Marshall Mission Files, Lot 54–D270

Minutes of Meeting Between General Marshall and General Chou En-lai at 5 Ning Hai Road, Nanking, May 30, 1946, 6 p.m.

Also present: Colonel Hutchin25
Mr. Chang Wen-chin
Capt. Soong

General Marshall said he had received at noon from the Generalissimo, a letter26 which answered his communication of the other day.27 This letter was not a very definite response, but it gave enough to bring to General Chou’s attention some of the Generalissimo’s points. General Marshall thought the Generalissimo would arrive at Nanking that afternoon, but apparently he had not and hence, probably had stopped over-night in Peiping. It was known that the Generalissimo asked for his plane to meet him at Mukden between nine and ten the morning of 30 May. General Chou was invited to come late that afternoon, it was thought that the Generalissimo would want to see General Marshall that evening and he wanted to see General Chou before seeing the Generalissimo.

General Marshall said the Generalissimo hadn’t put very much in writing, but had apparently discussed matters at considerable length with Dr. Soong, part of what Dr. Soong had given General Marshall was not included in the note from the Generalissimo.

General Marshall said he wanted to read certain portions of that letter. In the first place General Marshall had proposed to the Generalissimo that he issue an order immediately to stop advances, attacks and pursuits preliminary to reaching an agreement for the cessation of hostilities. Also, an answer to his May 24th letter28 discussed several points, particularly that pertaining to American officers.

The Generalissimo’s letter stated: “I wish to put forward the following points for the implementation of your proposals and in order to render even clearer their meaning and purpose. The painful experience I have encountered during the past five months has compelled me to be more precise and definite in dealing with the Communists. [Page 916]The following points I earnestly hope will meet your full understanding and support:

[Here follows quotation of the five numbered paragraphs printed on page 907.]

General Marshall said that was the substance of the Generalissimo’s communication to him, but there was still more that came to him through Dr. Soong, but not in writing.

General Marshall said he sent the Generalissimo a communication yesterday afternoon urging him to make the first move to stop advances. There had been no reply yet. The letter came before he received that message. Probably the Generalissimo would come before any reply was made. General Marshall reiterated that his purpose in asking General Chou to come, was to learn as much as he could from General Chou, and at the same time give General Chou as much information as he had so to be at least partially prepared in case the Generalissimo wished to see him that evening.

General Marshall said he forgot to mention that Dr. Soong promised to send a message yesterday afternoon urging the Generalissimo to agree immediately to the dispatch of the Advance Section of the Executive Headquarters to Changchun. No answer had yet been received to that. Taking what the Generalissimo had said in his reply in relation to what he had proposed, and taking what Dr. Soong told him, General Marshall had assumed that one of the most urgent factors to be cleared up so far as the Generalissimo was concerned related to the question of American officers. With the expression of opinions by the Generalissimo and Dr. Soong, General Marshall had drafted a possible agreement as a basis for discussion of what the Communist Party would agree to and what they declined to agree to. The Generalissimo had never seen it, but as nearly as General Marshall could tell, it was about what he was talking about. The Generalissimo seemed to have taken the stand that the Communist attitude on the communications question, the question regarding American officers and the general statement regarding the military reorganization, would have to be clarified before he would go into the next move. The matter with relation to communications did not appear to General Marshall to be quite so difficult assuming that the reconstruction would be immediately agreed to and that General Yu Ta Wei and General Chou would endeavor to reach an agreement about the operation of the railroads.

General Marshall handed General Chou a copy29 of the basis for discussion regarding American officers and instructed Colonel Hutchin to send a copy to General Hsu Yung-Chang.

[Page 917]

General Marshall said he would like to repeat that he didn’t expect to have General Chou reply to the draft this meeting. He said he couldn’t finalize it until he had received the Generalissimo’s reply that afternoon. The Generalissimo merely made a general statement about American officers which was so broad that General Marshall couldn’t accept it and he had indicated to the Generalissimo that this presented a very difficult problem for Americans concerned. General Marshall wanted to see the fighting stopped, but it imposed a very great responsibility and a delicate situation for the U. S. Government. However, it was the only way the field teams would get ahead and it would work both ways. The more freedom of movement they gave the American officers, the less possibility there would be of either side violating the movement orders. Each side thinks the other is moving, and right now a good many troops are moving. General Marshall said his present trouble was that the American officer was not permitted to go and see. Once the American officer could go around himself, particularly after communications are restored, it would be a simple matter to detect a breach of agreements. He said that this appeared to [be?] the protection each side wanted because neither side trusted the other.

