Marshall Mission Files, Lot 54–D270

Minutes of Meeting Between General Marshall and General Chou En-lai, at 5 Ning Hai Road, Nanking, May 25, 1946, 10:45 a.m.

Also present: Colonel Caughey
Mr. Chang Wen-chin
Capt. Soong

General Chou asked General Marshall whether he had received any message from the Generalissimo.

General Marshall stated that he did receive a telegram96 to the effect that the Generalissimo had made the trip in four hours and had thanked General Marshall for the plane, but that was all. General Marshall said the Generalissimo had told him he would send back a letter by courier plane. The Generalissimo also told General Marshall that he might return immediately himself or he might be there three or four days depending on the situation but except for the telegram General Marshall just referred to, that is all he knew.

General Marshall said that his only information regarding the military situation was what he had gotten from the Central News Agency or the American correspondents and it all seemed rather confused. General Marshall said he was told that there had been some movement of Government forces, he thought, to the North and Northeast of Changchun.

General Chou stated he had learned three days ago that General Hsiung,97 who is the Generalissimo’s director of the field headquarters in Manchuria, and General Tu Li Ming98 jointly sent a message to Executive Headquarters suggesting that after the capture of Changchun the situation be solved by peaceful means. General Chou said he had not received this message from the Communist branch of Executive Headquarters and asked if General Marshall had received one.

General Marshall said he had received nothing.

General Chou said that again yesterday, these commanders published [Page 894]a second message, the tone of which was different from the previous one. The second message advocated that Communist forces should evacuate Harbin and the main railroad lines. General Chou expressed concern over this recent proposal and said it seemed to him that the more territory taken by the Government the higher will be its claims. General Chou said that under such circumstances the fighting would not be stopped and he requested General Marshall’s views concerning the situation and concerning further efforts. General Chou said that if the fighting continued, which he himself was against, he was afraid that the Communist forces might also unfold activities to the south of Changchun along the railroads, thus complicating the situation.

General Marshall stated that by all means, the fighting should cease immediately. Everything thereafter should be on the basis of negotiations. He stated that frankly his fear now was exactly of the same nature as his fear three or four weeks ago. At that time, General Marshall said, he was very fearful that successful Communist generals would hold out for conditions that were not going to prove acceptable for negotiations because they (the Communist generals) felt they were in a strong position. Now, General Marshall said his mind was troubled for fear we would get exactly the same result from the Central Government generals. The reactions of Commanders, in each case, are purely local to the situation and they don’t visualize the overall situation and the tragedies and harm involved. General Marshall felt—as he previously told General Chou—that whatever provocation, political or military, the assault on Changchun would boomerang to their great disadvantage. This attack was a flat unequivocal defiance of the terms of the agreement of January 10th. General Marshall said he was thinking of the effects of [on] public opinion much more than of military operations. Also, he said, he must be frank in admitting that it (the Changchun attack) had struck him a heavy blow personally, almost destroying his power for negotiations with the Central Government. It had permitted determined conservatives to say “We told you so; your advice has been proven completely wrong”. General Marshall said he wanted to repeat again that every effort within his power would be made to produce an immediate cessation of hostilities. General Marshall said what he was concerned about was the respective demands which would arise in negotiations, because unless the new terms demanded on each side were reasonably acceptable the truce would be of short life. General Marshall said his advice and his argument would be for concessions to be made by both sides. He said he was very much disturbed over any prospect of delay, because the suspicions of probable intentions grow every hour; particularly with reference to China proper. On the one hand the [Page 895]Government is suspicious of Communist intentions in Shanghai; in Nantung; in Tsinan; and in Peiping itself. On the other hand, the Communists are suspicious of Government intentions in other regions and along the Peiping–Shanhaikwan railroad. That condition of deep suspicion on each side could not continue long without eruption, and General Marshall stated it was of tremendous importance that during the next few days General Chou and Minister Peng exert to the limit their efforts jointly to keep down inflammatory press reactions and accusations.

