Memorandum by the Director of the Office of Far Eastern Affairs (Vincent)82

Summary of a Personal Letter From Mr. John Fairbank December 6 [1945]

The most striking change since two years ago in the minds of the Chinese intellectuals appears to be their final desertion of the Generalissimo. Liberals say they see no hope in his regime: it will continue to seek political control without achieving economic and social reform.

The second phenomenon has been a marked increase in anti-American feeling. Its expression has been open and vigorous in print and makes the point that in moving Central Govt troops about the country in connection with Japanese surrenders we have in effect taken sides in the civil conflict. Although this is the Communist line, it carries a lot of weight in popular opinion.

Points of view here are varied: Soviet friends feel we are playing the bully, threatening the USSR. A US military officer (aide to a general) says we must call for a showdown with the USSR before we demobilize. The Kuomintang tell us we must check communism in China by helping keep the Kmt82a in power. Liberal Chinese feel a coalition government is the only possible solution. The Communist pursue their usual tactic of staying close to liberal opinion while trying to lead it forward.

Personally, I would base a policy on the following considerations:

Military force will never succeed in setting up a stable government if the govt has to rely on military force.
The conflict in China is not merely political; it is economic and social and goes to the bottom of Chinese life.
China’s revolution will produce a different political and social structure than ours; we should not look for our own image.
By offering the things most helpful to China we could be sure of maintaining an influence at least as strong as Russia’s. The Russians appear to be taking a long-term view and keeping their record relatively clear. We cannot keep Russia out of China by bayonets.
Our positive program should continue to emphasize economic help in China, while cutting down on support of one party in the civil conflict. This can be done only if some kind of coalition government is attained.

American critics of coalition government will say that the Chinese communists cannot be trusted and will use such a government to work for the revolution. I expect they would, but I believe our only hope is to hold the political situation together long enough, in an armistice of coalition type, to allow some economic progress to be made. The alternative is to let the civil conflict absorb economic energies until China is even more bankrupt and ripe for revolution.

The essential fact is that the right-wing Kmt want to hold onto power, and their efforts to do so against the forces of change from all sides is widening the split between them and groups like the liberals and communists, who also have something to offer for national progress.

  1. Forwarded on January 14 by Mr. Vincent to the Under Secretary of State (Acheson) with the notation: “There is attached a summary of a personal letter from Mr. John Fairbank, Director of the U. S. Information Service (USIS) in China, which I believe will be of interest to you. Mr. Fairbank returned to China in October 1945 after an absence of about two years, having spent much of the last twelve years in China.”
  2. Kuomintang (Nationalist Party).