123 Hurley, Patrick J.

The Ambassador in China (Hurley) to President Truman

My Dear Mr. President: I hereby resign as Ambassador to China.

In tendering my resignation I wish you to know that I am in agreement with the foreign policy outlined by you in your recent Navy Day address.1

I am grateful to both you and the Secretary of State for the support you have given me and for your kind offer in requesting me to return to China as Ambassador.

In one capacity or another I have been on the perimeter of America’s influence since the beginning of the war. During the war I have served in Java, Australia, New Zealand, and generally in the southwest Pacific, in Egypt, Palestine, The Lebanon, Syria, Trans-Jordan, Iraq, Saudi Arabia, Iran, Russia, Afghanistan, India, Ceylon, Burma and China. Of all of the assignments China was the most intricate and the most difficult. It is a source of gratification to me that in all my missions I had the support of President Roosevelt, Secretary Hull, Secretary Stettinius, yourself, Mr. President, and Secretary Byrnes.

In the higher echelon of our policy-making officials American objectives were nearly always clearly defined. The astonishing feature of our foreign policy is the wide discrepancy between our announced policies and our conduct of international relations. For instance, we began the war with the principles of the Atlantic Charter2 and democracy as our goal. Our associates in the war at that time gave eloquent lip service to the principles of democracy. We finished the war in the Far East furnishing lend-lease supplies and using all our reputation to undermine democracy and bolster imperialism and Communism. Inasmuch as I am in agreement with you and the Secretary of State on our foreign policy I think I owe it to you as well as to the country to point out the reasons for the failure of the American foreign policy in reaching the objectives for which we said we were [Page 723] fighting the war. I will confine my remarks in this letter to Asia, although I wish to assure you that I will be at your service in discussing frankly other phases of our international relations.

I was assigned to China at a time when statesmen were openly predicting the collapse of the National Government of the Republic of China and the disintegration of the Chinese Army. I was directed by President Roosevelt to prevent the collapse of the Government and to keep the Chinese Army in the war.3 From both a strategical and diplomatic viewpoint the foregoing constituted our chief objective. The next in importance was the directive to harmonize the relations between the Chinese and American military establishments and between the American Embassy in Chungking and the Chinese Government. It will readily appear that the former objective could not be accomplished without the accomplishment of the secondary objective as a condition precedent. Both of these objectives were accomplished. While these objectives had the support of the President and the Secretary of State it is no secret that the American policy in China did not have the support of all the career men in the State Department. The professional foreign service men sided with the Chinese Communist armed party and the imperialist bloc of nations whose policy it was to keep China divided against herself. Our professional diplomats continuously advised the Communists that my efforts in preventing the collapse of the National Government did not represent the policy of the United States. These same professionals openly advised the Communist armed party to decline unification of the Chinese Communist Army with the National Army unless the Chinese Communists were given control.

Despite these handicaps we did make progress toward unification of the armed forces of China. We did prevent civil war between the rival factions, at least until after I had left China. We did bring the leaders of the rival parties together for peaceful discussions. Throughout this period the chief opposition to the accomplishment of our mission came from the American career diplomats in the Embassy at Chungking and in the Chinese and Far Eastern Divisions of the State Department.

I requested the relief of the career men who were opposing the American policy in the Chinese Theater of war. These professional diplomats were returned to Washington and placed in the Chinese and Far Eastern Divisions of the State Department as my supervisors. Some of these same career men whom I relieved have been [Page 724] assigned as advisors to the Supreme Commander in Asia.4 In such positions most of them have continued to side with the Communist armed party and at times with the imperialist bloc against American policy. This, Mr. President, is an outline of one of the reasons why American foreign policy announced by the highest authority is rendered ineffective by another section of diplomatic officials.

The weakness of American foreign policy has backed us into two world wars. We had no part in shaping the conditions that brought about these two wars. There is a third world war in the making. In diplomacy today we are permitting ourselves to be sucked into a power bloc on the side of colonial imperialism against Communist imperialism. I am opposed to both. I still favor democracy and free enterprise.

Our announced policy in the first world war was to make the world safe for democracy. That slogan was elaborated for the second world war by a definite statement of principles in the Atlantic Charter and the Iran Declaration.5 We won both wars but in both instances we failed to establish the principles for which we alleged we were fighting. America’s foreign policy officials have always been divided against themselves. Consequently, we have always been a prey to the nations that give lip service to our ideals and principles in order to obtain our material support. The war that is now in the making is not even intended to defend or establish democratic ideals. Instead of putting our weight behind the Charter of the United Nations6 we have been definitely supporting the imperialistic bloc. At the same time a considerable section of our State Department is endeavoring to support Communism generally as well as specifically in China.