General Marshall said that until he received the Generalissimo’s letter he had no basis for negotiations, other than merely to talk to General Chou regarding his views. The only thing definite he had to talk about, and those were already discussed, were the three points the Generalissimo made on his departure regarding: communications; the execution of the plan for the demobilization and reorganization; and the position of the American[s].

General Marshall stated that yesterday General Yu Ta-Wei called. General Marshall found that the Generalissimo had talked to General Yu the last morning before he left for Mukden and recited the same three conditions. According to General Yu the Generalissimo again seemed to have attached the principal importance to the position of the Americans in the various local decisions, i. e. the Generalissimo’s third condition. General Yu Ta-Wei believed the Generalissimo was talking about the commissioners. General Marshall said he did not assume that. General Yu talked about the matter of communications, the Generalissimo’s first condition, and working out the technical basis for an agreement. He (General Yu) seemed to feel that he could not do much because the real decisions were for the Committee of Three. General Marshall said his reaction was, and so stated to General Yu, that General Yu and General Chou should proceed to work out the technical details for the approval of the Committee of Three. General Yu seemed to feel that no conclusive action could be taken in advance of a Manchurian settlement, whereas the Generalissimo had rather indicated to General Marshall that he considered that a condition precedent. General Marshall said that his own reaction was that all the details regarding communications should be agreed upon so that it could be instantly put into effect the minute a basis of settlement with Manchuria had been reached. General Marshall said he gathered that General Yu Ta-Wei’s feeling was largely based on an expectance of Communists’ unwillingness to complete the agreement until the Manchurian question was settled, rather than on a Government reluctance to cooperate. However, General Marshall said, General Yu Ta-Wei seemed perfectly willing to go ahead with the detailed discussion with General Chou. General Marshall said [Page 896]regarding the Generalissimo’s second condition, that is, the agreement to carry out the demobilization-integration agreement, that there would seem to be but two issues. One, General Chou’s point as to reconsideration of the eventual strength of the forces in Manchuria and two, to General Marshall’s mind, readjustment as to speed of demobilization, particularly in Manchuria.

General Marshall said Dr. Peng, Minister of Information, called on him yesterday with the American advisor, Mr. Beal.99 General Marshall said Dr. Peng stated that Executive Headquarters, on the basis of unanimous agreement, could probably not issue sufficient press releases on military operations to satisfy the demands of the press. On further thought, General Marshall said, he himself was concerned about the proposal, since decision by the American would place that American in the position of interpreting all the press news in China and General Marshall could not accept that. There was also the point to be considered that Executive Headquarters could never check the accuracy of the reports on short notice. That would always be a tedious process and the delay probably would be unacceptable to the press. General Marshall said he therefore suggested the idea that Executive Headquarters be directed to issue press releases on any military matter after conclusion had been reached. This would serve to discredit previous exaggerations by the partisan press and would tend toward conservatism in the future.

General Marshall said he thought the main purpose of his previous statement to the press regarding “propaganda” was gradually producing results. General Marshall added he was glad to see, up to the present time, that both sides had been sufficiently generous not to attack him for interference in a purely Chinese problem.

General Chou stated that Dr. Peng had called on him yesterday and Mr. Beal called in the evening; they came separately. He said they also paid consideration to the fact that if all the press releases are put out by Executive Headquarters it would not meet the demand of the press. They were afraid, as Dr. Peng stated, that there would be a “black market” for the press. Hence some kind of settlement had to be reached, and General Chou made the following suggestions:

Regarding reports on military hostilities, to which the greatest attention is paid, General Chou thought those reports should be stopped as much as possible and that Executive Headquarters be authorized to publish all news on military operations. The point General Marshall just brought up seemed to be [a] very good one, that is, that the Executive Headquarters give a final report after the conclusion of investigations in order to discredit the unreliable reports. This solution [Page 897]seemed to General Chou much better, since the whole job of press releases would overburden Executive Headquarters. The military authorities of the Government and the Communist Party would not directly issue any kind of press release regarding hostilities. Both, instead, would rely fully on the press releases of Executive Headquarters or the field teams, and the conclusions they have made. The Kuomintang and the Communist Party would each instruct its own news agency and papers not to publish any kind of unreliable reports about hostilities. The Kuomintang would see to it that its own press, the Central News Agency, and its own party papers and papers under its influence would not publish any unreliable reports. The Communist Party would do the same. This would be accomplished by persuasion and by mental admonition to the press agencies. It would have nothing to do about freedom of the press by the Government. The foregoing points referred to hostilities reports.