General Marshall reiterated that all this would create a very difficult situation because, as he told General Chou two days ago, there is a potential heavy open attack on him, General Marshall, about to be launched in the United States charging representation of the interests of the Communist Party as against those of the Central Government. Of course, there were the assertions and propaganda and also the belief of the rank and file of the Communist army that he was backing the Central Government against the Communists. Those two factors did not simplify the problem for him. Probably any attack on him for siding with the Communists is inspired by the ultra conservative political group of the Kuomintang. An attack on him or the U. S. by any one in the Communist party against action that assists the Central Government in fighting against the Communists can be readily understood.

General Chou said that he could briefly communicate to General Marshall the events of the last few days. On the very night he had discussed the situation with General Marshall, he had prepared a reply30 to General Marshall which was dispatched early the next morning. At the same time, he had written a message to Yenan with respect to the Generalissimo’s letter31 and General Chou’s reply. Also he had discussed the matter with his associates before any reply had come in from Yenan, General Chou and his associates felt that the [Page 918]objections covered by the Generalissimo included some which had been discussed prior to the Generalissimo’s departure for Mukden, some which General Marshall and General Chou had discussed and were approaching agreement.

General Chou stated that what struck his associates in the Generalissimo’s letter was that after Government troops had captured Changchun, no indication was made in the Generalissimo’s letter about the issuance of an order to stop the advances, attacks and pursuits. This was in spite of the fact that in Chungking, and also in Nanking, the Generalissimo had repeatedly either declared that once the Changchun problem was settled all the other problems could be settled by means of negotiation without resorting to force. General Chou did not believe in those words because he thought all the time that if the Government was trying to solve the problem by force, then the Government’s demands would become greater and greater. If, after the capture of Changchun, the Government would demand Harbin and Kirin and other places, under such circumstances the hostilities could not be stopped by negotiations.

The Democratic League members as well as General Marshall had expressed the hope that hostilities be stopped and had also requested the Communist Party to make certain concessions, General Chou had been discussing this for over ten days on that very problem. After the Generalissimo’s arrival in Changchun, he still imposed certain conditions and by that action, he defeated the purpose of General Chou’s efforts for and the explanations to his party, thereby causing a complete failure to reach any cease fire agreement at that moment. It would appear that all his efforts had been superfluous. Yenan would have the feeling that General Chou’s preliminary discussions of the preceding twenty days seemed to have been superfluous and that General Chou had been deceiving them.

General Chou said that with regard to the fact the Generalissimo had reiterated previous agreements which they had signed, the Generalissimo neglected [the] fourth agreement which was the agreement of March 27th regarding the sending of field teams to and the cessation of hostilities in Manchuria. The Generalissimo’s attitude therefore caused feeling by others that he would only bring forward those points which were favorable to him and not these which were unfavorable to him.

General Chou said that in his reply to the letter, he had tried his best to accept anything possible thereby showing his sincere desire to reach a settlement, on the other hand the letter from Madame Chiang had placed General Chou in a most difficult position. Except for the last of the five points raised by the Generalissimo in the second letter,32 [Page 919]it seemed to General Chou that the Generalissimo had summarized the points he had brought up before his departure and in Madame Chiang’s letter. Therefore, it seemed the Generalissimo wanted to put those terms as conditions precedent to the truce, despite the fact that the Generalissimo expressed in the first sentence his hope that the peace could be restored in Manchuria. However, by his putting up those terms, the Generalissimo had indicated that unless agreement was reached on those points, the Government would keep on advancing while at the same time, hostilities in China proper would go on unabated. It seemed to General Chou that the determination of the Generalissimo was such that he would continue fighting further under the pretext of taking over sovereignty in Manchuria and reopening communications in China proper.

General Chou said he had another instance to prove his assertion. He referred to the propaganda campaign itself. After General Marshall made his statement,33 General Chou immediately proposed to the Kuomintang a propaganda truce. For that purpose he had conceived all kinds of measures. He had discussed them with Mr. Peng and had further worked out a draft of an agreement34 on which General Marshall had made certain suggestions as amendments. It was General Chou’s understanding that General Marshall was inclined to agree with his understanding. General Chou had discussed the subject with Dr. Wang Shih Chieh. After he made a few corrections on his draft, General Chou showed it to Dr. Peng. Yesterday, Dr. Peng declared at a press conference that the Kuomintang would do certain things all by themselves which were not necessarily according to the terms that had been discussed and which should have been included in the agreement. Dr. Peng reasoned that if such an agreement were adopted, there would be no more news. Actually, however General Chou’s proposal was different. He had proposed that communiqués regarding military hostilities be issued by Executive Headquarters as General Marshall had suggested.

