Marshall Mission Files, Lot 54–D270

Notes on General Marshall’s First Conference With Mr. Chou En-lai

General Marshall received Chou En-lai, General Yeh Chien Ying and Tung Pi Yu at 4 pm, 23 December 1945, in his residence in Chungking. General Marshall opened the conversation to say that it was very good of the Communist party representatives to come. He said that he had everything to learn and certainly for the time being, he was in China to listen and to ask questions. As the Communist representatives know, he is the Envoy of the President to the Central Government of China. However, that did not mean that he was confined in his discussions only to the Central Government and that he would be happy to see the Communist representatives at any time they might wish to talk to him and state their views to him. In specific relation to his mission, General Marshall said the President made a very complete statement and there was no point in his repeating it. However, it might be profitable for him to interpret various phases of the matter. In the first place, there has always been friendly and affectionate interests by the American people in the people of China. Chinese resistance and America’s own participation in the Pacific war brought that interest to a new peak. China was, of course, in the midst of a bitter struggle with an overwhelming enemy for a number of years, but General Marshall doubted if even the Chinese people realized the extent of America’s effort in the Pacific war. He said he was making these comments to show the degree of his interest and the why and wherefore of American interest in China. He said he doubted if China realized the tremendous American land, sea and air power in the Pacific which precipitated the end of the war. The American forces, he said, not only suffered heavy casualties in men and matériel, but had built up tremendous power in the Pacific by the end of the Pacific war. He said that China must try to understand the difference in the American attitude to a war thousands of miles away. America’s homes were not in peril, but the American people were impressed by the tremendous numbers of men and materiel they had to send thousands of miles away. They brought the war to an end by generous expenditures of men, air power and sea power and atomic power, of which they are very conscious. Now having made that expenditure, they are intensely concerned in anything that might start a war again. Therefore, the President made his statement and in this he represented the feeling of the American people that a unified government in China is necessary to the peace of the world. The President is aware of the difficulty of reaching complete agreement. The very democratic processes require concessions by all to reach agreement, so the President and the Government are most deeply concerned to see generous cooperation [Page 801] by all to reach a peaceful agreement. The President regards this, not only as desirable, but as a requirement to the peace of the world. How the various groups reach accord in China is a Chinese affair, but the U. S. feels the accomplished fact is our affair. The American Government is thoroughly conscious that this war started in Manchuria, spread throughout the world—Ethiopia, Europe and finally the Pacific. How the difficulties are resolved is China’s affair, but he must emphasize for the President the urgency of an early agreement. The interest of the President is concentrated on the Political Consultative Council which is about to meet, and to which he attachés great importance. The President and the U.S. Government feel that China must find a basis of agreement which will end the existence of two armies in China. So long as there are two armies in China, this means that there are two governments—two countries. He said he was trying to give the Communist representatives the feeling of the American people as expressed in the President’s statement. He said that he repeated again that he certainly realized the difficult barriers that China must surmount to accommodate its differences, but that there is no doubt that the world requires an early adjustment. General Marshall said that he was at the service of the Communist representatives and ready to hear them at any time, particularly in this period when he was trying to inform himself. He appreciated their coming and he stated that he was ready to listen to anything they had to say.

Chou En-lai said he was very much pleased at General Marshall’s coming, especially on the mission of seeking the unification of China. He said that he desired to welcome the General on behalf of the representatives of the Communist party now in Chungking.

General Marshall thanked General Chou and said that he appreciated the fact that he had appeared at the airport to meet him. He said that he was very sorry that he had been unable to understand what General Chou had said at the meeting because his ears were still blocked from the landing and he could not hear.