The second item General Chou mentioned was regarding the correspondents of both parties. General Chou stated that he hoped sufficient facilities could be given to the correspondents to permit the Central News Agency and the New China News Agency correspondents to accompany the teams wherever they go. In that way they could file more realistic reports. As to the other papers—the other correspondents—apart from the Central News Agency or the New China News Agency, they could be informed that they may go with field teams if they have the means. General Chou then stated that he would like to cite an example. When the committee went to Hankow and were going out for investigation, 17 Chinese correspondents wanted to go along with them. General Chou accepted them because he took the point of view that the dispatches that they would write would be much closer to fact than if they had written them from Hankow instead. General Chou said this point also met with the approval of Dr. Peng.

General Marshall said it had his approval too.

General Chou said that in the event a branch of Executive Headquarters is established in Changchun, that branch could handle all the reports and press releases on military operations.

Regarding political considerations, General Chou said both Dr. Peng and he agreed, that after each political negotiation, both parties should issue a joint release to the press; that while the discussion was under way no unilateral communiqué should be issued.

General Chou said Dr. Peng also agreed that headlines should be expressed in mild tones without accusation or acrimony.

General Chou said Mr. Beal desired to discuss further with Dr. Peng the matter of reports of hostilities. General Chou said that today General Marshall had made another suggestion which he thought [Page 898]was very fine and he thought that he would again see Dr. Peng so an early settlement could be reached. Mr. Beal said there was one point, based on his twenty years’ experience as a newspaperman, he was rather afraid of. That was that the news should not be too restricted because in that case the press releases of the Executive Headquarters alone would not satisfy the demands of the correspondents and inevitably they would write other stories themselves. General Chou said too that he laid primary emphasis on stopping the hostilities. The matter of stopping press propaganda could be taken up, while at the same time, work could continue toward the cessation of hostilities.

General Marshall said he thought Mr. Beal’s point was a good one, but that there was this difference. The issue was one where both sides were endeavoring to put the matter straight and not one side only concerting its efforts to mislead the public.

General Chou replied that he was trying to commence the cessation of the press campaign; and that he had obtained assurance from Yenan that they were already taking steps to regulate the press. For instance, the broadcast received yesterday contains no news of military operations at all. General Chou construed that this might prove that Yenan had already taken action toward curtailment and further efforts would be made.

General Chou said regarding the reopening of communications, that he was ready to meet General Yu Ta-Wei at any time. He said that, of course, the Manchurian situation had some bearing on the restoration of communications, but he did not think that it was so important a factor. He thought that he and General Yu might well start to study communications problems in China proper and if some appropriate formula could be worked out, then the same compromise could be more or less applied for Manchuria. General Chou asked General Marshall his views as to whether he should approach General Yu Ta-wei directly or through General Marshall.

General Marshall suggested that General Chou have Mr. Chang telephone General Yu and make the appointment. Incidentally, General Marshall said, General Yu Ta-wei has been very familiar with a great many of the discussions on the other phases of the matter, so he was very decidedly in the picture.

General Chou agreed that a direct approach for exchange of views would be much better than involving General Marshall. This would permit General Yu Ta-wei and General Chou to work out the details.

General Marshall said he thought the direct approach was necessary. He had gathered from General Yu Ta-wei that he (Gen. Yu) feared it was the Communist point of view that would delay the opening, not the Central Government’s. Specifically, he feared the Communists would be unwilling to go forward in this until the Manchurian problem had been settled.