Secondly, yesterday, the Minister of Information (Kuomintang) by order of the Generalissimo, suppressed the Communist paper in Peiping called the “Liberation” published every other day and also suppressed the New China News Agency despite the fact that the China News Agency has acquired a legal status in the Executive Headquarters. This legal status shows in the record which stated that reports will be issued through the agencies of the three parties including the New China News Agency. The whole agency and the paper we[re] closed.

Apart from that, the Communists had requested the publication of [Page 920]newspapers in Nanking and Shanghai. The reply of the Minister of Publicity was that this could not be permitted at this time despite the fact that other parties, like the China Youth Party, are permitted to publish a paper even if they have not completed the procedure of registration. General Chou said those points proved who was sincere for a propaganda truce and who was not. Ever since he had talked to General Marshall about the propaganda truce, it may have been noticed that the Communists as well as the news published by the New China News Agency had become much calmer while the Kuomintang papers assumed the same tone as before.

General Chou said that in view of all the facts he presented it would seem that when he made a report to Yenan, either he himself was being deceived or he was deliberately deceiving Yenan. The Generalissimo’s letter as well as the Madame’s letter seemed to put up details as conditions precedent to a truce. That means that unless those details are resolved, they would not stop the fighting. If that was the case, then he was afraid that the conflagration in Manchuria would spread to China Proper. This would cause a total split in which case all previous agreements would be upset. One condition precedent to the other agreements was the cease fire agreement and only when this was reached did they come to agreements on other subjects.

The initial purpose for establishing an Executive Headquarters was to effect a truce. Previously, the Government said that the Changchun problem had to be settled. Now, the Changchun problem is settled. To stop the fighting first General Chou discussed on 23 May, the immediate cessation of advances, attacks and pursuits. Following that, an Executive Headquarters branch would be sent to Changchun. Under such circumstances they would discuss the objections brought up by the Generalissimo or they would even discuss a wider field than the Generalissimo had brought up as there were many other subjects to be discussed. However, it now seems that the order had been reversed. As a result of that it seemed to General Chou that all his previous talks had been a deception to Yenan and also a deception to the Chinese people, as he had said before in Chungking.

General Marshall requested clarification of last phrase.

General Chou said that in Chungking he told General Marshall, as well as the Press, that he did not believe the capture of Changchun would stop the fighting. He was, therefore, very much perturbed by the Generalissimo’s purpose [which] was to order a total war and to turn down all the fundamental agreements.

General Chou said that the Generalissimo had stated that during his painful experience in the past five months, he cannot trust the Communists with a feeling of assurance. If the Communist side also [Page 921]put out certain terms as conditions precedent to stopping the fighting, then how could they get the fighting stopped at all. If the Generalissimo’s [terms] were published to the whole country and the whole world, then everyone could see immediately who wanted to stop the fighting.

Right now, there were many hostilities in China proper. Both parties are involved in those hostilities. The most fundamental cause leading to those hostilities are large scale movements of Nationalist troops. According to the data he had collected, the movement of the National troops since January 13th involved 106 divisions. He was preparing a memorandum to General Marshall35 regarding those movements to be sent over that evening.

It appears from that the Nationalists have also occupied large territories from the Communists which, due to the fact that they were not on the railroads, did not draw so much attention from the outside world. They had erected many fortifications and occupied many Communist towns. These actions on the Nationalist side caused the Communists to take retaliatory measures, the aggravation of which could precipitate a total war. He said that this was a very critical situation, especially after the capture of Changchun when the situation had become acute. General Chou said he did not feel reassured that the Generalissimo would be willing to stop the hostilities immediately or to the dispatch [of] an Executive Headquarters detachment to Changchun. General Chou said that was his impression but he did not know what General Marshall thought.

During the last two days, General Chou said he had been studying this matter and he felt he was in a very difficult position when trying to give an answer to the question that Yenan had brought up. He was telling General Marshall frankly about his thoughts and he would like to hear General Marshall’s views, particularly if the hostilities could not be stopped and if the Generalissimo were to pursue the same path he was then taking—what was to be done? If that was not the Generalissimo’s purpose, why couldn’t an order be issued to stop advances, attacks and pursuits right now.

