Marshall Mission Files, Lot 54–D270

Minutes of Meeting Between General Marshall and General Chou En-lai at 5 Ning Hai Road, Nanking, May 23, 1946, 6 p.m.

Also present: Colonel Caughey83
Capt. Soong84
Mr. Chang Wen-Chin85

General Marshall stated that he was sorry to be late but he had a conference with Dr. Wang Shih Chieh, the Foreign Minister, followed by a meeting with the Belgian Ambassador.

General Marshall said that he had asked Dr. Wang if he minded repeating to General Chou some of Dr. Wang’s views, and Dr. Wang stated he did not mind. General Marshall said they talked of many things regarding the situation. Dr. Wang said that he had seen Dr. Peng, the Minister of Information,86 and Dr. Wang had exactly the same idea about the control of the press that General Chou and General Marshall had. Dr. Wang felt the same way about it and advised Dr. Peng to that effect. Dr. Wang thought the situation was very serious and that very determined action should be taken on the part of the Government through the Central News Agency to control propaganda. Dr. Wang thought General Chou’s proposal for clearing military news through the Executive Headquarters and through a team at Mukden was excellent, particularly when General Marshall stated that when an agreement was not reached—nothing would come out. He thought that was much the better. General Marshall said that Dr. Wang might take a different view from other members of the Government. General Marshall said he told Dr. Wang of General Chou’s idea about an agreement on a joint statement following any political conferences. Dr. Wang was in thorough agreement to that.

General Chou said that he was still making every effort to effect the cessation of propaganda. General Chou had written a letter to Dr. Peng saying that the proposal he had made in the previous day’s conversation had been approved by Yenan and he had made an appointment with Dr. Peng for tomorrow morning at 9 o’clock. He hoped that some kind of a solution could be reached by then.

General Chou stated that he had come to see General Marshall for the specific purpose of discussing the situation in Manchuria since he had learned that General Pei Chung Tsi87 arrived in Nanking yesterday. Today at 11 o’clock the Generalissimo left for Manchuria. This [Page 885]situation led General Chou to guess that maybe the program now in prospect may confront some trouble for completion and General Chou therefore requested General Marshall’s estimate of the situation as to whether some change should take place in the meantime or whether we should just continue our efforts along the line we have followed. General Chou stated that it was his impression that General Marshall’s idea seemed to be very clear regarding Manchuria with the exception of the provincial governments. General Chou said he was afraid that with the departure of the Generalissimo from Nanking, it might be his intention to still try to resolve the Manchurian problem by force. Possibly the Generalissimo wanted to be absent at this time so that the efforts toward negotiation would be interfered with. General Chou stated that he was willing to resolve the whole matter by negotiations because that is for the best interests of the Chinese people.

General Marshall stated that in the first place, General Chou would understand that he was not entirely free to express himself. He stated that possibly his best answer to General Chou would be that he had provided his plane for the Generalissimo’s trip. As to the deputy Chief of Staff, General Pei Chung Chi, he arrived yesterday and the Generalissimo’s trip to Mukden was planned 36 hours before that. General Marshall stated that he had arranged for the plane day before yesterday, so Pei Chung Chi’s conversation of yesterday had no bearing on the Generalissimo’s plan to go to Manchuria. What the outcome of the Generalissimo’s trip would be, General Marshall could not say.

General Marshall said he saw the Generalissimo briefly last night after his conversation with General Chou. In view of the discussion General Marshall had with General Chou and despite the fact that General Marshall had yet no clear idea concerning provincial governments, he had concluded that since the situation was so serious that he would discuss the matter with the Generalissimo. The Generalissimo had previously, Saturday or Sunday, discussed the matter with General Marshall and finally brought up the question of his trip to Mukden. Yesterday General Marshall outlined to the Generalissimo the possible basis of an agreement, except for the political reorganization factor. Regarding that, General Marshall stated the Democratic League attitude and General Chou’s attitude regarding the reorganization of the political council, but General Marshall had nothing to offer in connection with the provincial governments. The Generalissimo made a statement in regard to the political factors which confirmed what General Marshall had told General Chou the other day that the Generalissimo’s intention was to discontinue a special form of government in Manchuria by dissolving the councils.

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The Generalissimo, General Marshall stated, did not declare himself regarding Changchun and the military aspects as General Marshall presented them. General Marshall’s impression however was that the Generalissimo was not antagonistic.

General Marshall stated that he discussed the communications problem at great length and that the Generalissimo mentioned two other matters which General Marshall said he would relate to General Chou. He stated that he drew the implication from the discussion of these three points that an agreement seemed to be a possibility. The Generalissimo stated three things that to his mind were conditions precedent to any general agreement.