General Chou said he appreciated very much what General Marshall had just said and that his comments were in the right spirit to promote the unity and peace in China. He said that the Communist party had had the same spirit during the war and since, and had consistently strived towards peace and democracy in China. He said that the Chinese people had made great sacrifices during the war. He recalled that China had been in the war for eight years, and if you reckon from Mukden, for fourteen years. The losses were especially heavy in occupied areas. Since the Pacific war, the Americans had made great contributions in the war and though China did not know the details, they were thankful for the effort. He said that relations between [Page 802] China and the United States were good not only during the war, but had always been, and China appreciated and valued this friendship. He said that both before the surrender and after, the late President Roosevelt and then President Truman, had shown great interest in China. Of this China is very conscious and grateful. He said that it was the policy of the late President Roosevelt to bring the two parties together and that these policies were subscribed to by General Hurley and that the Communist party was in complete agreement with him when he went to Yenan. Unfortunately, he said, when General Hurley returned to the United States in the spring, things had occurred so that the policies which he advocated were not carried out. After Japan surrendered, Mr. Mao came personally to Chungking to negotiate a settlement of the differences, but unfortunately no resolution could be reached on certain of the issues and the result had been the resurgence of war in China. He said it was the idea of the Communist party that the late President Roosevelt had wanted China unified on the basis of democracy. He said that apparently President Truman agreed on the main points of the late President’s policy. He said that with regard to President Truman’s statement, the Communist party agreed with the main points, which followed the policy of the late President Roosevelt. First of all there should be no civil war in China, which would not only destory its peace and economy, but also the peace of the world. That is the reason the Communist party said there should be an immediate cessation of hostilities unconditionally, leaving all questions for discussion. He said that the Communist party believes this is very important, because even during this talk the fighting is going on and will lead to new difficulties. He said that the Communist party meant by cease-fire order that both sides cease firing. He said that he could guarantee that the Communist party would cease firing and if the government can agree, the war can be stopped. He said that the matter of preventing a resumption of the fighting involved other problems such as Communist particpation in the surrender, the opening of communications, an end to the government use of puppet and Japanese forces in the civil war. He said that all these matters should be solved by conference. There were additional problems. The Government should be democratized. As President Truman has stated, the present government of China is a one-party government. This is the reason there are two armies in China. When democratization takes place, this problem can be solved. The Communist party fully agrees that all Communist armies should be nationalized, but this meant there must be truly a democratic government. He said that the Kuomintang admitted that the present government was a one-party government and that people outside their party did not have a right in the government. He said that the Communist [Page 803] party believes there should be constitutional government, but such is not in existence. He said the Kuomintang had submitted a draft constitution which it wanted to submit to a National Assembly for which delegates had been selected ten years ago. He said these delegates were selected by the Kuomintang, which was the only legal party in existence at that time, all others being outlawed. He said the Communist party could not agree to a National Assembly on this basis. Therefore the Communist party advocated, he said, that right now there be a coalition government. There should be a national government of China, and nothing else, but its characteristics should be modified. He said that he hoped through the present Political Council the present government can be reorganized into a government of that nature, but he said that such a government must have something for its basis. Therfore, there should be a joint platform worked out by the PCC which would give a basis for the new government. If there was no such program agreed to there would be nothing to direct the policies of a coalition government. Such a coalition government would not only unify the political administration of China, but also its troops. Under such a program all armies would become unified since they would be under the National government. They would be neither Kuomintang nor Communist party armies. He said that the Communist party believed that in such a coalition government Generalissimo Chiang Kai-shek would remain as trustee. He said that under such a coalition government, the Kuomintang would be in first place in the government. He said that the Communist party always advocated along these lines since last year and still adhere to it. He said that the Communist party proposed that the Political Consultative Council prepare a draft of a constitution and then a plan be arranged under a coalition government for a National Assembly to adopt the constitution to make China a constitutional government. This, said General Chou, was the general line of the Communist party. He said that as to past events and specific action on concrete problems, he would appreciate it if General Marshall would submit any questions in his mind for the Communists to answer. He said that he would prepare certain written documents for General Marshall.

General Marshall said he appreciated very much General Chou’s outline of his point of view and he would think over the matter and decide whether he had any questions. He repeated his desire to hear General Chou and his associates at any time they desired. He wanted to get full information. He said that he realized this was a historic period not only in China, but it all pertained to the peace of the world. General Marshall said that at some later time he would ask more questions and then perhaps express some opinion.

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General Chou, after an exchange of pleasantries, said that the Communist party desired a democracy in China based not on the fake democracy of Japan under the Emperor, but on the American style. He said it was impossible for China to jump in one step from the present position to democracy. He said there were three things to learn. He said the first was the spirit of independence of Washington’s time. The second was the spirit of freedom and of government for the people, of the people and by the people as expressed by President Lincoln. He said the third was agricultural reform in which there is no feudalism and an industrialization of China in which China must learn the techniques of America, He said that what he advocated now was only the American form of government. He said that the Communist party fully agreed with President Roosevelt’s four freedoms. He said that, of course, China must digest the spirit of American democracy and work out a way that is adaptable to China. We must apply this spirit to China.

General Marshall proposed a toast to a generous understanding and General Chou replied to the toast of lasting freedom between the United States and China and General Yeh toasted General Marshall and the success of his mission of such great importance to China and the world.