The Consul at Kunming (Sprouse) to the Secretary of State

No. 33

Sir: I have the honor to enclose a translation of an undated telegram30 addressed to “Messrs. Chiang Kai-shek and Mao Tse-tung” by ten professors of the National Southwest Associated University at Kunming in regard to the negotiations between the Kuomintang and the Chinese Communist Party.

Summary of Enclosure: The writers urge the end of “one-party dictatorship” and the convocation of a political council composed of representatives of all parties and factions, as well as non-party leaders, to form a coalition government. They request the holding of elections for the naming of delegates to a National Congress which shall draft and adopt a constitution and thus establish constitutional government. They invite the careful consideration of the two party leaders to the following four points: (1) “One-man monopoly” of governmental power must end; (2) government officials must be appointed upon a basis of competence and ability and not upon a basis of unquestioning obedience—present practices have led to political corruption and administrative inefficiency; (3) interference in governmental affairs by military leaders must be ended; and (4) traitors guilty of conspiring with the Japanese must be punished. They concluded with an appeal for the settlement of differences by constitutional methods and for the formulation of policies in accordance with public opinion. End of Summary.

This telegram was written by ten leading members of the faculty of National Southwest Associated University. Three of the group are members of the Kuomintang and one of them is closely associated with the Democratic League. The writers represent the middle-of-the-road [Page 477] view of the Chinese “liberal”, who is the product of American or British higher education, and their sympathies have always been with the Anglo-Saxon powers, the members of the group being particularly pro-American.

The telegram was timed for publication in one of the local newspapers shortly after the end of press censorship on October 1, the writers feeling that unless it were published immediately there would be slight chance of its publication in spite of the “so-called abolition of censorship”. The day of its intended publication, however, coincided with the coup d’état which removed General Lung Yun from his post as Chairman of the Yunnan Provincial Government and only the Central Government Army-controlled Sao Tang Pao appeared on that day. It is understood that additional copies were sent to Chungking for publication in the Ta Kung Pao. Some of the writers are of the opinion that the Ta Kung Pao editors, who are personally acquainted with the professors, were apparently unwilling to publish the telegram for fear of the safety of the writers at the time of the local coup d’état. The telegram is reliably said to have appeared here in the form of a printed leaflet, which was distributed among various organizations and the university students but has not yet been published in any of the Kunming newspapers or magazines.

These university professors are distressed at what they describe as the “new American policy” toward China. They are at a loss to understand the “all-out support” given to the Chungking Government by the United States, which they believe merely increases the determination of Generalissimo Chiang Kai-shek not to establish a genuine coalition government in China and not to surrender any real power now held by the Kuomintang. One of his group feels that American aid to the Chungking Government should be given piecemeal and that it should be accompanied by clear indications that the United States expects genuine reform and a settlement of internal differences as a prerequisite for the extension of further aid. This informant suggests as an alternative a completely “hands-off” policy toward China in order that the various factions may be left to settle their differences without external interference. These observers do not believe that the Generalissimo will ever make real concessions as long as he is convinced of unqualified American support. They feel that American policy toward China can be explained only on the basis of an American desire to establish a bulwark against communism in Asia and that American military aid in reestablishing Chungking authority in the liberated areas must stem from that desire. They are of the opinion that present American policy, instead of strengthening the position of liberal elements in China by pushing for reforms and agreement, merely strengthens the control of the reactionary elements [Page 478] of the Kuomintang and that the day of reckoning in China is merely being postponed. They believe that China under a continuation of present leadership will prove to be both a liability to the United States and a possible source of future trouble in Asia.

These observers feel that the United States is by its present policy losing prestige among Chinese intellectual and university circles. Asked why, in that event, there has not been more open criticism of the United States among these middle-of-the-road “liberals”, the informants state that the expression of such criticism would be merely playing into the hands of the powerful anti-western group of the Chungking Government, who would be quick to make capital of such criticism. They explain that this group is sympathetic to the Japanese propaganda line that the United States is endeavoring to make a “colony” of China and that, while this anti-western group is receptive to American material aid, they are fundamentally anti-western in their thinking.

There is increasing disillusionment with the Generalissimo and the Chungking Government among this group of Chinese intellectuals, and the attitude of this group has grown even more critical since the Japanese surrender in August. They point to the officials named by the Generalissimo in the liberated areas, whom they described as anti-liberal, pro-Japanese and thoroughly discredited and corrupt individuals. They point to the charges of corruption already brought against General Ho Ying-chin’s Deputy Chief of Staff at Nanking and against General Chien Ta-chun, the new Mayor of Shanghai, as indication of what China can expect from the Chungking Government in the future. They are also critical of the Communist Party, but less strong in their criticism as they believe that the latter at least bases its program on the welfare of the people. They do not believe that either party should have a monopoly on governmental power in China and feel strongly that unless an agreement can be reached between the two parties and unless some means can be found of strengthening the position of liberal and progressive elements in the government there is little hope for China.

These university leaders at Kunming have for the first time grouped together to issue a public statement regarding the major political issue of Kuomintang–Communist relations. These men have remained apart from the efforts of the Democratic League to sponsor coalition government in China and have refused to associate themselves with that movement. Their concern over the present situation has become so great that they felt they could no longer remain silent. Their prestige is sufficiently high to prevent any outward action against them [Page 479] because of this telegram, the effects of which will probably be slight. The timing was unfortunate from a standpoint of publicity and the failure to obtain wide distribution of the document reduces its possible effect to a small circle.

The fact that these persons have taken such action is, however, an indication of the serious concern of Chinese intellectuals over the situation in China and of their deep pessimism regarding the future of the nation.

Respectfully yours,

Philip D. Sprouse
  1. Not printed.