The Generalissimo insisted that there must be an effort on the part of the Communist Party to facilitate the restoration of communications. General Marshall said he stated General Chou’s contention that it wasn’t purely a matter of railway communications; that the Communist Party attached just as much importance to road, river, telegraph and postal communications. The Generalissimo stated that he thought those issues were brought up to present a convenient stumbling block to the actual restoration of communications. General Marshall told the Generalissimo that those issues were raised by General Chou En-lai before the agreement of January 10th was reached. The Generalissimo said he was willing to have this matter adjusted by conference between General Yu Ta-Wei88 and General Chou. General Marshall raised the issue of railroad fortifications as having been the major stumbling block and he told the Generalissimo that he had proposed to General Chou what he thought was a reasonable adjustment, i. e., the destruction of all fortifications except those that were to guard the tunnels, bridges, etc. The Generalissimo said he would leave the issue to the discussion between General Yu Ta-Wei and General Chou, which of course would include the restoration of other means of communications as well. The Generalissimo stated that he regarded the railroad as the most important. General Marshall stated that the Communist Party attached great importance to the postal, road and river traffic.
The next condition the Generalissimo made was that any agreement in Manchuria must be with the understanding that the demobilization and reorganization plan would be carried out according to the stipulated dates. General Marshall said that while the Generalissimo did not express himself definitely he gathered that the Generalissimo was not excluding reconsideration of final strengths. That was General Marshall’s impression, though he said there was no time to raise the issue and discuss it because a dinner party was being kept waiting while General Marshall was talking.
The Generalissimo was very insistent and very emphatic about the third condition. General Marshall said he would give it to General Chou in the words of the Generalissimo as nearly as possible. The Generalissimo said he would be unwilling to commit himself to any further agreement without the understanding that, when team members [Page 887]or corresponding higher staff groups reached an impasse, the final vote should be left with the American. The Generalissimo did not analyze this provision further and General Marshall said he could only assume what his meaning was as to its practical application. General Marshall would assume that the Generalissimo must have meant not the major decisions, but routine decisions such as the movement of the teams, when they should go and where they should go, would be settled in that manner conclusively. General Marshall said he would assume that the Generalissimo was not referring to the commissioners at Executive Headquarters and certainly not referring to the Committee of Three. General Marshall said it was probable that the Generalissimo was referring to the position of the American in the temporary establishment in Changchun but not with respect to compromises and military and political reorganization. He said the Generalissimo would not be delegating to an American a final vote in decisions regarding political reorganizations in China, so General Marshall felt that the Generalissimo was referring to the routine procedures to facilitate action in contrast to the past situation where practically nothing could be done or accomplished.

General Marshall gathered from these statements of the Generalissimo’s that he was seriously considering accepting the presentation General Marshall had given him as a possible basis for an agreement without a long delay. General Marshall stated that he told the Generalissimo that he would be willing, if it was desired, to resume his role of attempting to mediate with the provision that General Marshall must have a better understanding of the political provincial governments before he became completely involved. General Marshall told General Chou that this was, of course, very personal and confidential, but General Marshall suggested to the Generalissimo as they were separating, that the Generalissimo consider the great advantage of reaching a general decision while he was in Mukden so that he might possibly declare himself from there as to the termination of active hostilities. General Marshall said he suggested that if in thinking over the presentation he had made, the Generalissimo found it acceptable in principle and would communicate with him, he could in turn inform the Generalissimo that from General Chou’s side—if he agreed—it was acceptable in principle. Then immediate action might be taken by the issuance of an order on each side preventing advances, attacks or pursuits. While that did not amount to a cease firing arrangement, it at least stopped the heavy fighting. Then the immediate entry of the advance section of Executive Headquarters into Changchun could be arranged for while we reached the draft of a formal agreement. To all of that, the Generalissimo made no reply except to say that he would send General Marshall a letter by courier from Mukden. General Marshall said that is the state of his knowledge [Page 888]at the present time and now General Chou also had it in his possession.

General Marshall asked General Chou to please bear in mind that what he related to the Generalissimo was his proposal and that the Generalissimo made no reply and gave no reaction. General Marshall said he was deliberately trying to sow the seeds of an idea which might be useful to expedite action. General Marshall said that that was the status of his action as nearly as he could recall it.

General Marshall said he told the Generalissimo of General Chou’s having called on the Minister of Information and of General Chou’s statement to him regarding the instructions from Yenan to the military commanders in North China as to the restrictions on their actions.

