they deplore Chiang’s determination to hold his best troops in idleness by blockading the northwest, and they blame Chiang for having failed to come to an agreement with the Beds to permit united action by all Chinese forces, without reference to political affiliation, against the common enemy. At present the Generalissimo enjoys the confidence and loyalty of only a small inner circle of followers; the overwhelming majority of China’s leaders will welcome his fall. Many of the latter will take no action against Chiang until his fall is assured, while others are preparing to do what they can to overthrow him. The principal provincial leaders, after prolonged negotiation, have reached an understanding whereby they will not permit their troops to fight, and thereby suffer destruction at the hands of, the Japanese. Their decision is to take their troops to inaccessible mountainous regions in their provinces and to hold them in readiness for the post-war maintenance of their established positions of provincial leadership. They are convinced that without their support—suddenly withdrawn without warning at the crucial moment—Chiang’s troops will be defeated by the enemy and Chiang himself will be overthrown. If necessary, they will use their troops to bring this about after Chiang’s armies are defeated by the Japanese. The attitude of the provincial leaders is due in part to the unwillingness of the Generalissimo to equip provincial troops with American lend-lease weapons, and in part to his established practice of strengthening his political position by feeding the troops of China’s provincial leaders—witness Hsueh Yueh’s fate—into the Japanese [Page 180] “meat-grinding machine”, while conserving his own national troops until the day when the war is won for him by the Allies and his potential political enemies are stripped of their military and political capital—their soldiers—and he is free to challenge the Chinese Communists without fear of attack from the rear.

[Here follows detailed report.]

Conclusion

My informant’s approach represents an effort on the part of a coalition of warlords to obtain American equipment for their troops on the threat that they will not participate in action against the Japanese if such equipment is not forthcoming. P’an’s letter to my informant, sent through Lung Yun, may be considered evidence that the matter is not a figment of my informant’s imagination—the contents of the letter, if made known to the Chungking authorities, would be sufficient to cause P’an serious trouble with the Generalissimo.

The existence of a definite understanding between Lung, P’an and others has been communicated to me several times recently by leading representatives of the Democratic League, who insist that the Chinese Communists are included in the coalition. They predict that a full-fledged movement against the Generalissimo will come into the open within a short time.

Respectfully yours,

Richard M. Service
  1. Copy transmitted to the Department by the Embassy in China without covering despatch on February 14; received February 26.