Memorandum by Mr. Horace H. Smith41

Reference Tihwa’s despatch No. 23 of October 10, 194442 summarizing events leading to the replacement of Sheng Shih-ts’ai as chairman of the Sinkiang Provincial Government.

The emphasis placed upon the machinations of Sheng Shih-ts’ai might call for a reconsideration of the position taken with regard to possible Soviet Policy in my despatch, No. 11 of July 19, 1944,43 but I believe that the new information merely tends to weaken the probability and not to alter the possibility that Soviet agencies are inspiring and backing the insurrection in Sinkiang.

A revaluation of the information available regarding the situation in Sinkiang following the replacement of Sheng Shih-ts’ai by Wu Chung-hsin and Chu Shao-liang tends to cast doubt on the reliability of certain information earlier volunteered by Special Commissioner Wu, and Dr. Lo Chia-lun on the basis of reports said to have been supplied to them and to Generalissimo Chiang Kai-shek by Sheng Shih-ts’ai.

There has been no direct proof of any of the allegations made by Sheng Shih-ts’ai of clashes with Soviet Border Guards supporting Kazaks running stock across the border from Sinkiang or running arms across the border from Russia. However, Tatar and other non-Chinese evidence appears to support the contention of Special Commissioner Wu that the Kazak bands are well armed and using Russian type rifles and machine guns and trench mortars. Being unable to check personally on Wu’s stories of almost open Soviet aid to the Kazaks, the fact that Wu and Lo accepted these reports as correct and passed them on orally but officially with assurances that they themselves were checking on each case and that they were fully satisfied with the reliability of these reports, was, and is still taken as sufficient [Page 989] reason to consider their implications and to report them with due qualification to the Department.

As pointed out in my despatch No. 23 referred to above, it no longer appears impossible that the alleged Communist plots used by Sheng to explain his numerous arrests of local officials in April, May, June and July and his arrests in August of Chungking appointees in the Sinkiang Provincial Government could have been purely the product of Sheng’s own imagination, supported by “confessions” and “evidence” obtained under extreme torture, to cover the liquidation of all embarrassing witnesses against Sheng and his principal henchmen before their departure for Chungking.

On the other hand the Kazak raids and the insurrection at Ining did occur as reported and nothing else has occurred, since the submission of my despatch No. 11 of July 19, 1944 entitled “Soviet policy in Sinkiang possibly works toward the creation of a group of semi-autonomous states”, to indicate that it is impossible that the summary of the Soviet position, made on the basis of Chinese reports and the absence of any controverting evidence does not still hold as a possible explanation of Soviet action in Sinkiang during the past few months. It is still quite possible that there was some foundation to the reports of plots made by Sheng.

To review briefly a few outstanding points:

During my farewell call on November 13, 1944, I saw on the wall in the Soviet Consul General’s office a large map upon which the boundary of Outer Mongolia and Sinkiang as printed on all modern Chinese maps has been rather carelessly erased and a new boundary line, according to the Soviet-Mongol placement of last spring, strongly inked in. The Soviet standas expressed in the Tass Urga News release of April 1, 1944 aggressively supported this new boundary line giving the Mongols control over 80,000 additional square kilometers of rich Sinkiang territory.
There are a number of boundary areas subject to potential dispute and the Chinese Central Government, according to Special Commissioner Wu, is greatly concerned over these potentialities and is secretly surveying the areas concerned.
There is Tatar and other non-Chinese evidence that the agitators and leaders with the Kazak raiding parties are in many cases either Soviet citizens or Sinkiang residents who have for many years been given sanctuary in Soviet Russia. The size of the Tatar raiding parties, armed with rifles and ammunition that could have come from nowhere other than Soviet Russia, and their daring in raiding to within five miles of the Provincial capital and the rapid spread of their uprising from the Altai into the Tacheng and Ining areas appears to indicate that they probably have Soviet support.
The revolt of 1,000 Tatars and White Russians, living in and around Ining, on November 7, 1944 could hardly have taken place without Soviet arms and promises of support. Chinese reports to Consul Robert S. Ward forecast the formation of an East Asia [Page 990] Turki Republic (See Chungking’s telegram No. 1 of January 2, 2 p.m.)
The cynicism that Soviet consular officers in Tihwa expressed over any major change in Chinese policy toward Soviet Russia in Sinkiang resulting from Sheng’s removal appears to have been warranted if the mass arrest of the first 300 clients of the Soviet Bookstore after the reapproachment may be taken as a sample of the “new” policy in practice. The new regime may be less openly anti-Soviet but the result is much the same.
Soviet Russia’s general policy of attempting to ensure that all bordering states are under “friendly” governments is well known. The strategic value of the superbly defensible Eastern border of Sinkiang as compared to the relatively indefensible border on the West and the oil, gold, tungsten and animal products of Sinkiang are factors to remember.

Comment: So, while I have come to believe as indicated in my despatch No. 23, referred to above, that the reported plots against Sheng may not have existed at all and may have been only a card played by Sheng in his maneuvering for a safe way out, it is still quite possible that such plots did exist in part. The whole situation was in a state of flux and until a week after Sheng landed in Chungking to take up his new post it was never certain what the outcome would be. It is no clearer today what the outcome will be of Soviet and Chinese jockeying for position and influence in Sinkiang. The Chinese want to hold on at all costs and it appears likely that the Soviets would like to see Sinkiang fall back into their control or area of influence for the least cost.

What the Chinese and the Soviet Russians actually intend to do in or with Sinkiang and what each believes the other intends to do there can only be guessed. Nevertheless, it is obvious that despite the removal of Sheng Shih-ts’ai a serious insurrection is now going on in Sinkiang and it seems possible to me that the second step forecast in my despatch No. 11 of July 19, 1944 may now be being carried through. If this is true, however, it would not appear that the Chinese have made any large scale effort to correct the faults of their own administration which have made it so desperately unpopular with the native populace and with Soviet Russia.

  1. Recently Consul at Tihwa; appointed January 9, 1945, as Second Secretary of Embassy in the Soviet Union.
  2. Foreign Relations, 1944, vol. vi, p. 815.
  3. Ibid., p. 807.