893.00/3–3146: Telegram

The Counselor of Embassy in China (Smyth) to the Secretary of State24

600. Political impasse which threatens entire governmental reform program has been developing from failure satisfactorily to resolve issues arising from resolutions introduced and opinions expressed at recent session Kmt Central Executive Committee. (Embassy’s telegram 523 March 20.) Fundamental and major problems derive from Kmt desire to effect changes in basic resolutions adopted by PCC on 31 January (Embassy’s telegram 201, February 125), particularly that portion which sets forth principles to be followed in drafting permanent constitution.

2. Recent meetings of PCC Steering Committee failed to make substantial progress toward settlement of disputed points. Even though apparently personally willing, Kmt members of Committee (Wang Shih-chieh and Wu Teh-chen) were unable to agree to publish unequivocal statement of Kmt concurrence with agreements reached at March 20 meeting (Embassy’s telegram 541, March 21). It is now becoming obvious that in deference to right-wing elements of Kmt the Kmt members of committee are arguing for revision (of PCC constitutional principles) which would (1) change proposed “cabinet system” of Government, wherein Cabinet is responsible to popularly elected legislative body, and substitute a “presidential system” wherein supreme authority would be vested in a president without provision for checks and balances comparable to American system, (2) create a National Assembly to meet at two or three year intervals [Page 160] and with nominal powers of initiative, referendum, election and recall and (3) drastically limit provincial autonomy.

At third meeting of Steering Committee of PCC held last night some progress was made toward settlement of membership and powers of National Assembly, and discussions regarding relationship of executive authority to legislative authority indicated from all sides a greater willingness to compromise than has been evident at previous meetings. This is variously interpreted as result of private discussions between delegates prior to meeting or intercession on part of Gimo to effect settlement. However, Communists and Democratic League still maintain general position that PCC resolutions were agreed upon by top representatives all parties and should be carried out although for the time being there appears to be a somewhat better atmosphere prevailing; Communists and Democratic League will continue to oppose major changes which indicate continuation of single-party rule or threaten creation of “authoritarian” state. Consequently they both refuse to nominate members for participation in reorganized Government until Kmt publishes statement of any revisions agreed upon and definite party commitment to implement PCC program as revised. Furthermore senior Communists at Chungking have stated privately that they will not submit troop demobilization and reorganization lists until position of Kmt with regard to PCC program is clarified. Another meeting of Steering Committee will be held tomorrow night and senior Democratic League representative expressed late last night considerable optimism with regard to favorable outcome.

In the meantime Communists have postponed their central committee meeting at Yenan, originally scheduled for 31 March to pass PCC resolutions. Constitutional Committee of PCC has suspended meetings, and preparation of revised constitution to submit to National Assembly cannot be prepared until settlement present problems is achieved.

The Embassy has reported previously that main opposition to PCC proposals would develop from (1) concern of CC clique and adherents with regard to their future position when Kmt will no longer have sole governing authority and (2) concern of Whampoa clique and associated Army and division commanders regarding loss of perquisites of office as military demobilization and reorganization proceeds. This situation still prevails and opposition to PCC program has been intensified as date for presentation of revised constitution to National Assembly (May 5) draws nearer. There are undoubtedly large numbers of Chinese who sincerely believe that China is not yet prepared for the type of popular government outlined by the PCC program, but the Embassy feels that for the most part opposition stems from the [Page 161] elements referred to above, whose opposition to and distrust of popular institutions in China has long been apparent.

Even though his life and background might have been expected to place him in opposition to the governmental reform now envisaged, the Gimo has displayed throughout recent months a laudable spirit of moderation and willingness to compromise. His own public statements with regard to the PCC program place him in favor of its implementation, but changes of such a revolutionary character must of necessity be slow and opposition, sincere or otherwise, was bound to develop. In the absence of substantial evidence to the contrary Embassy does not doubt good faith of Gimo with regard to implementation of PCC program, but whether he can maintain and will use his authority as party leader in the face of strong Right wing opposition remains a moot question. Thus far Embassy is unaware of any effective challenge to authority of Gimo in spite of constant rumors to that effect. It is unfortunate that at this critical time, however, the beclouded situation in Manchuria, which creates considerable doubt with regard to the position of the Chinese Communists vis-à-vis the Soviet Union, strengthens the position of irreconcilable elements within the Kmt, which in any case would be in opposition to the PCC agreements, by presenting them with a plausible excuse for opposing any limitation of Kmt governmental authority at this time.

On the other hand the Communists, and to a lesser degree the Democratic League, maintain that the Gimo himself is behind the movement which fosters the adoption of an “authoritarian” constitution inasmuch as he has grown to consider himself indispensable to the welfare of China. They further maintain that the Gimo anticipates no improvement in Russo-American relations, and continuing American distrust of Soviet aims in areas adjacent to the Soviet Union; they maintain he therefore wishes, on his own terms, to rush into being a facade of coalition government in order to impress American opinion and thus receive immediate American financial assistance. In assessing the present situation these factors cannot be ignored.

The greatest imponderable in the current problem of governmental reform is the relationship between the expressed desire of the Gimo to implement the PCC program and the active opposition to the program from important elements within the Kmt. The Embassy is unable categorically to state whether or not elements such as the CC clique have even the tacit support of the Gimo in their present activities but it is a factor which must be considered. There is no doubt that the only opposition to implementation of the PCC program comes from important figures within the Kmt, The Gimo’s dual position as national leader and party leader is a most difficult one and, granting [Page 162] his good faith toward the PCC program, it might be well to consider the desirability of bolstering his position by some indication from the American side to the effect that full implementation of the PCC program is essential to lasting stability in China.26

  1. This telegram was drafted by the Second Secretary of Embassy in China (Ludden), at the request of Lieutenant General Gillem, as his answer to General Marshall’s 82420, March 28, p. 158. General Marshall was informed of its contents on April 1 by the Chief of the Division of Chinese Affairs (Ringwalt).
  2. See footnote 12, p. 153.
  3. In his telegram No. 593, April 4, 5 p.m., to the Embassy in China, the Acting Secretary of State said: “Dept wishes to commend Embassy on its excellent telegram 600, March 31, which is exceptionally informative, thoughtful and well-balanced.”