General Chou mentioned at the last meeting that when they reached the final stage of discussion, he would like to make a trip to Yenan. At present, even that point has dropped out of his consideration because he could not have a clear picture about the Generalissimo’s true intention. If the Generalissimo would state definitely that he would not stop the fighting unless everything had been settled in negotiations, there would be no cessation of hostilities at all. There would be no way to achieve that because no one party could dictate the terms. Should [Page 922]General Chou adopt an impression that there was still chance for negotiations, when actually no results could be obtained, then certainly the fighting would go on. If we looked at the situation pessimistically, then it would seem that the Generalissimo was seeking all kinds of pretexts for continuing warfare. Therefore, he would like to know General Marshall’s evaluation as to the present situation; whether General Marshall thought the Generalissimo would be willing to make concessions on other issues or would he insist that all issues be solved before he stopped the fighting. As a third case, the [apparent omission.]

General Chou said it appeared to him, that there was still a fourth probability. That was that all the terms were brought up merely as an excuse for carrying on the war. According to General Chou’s information, which he said General Marshall might consider prejudiced, they plan to continue the war, particularly in Manchuria, and they would only consider negotiating after they had occupied the large cities and the railway lines. They are even organized to carry on the war in the event that they do not have further American assistance. They have made plans to overcome the difficulties they would have to face in the coming four months.

General Marshall said he was using his best effort to secure a cessation of advances. He was also using his best efforts to arrange for the dispatch of an advance section of the Executive Headquarters to Changchun, at least to get established and then get radio communication going so they could be utilized the moment the true basis for cessation of hostilities was reached. He said that General Chou asked him his view on the prospect of any successful negotiations at the present time. Until he could discuss the various issues with the Generalissimo personally and have him amplify them, it was impossible for him to give a definite answer to General Chou. The trouble in this affair is that he had talked a great deal to General Chou and very little to the Generalissimo because he first had to determine whether or not there was any probability of his being able to make any real contribution as a mediator:

The entire basis of his discussion rested on the Generalissimo’s last terms that the Generalissimo transmitted through him to General Chou and more particularly on the Generalissimo’s refusal to accept the proposal of the Democratic League for the reorganization of the Political Council and for their role in determining the reorganization of local governments. The Generalissimo had stated that he would only agree to have the Committee of Three act as negotiators regarding the military revisions and redeployments, and the political reorganizations. [Page 923]That, of course, involved General Marshall in all those matters. He would not go into the negotiation unless he could be reasonably certain that there was a probable basis of compromise.

General Marshall said he never did clear up in his own mind what the possibilities of adjustments were regarding provincial governments. When the Ssupingkai action took place, and the Generalissimo stated his intention to go to Mukden, General Marshall finally decided he would accept the risk of not knowing enough much [sic] about that particular problem—provincial reorganization[—]and would undertake again negotiations regarding the Manchurian situation. What has occurred since then, General Chou was as familiar with the facts as General Marshall. General Marshall had given him the Generalissimo’s messages. The Generalissimo had been in a situation where his Generals could talk to him and General Marshall could not. He said he hoped to be able to resume conversations with the Generalissimo that evening.

So, General Marshall said, he would like General Chou to keep in mind the fact that the lengthy discussions he had had with him were very one sided for the reasons stated and also for the reason that the action of the Communists in launching a full fledged attack on Changchun had almost destroyed his powers of negotiations with the Government. The controlling leaders felt that General Marshall had been wrong. He would agree with General Chou that the prospect of terminating hostilities at the present moment would appear to be rather gloomy, but he was not a pessimist and he didn’t quit in the middle of a fight. He still [has] hopes of being able to do something to improve the situation, but he must be able to talk to the Generalissimo directly.

General Marshall said he sent the Generalissimo, General Chou’s statement36 so the Generalissimo is familiar with that. As General Chou already knew, the Generalissimo goes back very specifically to the question of communications and to the question of American officers facilitating action. The Generalissimo had been rather insistent from the start of his discussion about those two factors. General Chou may disagree with the Generalissimo and with him regarding the rights and wrongs of the communications problem. However, General Marshall was very sympathetic with the Generalissimo in his desire to have a system which would operate and not bog down. The only way to get that would be by imposing a great responsibility on the American officers.

