Memorandum by the Second Secretary of Embassy in China (Sprouse)90

Subject: The May 5th Draft Constitution

Summary. China has had a long history of constitutions and draft constitutions since the establishment of the Republic in 1911. The present Government functions under a Provisional Constitution promulgated in 1931. Now under study is the May 5th Draft Constitution which is expected to be presented to the forthcoming National Assembly for consideration and subsequent adoption. The Constitution provides for a strong executive with little check on his power, the National Assembly elected by the people meeting only once every three years for a one month’s session. The National Assembly does not control the purse strings of the Government, its chief power being the election of the President and Vice President of the Republic. The Draft Constitution hedges the civil liberties with the phrase that they shall not be restricted “except in accordance with law”. Strong pressure for the revision of the May 5th Draft Constitution is being exerted by the opposition parties and by many non-party Chinese who charge that adoption of the Constitution in [Page 138] its present form would perpetuate the Kuomintang monopoly of the Government. The Kuomintang is opposing any important changes in the document. End of Summary.

[Here follows detailed report.]

Philip D. Sprouse
  1. Prepared for submission to General Marshall; copy transmitted to the Department by the Counselor of Embassy in China (Smyth) in his despatch No. 1046, January 15; received January 30.