The Hydra-headed direction and confusion of our foreign policy in Washington during the late war is chargeable to the weakness of our Foreign Service. If our Foreign Service had been capable of understanding and sympathetic effectuation of our announced war aims it would not have failed so completely to couple our logistical strength with our foreign policy to obtain commitments to the principles for which we claimed to be fighting from the nations to which we gave the strength of our productivity and manpower.

I am purposely omitting from this short paper a discussion of my negotiations with Britain and Russia7 for the recognition of the territorial integrity and independent sovereignty of China and the procurement from both of these nations of an agreement to support the [Page 725] aspirations of the Chinese people to establish for themselves a free, united, democratic government. These negotiations as you know were successful and so far as Russia is concerned was solemnized in a treaty and exchange of letters.8

A democracy must live on its intelligence and its integrity and its courage. The people of a democracy should be given all the facts to enable them to form correct opinions. The discrepancy between American foreign policy as announced in the Atlantic Charter and the Iran Declaration and in your recent Navy Day address and as carried into effect may be attributed in large measure to the secrecy which has shrouded the actions of the State Department. All too frequently information concerning the conduct of our foreign relations “leaks” out to the public in distorted, garbled, or partial form. The result is that the American people have too little basic information to judge the extent to which their State Department correctly interprets and administers the foreign policies of the nation.

During the war we had to maintain secrecy to prevent giving aid to the enemy. I grant that sometimes during the war we had to be expedient. Now we should endeavor to be right. I raise this issue because I am firmly convinced that at this particular juncture in our history an informed public opinion would do much to give intelligent direction and implementation to our international objectives.

With special reference to China and the other nations where I have served in the last four years, the blessings of factual publicity would be manifold. Now that the war is over I am willing that all my reports be made public, together with the reports made by those officials in the foreign service who have differed with the promulgated American policy.

Our true position in China is misunderstood abroad because of this confusion of policy within our own Government. This situation suggests the need for a complete reorganization of our policy-making machinery beginning at the lower official levels. No international policy can succeed without loyal and intelligent implementation. Because of the confusion in our own international policy, make no mistake, Mr. President, America has been excluded economically from every part of the world controlled by colonial imperialism and Communist imperialism. America’s economic strength has been used all over the world to defeat American policies and interests. This is chargeable to a weak American Foreign Service.

I wish to absolve from this general indictment some of our career men. Some of them are very admirable and well-equipped public [Page 726] servants who have fought in the State Department and in other countries against overwhelming odds to advance American ideals and interests.

America’s economic and diplomatic policies should be coordinated. America’s strength should not be allied with any predatory ideology.

America should support the amendment or revision of the San Francisco United Nations Charter to make it democratic. Our strength should be used to uphold the decisions of the United Nations rather than to support conflicting ideologies or war-making power blocs.


Patrick J. Hurley

[On November 27 the White House announced that President Truman had accepted the resignation of Major General Patrick J. Hurley as Ambassador to China and had appointed General of the Army George C. Marshall as his special envoy to China with personal rank of Ambassador. For comments by the Secretary of State at his press conference on November 28 on criticism by former Ambassador Hurley, see Department of State Bulletin, December 2, 1945, pages 882–883.]

  1. Department of State Bulletin, October 28, 1945, p. 653.
  2. Joint Declaration by President Roosevelt and British Prime Minister Churchill on August 14, 1941, ibid., August 16, 1941, p. 125.
  3. General Hurley was appointed Personal Representative of President Roosevelt in China on August 18, 1944; for documentation on the Hurley Mission, see Foreign Relations, 1944, vol. vi, pp. 247 ff.
  4. General of the Army Douglas MacArthur, Supreme Commander, Allied Powers, Japan.
  5. For text of latter, see Department of State Bulletin, December 4, 1943, p. 409.
  6. Department of State Treaty Series No. 993, or 59 Stat. (pt. 2) 1031.
  7. See telegram of April 14 from the Ambassador in China (Hurley) temporarily in Tehran, p. 329, and telegram No. 1212, April 17, 7 p.m., from the Chargé in the Soviet Union (Kennan), p. 338.
  8. For texts of treaty of friendship and alliance and related documents signed at Moscow, August 14, see Department of State, United States Relations With China (Washington, Government Printing Office, 1949), p. 585; for documentation on this subject, see pp. 851 ff.