[Page 899]

General Chou said, regarding the Manchurian problem, for the time being it seemed there was nothing else to do but wait for further word from Manchuria, especially the letter from the Generalissimo. General Chou personally felt that the best solution would be the establishment of a branch of Executive Headquarters in Changchun.

General Marshall believed this should be done immediately.

General Chou said he had no further comments on the Manchurian problem at the moment. Regarding China proper, he said that both sides were now resorting more and more to dangerous retaliatory measures. If continued, large scale hostilities would break out. For example, General Chou said, the Government is afraid that the Communists might attack Peiping and Tientsin. Although the Communists never had such an intention, the Government was trying to strengthen their defenses and were enlarging their positions on both sides of the railroad. As a result the Government had occupied the towns Ansu and Shanshun. In Jehol, the Communists, as a result of the Government sending three divisions to Manchuria in violation of the cease fire agreement, took action of their own accord to cut the railway lines to stop transportation. Subsequently, the airfield at Chihfeng was destroyed to delay plane arrivals. As to the field team at Chaoyang, east of Chengte, the Communist representative was absent. At the same time the Government showed unwillingness to have the field team dispatched to Ansu, midway between Peiping and Tientsin, to investigate the seizure of those two towns. So there was a serious aggravation between the two parties.

General Chou said that the plane facilities and communications made available by General Marshall had been very convenient. However, many obstacles were now delaying the dispatch of airplanes. This resulted from the delay in dispatch of the plane which went to Changchun to pick up the correspondents and also the delay in dispatch of the plane to Chihfeng. Consequently, the Government did not agree, this time, to the dispatch of the plane to carry money from Shantung to the Communist area in Hupeh. Also they delayed departure of the staff officers General Chou wanted to come down to Nanking. General Chou said that if these obstacles continue, it could be expected that more hostilities would occur. General Chou said that he was at the present time engaged in persuading his people not to resort to retaliatory measures. General Chou said he could tell General Marshall frankly that, while on his side they were trying to reach a solution, if the other side continued further aggressive actions, then it might well never end.

General Marshall stated that he agreed completely. He said as a matter of fact, that was what General Byroade had in mind when he was trying to have the American member referee disagreements, and that was what the Generalissimo had in mind also regarding the same [Page 900]proposal. There was no other way to stop disagreements at the present time. General Marshall said that the arrangement would impose a very heavy strain on the American officer, particularly when the troops have been reached by propaganda that made them hostile to Americans. The Communist hostility in the lower ranks is quite evident. He said the campaign such as he had just referred to gets on the radio and would prejudice the men in the ranks of the National Army. Many were already prejudiced against him personally in Manchuria, all of which made it very difficult for the American officers in the field. However, in these retaliatory procedures, and particularly in the delay of action on movements, plans and things of that sort, about the only way out of the difficulty was to place the responsibility on the Americans.

General Marshall then said that he had Mr. Pauley1 in the house and he was leaving at 1 o’clock by plane. General Marshall had to give him lunch so he would have to terminate the meeting, but he wanted General Chou to meet Mr. Pauley. Mr. Pauley plans to go to Manchuria. He was now having his difficulties with the Russians in Korea.

General Chou said he had one short comment to make. He said that he would make further efforts to improve the relations between the Communist officers and the American officers. From a study of the trusums2 for May and in regard to the materials included in the reports, there is a feeling on the Communist side that the points advanced by the Communists had not been included in the trusums. General Chou said he would make a written report to General Marshall for his reference and also for General Byroade’s reference. General Chou said he hoped General Marshall could take some action for speeding the plane from Peiping.

General Marshall instructed Colonel Caughey to dispatch a message to Peiping instructing that the plane be in Nanking tomorrow.

  1. Not printed.
  2. Gen. Hsiung Shih-hui.
  3. Also known as Tu Yu-ming; he commanded Chinese forces in Manchuria.
  4. John R. Beal, Washington news editor of Time Magazine, adviser to the Chinese Government on foreign press and political relations.
  5. Edwin W. Pauley, Special Representative of President Truman for reparations.
  6. Truce summaries.