Marshall Mission Files, Lot 54–D270

Memorandum by Mr. James R. Shepley 39 to General Marshall

General Marshall: On the basis of information to date, Colonel Byroade40 and I have attempted to arrive at a preliminary estimate of the political situation in China. It is by no means firm, and we hope to find someone on the scene who is more obviously familiar with the more subtle details than any of the information so far.

Even prior to the Japanese invasion of China proper, Chiang had been moving publicly toward the convocation of a National Assembly to adopt a constitution for China. He had reached the point of selecting delegations for such an assembly and preparing a proposed draft constitution for its consideration. Neither the manner in which these delegates were selected nor the draft constitution were acceptable to any of the dissident elements in China and on the face of it the moral right seemed to lie with the dissident elements since Chiang’s selection of framers would have meant a constitution written by Kuomintang. The constitution he proposed provided nothing more than what might charitably be called a constitutional dictatorship. Throughout the war, the Chinese political factions have been referring to the pros and cons of the constitutional argument.

On December 31 last, in a New Year’s speech, Chiang proposed the convening of this National Assembly to adopt a constitution this year and on the 8th of January the Kuomintang standing committee decided to call a party conference on May 6 to discuss the establishment of constitutional government in China.

On the 24th of January Mao Tse-tung’s deputy, Chou En-lai came to Chungking, as a result of Mr. Hurley’s efforts to bring about a rapprochement, and proposed an all-party conference to institute immediately a coalition interim government to run China until the constitution might be set up. This brought the retort from Chiang that no sooner had one Communist demand been met than a fresh one was raised, and on 1 March he announced that the Kuomintang was unwilling to relinquish power of final decision until a National Assembly had been convened to write a constitution and that this assembly would meet on the 12th of November.

On 20 March the Democratic League headed by Chang Lan, which is one of the most influential dissident groups, announced that it would refuse to participate in the National Assembly which would [Page 775] convene on 12 November and a few days later the Communists stated their refusal. There followed a series of exchanges back and forth on this line; the Kuomintang arranged a People’s Political Council in July. The Chinese Communists refused to attend it, even after six of the members had flown to Yenan on 2 July in an unsuccessful attempt to persuade Mao to send representatives. Chiang addressed this council on its opening date on 7 July reaffirming his intention to inaugurate constitutional government and stated that the government would make no further decision regarding the National Assembly without consulting the People’s Political Council. On 20 July the council broke up, resolving to leave the date of the National Assembly which the dissident elements were refusing to attend to the government, and stated that such an assembly would be unrepresentative so long as these dissident elements boycotted it.

Then came the end of the war and a series of bickering back and forth on who would accept Japanese surrenders. Chiang invited Mao Tse-tung to come to Chungking to discuss the situation and Mao made no reply. Mao’s military commander, Chu Teh, however, made a statement demanding that the Communists be permitted to accept the surrender of the Japanese forces in North China and to participate in the peace conference. Chiang refused these demands and made a second invitation to Mao to come to Chungking. Mao replied this time that he would send Chou En-lai as a representative. In the middle of this, the Democratic League on August 18 issued a program calling for the selection of representatives to the National Constitutional Assembly under new election laws so as to give all factions representation. On August 25, the Communists announced another program repeating their demand to receive Japanese surrender, for the establishment of a coalition government and for the free election of the National Assembly.

The day that the Moscow radio announced the termination [conclusion?] of the Sino-Soviet treaty, Mao apparently was shaken because he announced that he would go to Chungking in person. He has never done so, apparently having changed his mind since.

The political and military situation then progressively worsened into armed action in North China until on 15 October it was announced that the government and the Communists’ conversations resumed to deal with:

The convening of a National Assembly.
The formation of a Political Consultative Council.
The situation in North China.

On the 25th of October K. C. Wu, the Minister of Information, announced that the government and the Communists had agreed on [Page 776] the membership of the Political Consultative Council. On the 3rd. of November the government proposed to the Communists a cessation of hostilities in North China and the maintenance of the status quo while the Peoples Political Council considered their differences. On the 10th of November the Communists agreed to the desirability of cessation of hostilities, but called on the government to withdraw its troops to positions held at the outbreak. On 12 November, the government announced unilaterally that it would convene the National Constitutional Assembly on the 5th of May.

Since your appointment, the plans for the Political Consultative Council have proceeded in a more conciliatory manner. Last week the Communists’ representatives arrived in Chungking and, according to newspaper reports of the last few days, it would appear that the reaction both in government and Communist quarters to Mr. Truman’s public statement has been reasonably hopeful and that the Political Consultative Council begins its deliberations in a better atmosphere than has existed heretofore.

It would seem from this series of events that the major political considerations in China are at the moment fourfold:

The Communists and the other dissident elements desire an interim government of China while a permanent constitutional basis is established. At the same time, the Communists insist upon retaining their autonomous Armies and autonomous governmental control.

The government opposes an interim government and insists upon the dissolution of the autonomous Communist Armies.

All sides concur on the desirability of a cessation of hostilities, but cannot mesh on the specific terms of a truce.

All sides agree to the establishment of a constitutional government of China. The government on one hand and the dissident elements on the other hand are in disagreement on how the framers of this constitution shall be selected. It would seem, therefore, that the bargaining power you hold might be used to bring about a political settlement along the following lines:

The establishment of an interim government of China in which Chiang would concede a reasonable amount of power to the dissident factions. This might reasonably even go as far as the appointment of Mao Tse-tung or someone of his choice as a deputy to Chiang or possibly the position as head of the Executive Yuan now held by Premier Soong. This would be a considerable step by Chiang, but on the other hand he continues to remain top man in China, not only of Nationalist China, but all of China.
In exchange the Communists should surrender their Eighth and Fourth Route Armies to bona fide control of the Central Government and also relinquish the government of Communist North China to the interim coalition government. This is certainly not too much to expect [Page 777] from the Communists if Chiang gives them a voice in a coalition government.
Under the interim coalition government, an immediate cessation of hostilities should be effected, in which the coalition government proceeds with American support to eradicate Japanese influence from China, the repatriation of Japanese troops and civilians, and also proceeds to make firm Chinese sovereignty in the liberated areas. The interim coalition government would then be in a position to move with strong American support to begin to restore Chinese economy through the establishment of a transportation system, the reopening of cotton mills, the establishment of currency control and the other benefits of the American help which you are prepared to give.
At the same time, while this interim coalition government is thus making concrete progress to unify China, militarily and economically, the various political factions would proceed immediately to nominate representatives or to elect representatives to the proposed constitutional assembly for the promulgation of a permanent constitutional Republic of China. This assembly should certainly convene no later than two or three months from the date the coalition interim government is formed and should complete its deliberations with the adoption of a permanent constitution for China no later than three to six months from the time the assembly is composed. Upon the adoption of a constitution the interim government should immediately proceed to effect the establishment of a permanent constitutional government of China and turn control over to this government.

  1. Member of the Marshall Mission, designated as Attaché to the Embassy in China.
  2. Col. Henry A. Byroade, member of the Marshall Mission.