General Chou stated that he appreciated General Marshall’s efforts. General Chou said it occurred to him that since those proposals have not invited a reply from the Generalissimo, it would make matters easier if a branch of the Executive Headquarters were sent to Changchun. By this means a peaceful settlement of the Changchun problem may be reached before reaching a general agreement to terminate aggressive action. General Chou said that with the arrival of the Generalissimo in Mukden and the presence of the field team in Changchun it would create a good impression upon the people both at home and broad, General Chou said he would regard it as beneficial. As to all other matters, discussion could be held further for a speedy solution. General Chou stated that he was afraid that since the Generalissimo had made no reply to General Marshall’s proposal before his departure, once he arrived in the field, the field commanders might influence him to try to reach a solution by force so that future advances would be made which would be bad for the citizens. With that in mind, General Chou had made the foregoing proposal and he said he didn’t know whether it was practicable or not. General Chou asked General Marshall how it seemed to him.

General Marshall said he might send a telegram to the Generalissimo at Mukden and just say that General Chou had proposed the immediate dispatch of a team to Changchun as a preliminary step towards the termination of hostilities, and that General Marshall proposed instead sending in an advance section of Executive Headquarters. At the same time each side would issue orders to cease advances, attacks and pursuits. General Marshall said he thought that such an order was necessary since there had to be some basis for the presence of the special organization in Changchun; unless it was merely to organize itself and to do nothing but that. He said he would compose a message to the Generalissimo along the line of General Chou’s suggestion, with his (General Marshall’s), amendment.

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General Marshall then asked General Chou if he was prepared to tell him if the Communist Party would go through with the outline General Marshall had given him of the Changchun arrangement; that is, the evacuation of Communist troops; the entry of the Executive Headquarters, and the cease advance of the Central Government forces. He said he would also have to know what answer General Chou could give to the three conditions the Generalissimo made concerning which the Generalissimo was so specific to General Marshall. General Marshall said his suggestion was that he work on the message to the Generalissimo and General Chou consider what reply he could make to those factors and then see if a joint message could be dispatched.

General Chou said he could assure General Marshall that he would continue to work in consultation and make every effort possible.

Regarding the state of Changchun—the withdrawal of Communist troops; the establishment of a section of Executive Headquarters as a preliminary step; and the ceasing of advance by Government troops toward Changchun; and at the same time issuing orders to stop attacks, advances and pursuits—General Chou stated he could assure General Marshall that that was acceptable to the Communist Party. The Generalissimo’s three points were however something new to General Chou.

General Chou said that regarding the first point, he would try to solve it with General Yu Ta-Wei along the lines General Marshall had presented: That is, destruction of fortifications with the exception of those essential to the protection of the railroad from banditry, the restoration of all kinds of communications, the deletion of censorship by both sides on post and telegraph, and participation by the Communist Party in the railway administration.

General Chou said that he would further discuss with General Yu Ta-Wei the second provision. He stated he had no objection to abiding by the reorganization, demobilization plan. General Chou said he was not concerned about the Generalissimo’s third provision which envisaged alteration of present procedure. General Chou stated he would try to convince his people to follow such a procedure, but since this provision was raised for the first time, he needed some time before he could give a definite answer.

General Marshall reiterated that that was the provision which the Generalissimo accentuated. General Marshall said that the Generalissimo said he would not again put himself in the position of entering into an agreement where its execution could be blocked by disagreement among team members. General Marshall said he personally felt that such a procedure would be essential in order to make the new [Page 890]agreement work out smoothly without a flare up. In the event of disagreement within this advance section of the Executive Headquarters the American head of that section should have the deciding vote. General Marshall said he was not talking about major negotiations. He was talking about restoration of peace; the cessation of hostilities; the status of the city itself. Otherwise, General Marshall said, extraordinary difficulties would arise which would practically negate all that was being done in an effort to reach a solution. He added that somebody had to be trusted. General Marshall said he could guarantee the complete impartiality of the American member. General Marshall said he would begin to draft out what he thought might be sent by telegraph to the Generalissimo and if General Chou would go ahead with his investigations, particularly regarding the third provision, they would see what they could do to expedite action. General Marshall asked General Chou to have in mind, just as he had tried to insist with the Generalissimo, that the situation was too grave in its consequences to be blocked by small things. General Marshall felt that the chaotic results of a failure would be so terrible that small things must not be allowed to block the procedure. General Marshall said he had talked more to General Chou than he had to any representative of the Central Government. General Marshall concluded by saying that he thought the possibility of bringing about a termination of the present terrible situation lay within grasp.

  1. J. Hart Caughey, Executive Officer on General Marshall’s staff.
  2. John L. Soong, U. S. Army language officer.
  3. Personal secretary to Gen. Chou En-lai.
  4. Peng Hsueh-pei.
  5. Pai Chung-hsi, Chinese Minister for National Defense.
  6. Chinese Minister of Communications.