General Marshall said of course he could not know until he talked [Page 924]to the Generalissimo and found out what the Generalissimo’s real intentions were. At the moment he thought if the business of American officers could be straightened out and if the reconstruction of the railway line accepted so that it would go ahead without obstruction (General Marshall said he was talking about construction and not operation), then he believed there was a very good chance that he might be able to prevail upon the Generalissimo to immediately issue an order for the cessation of movements and for the transfer of the Advance Section of Executive Headquarters to Changchun and to throw the details before the Committee of Three to draw up the new basis for the cessation of hostilities. That was about as much as he could say at the present time. He felt greatly limited by reason of not being able to talk to the Generalissimo direct. As he told General Chou before, he felt that General Chou’s generals in Changchun were causing entirely too much trouble for their good and our good. Now he had a little bit the same state of mind regarding the National Government generals. They are all entirely too human; none of them trust each other.

General Chou agreed with General Marshall’s suggestion about a direct talk with the Generalissimo, so that General Marshall could know the Generalissimo’s present state of mind. Then General Marshall could either prove or refute General Chou’s statement regarding the intention of the Generalissimo. The Communist Party was still in the same position of insisting that the detachment of Executive Headquarters be sent to Changchun and that hostilities be ceased. Only when there was a truce in Manchuria and China proper could they enter negotiations.

The same applied to restoration of communications. The reconstruction of the railroads could only be taken up when there was an assurance that the fighting was definitely stopped. If they feel that fighting will be enlarged, how can they restore all communications? What actually would happen was, that while on one hand, the railroad was being repaired, on the other the fighting would be carried on. Communications are in the hands of the Government. The Communists are inferior as far as the communication facilities are concerned. Also the Communists had to resist the provocative attacks of National troops. They had no other way to counterbalance that than they had done in the past. Therefore, General Chou said, it was evident that unless the cessation of hostilities was effected not only in Manchuria but also in China Proper, the army reorganization could not be taken up.

Regarding the point of determining power of U. S. officers, General Chou said he could state frankly that he was making efforts along this line as far as the investigation of the field teams was concerned.

[Page 925]

As to the relation between General Chou and General Marshall, they had had frequent contact so General Chou knew General Marshall. In the past, points brought up by General Marshall are mostly acceptable to General Chou after learning General Marshall’s explanations the true intention which was of good intent. However, Communist officers, in the field as well as Executive Headquarters, do not always understand that situation. They could only see what was actually happening.

General Chou cited the Manchurian situation as an example where certain assistance was rendered by the U. S. to Nationalist troops. Despite the fact that equipping of National troops was effected prior to the Japanese surrender which General Chou admitted, they still could not understand why the U. S. gave Nationalists assistance for the transportation of men and war supplies. Without that U. S. assistance, the war in Manchuria would be very difficult for the Nationalist troops to continue.

General Chou said that of course they also knew that when the U. S. equipped the Kuomintang armies, it was done with the understanding that those troops would be used to fight the Japanese, but not for civil strife within China itself. He recalled that as late as April, President Truman had stated that the loan would not be made to increase civil strife in China. Hence it appeared to General Chou that American policy was very definite. Yet, while the fighting in Manchuria is going on, U. S. Marines deployed to guard communications along the railway lines with the result that Nationalist troops are utilizing that railroad for war purposes. That was a point that was very hard for the Communist officers to understand.

However, once the truce had been established, then all such points which they could not understand would vanish. Therefore it appeared to him that after the occupation of Changchun, the fighting should be stopped. That would be not only to the good of the Chinese people, but also beneficial from the international point of view. General Chou hoped General Marshall would make his efforts to put the cessation of hostilities in first place. At that moment they were standing at the turning point in China’s history—whether the fighting would be continued or it could be stopped. It was because of the utmost importance of that subject that he took so much of General Marshall’s time to explain it.

General Marshall said he would have to terminate the conference because of another engagement so he could only make a few comments. With regard to the point of view of lower Communist officers, he could readily understand that; particularly so with the propaganda that has been helping it along. On the other hand, he said he felt [Page 926]that the position of the U. S. in this matter was entirely logical and was susceptible to explanation, but General Marshall said he would not do that at that moment. With him it was a fact.

General Marshall said he would endeavor to see the Generalissimo the moment he returned. However, if in the meantime, General Chou had any comments regarding the points he had made other than what General Chou had said, it might help General Marshall to arrive at an immediate decision on the part of the Generalissimo that would be very advantageous to China.

General Marshall said he did not quite see the reopening of communications as General had stated it. Reconstruction of the railroad would take a long time. It wouldn’t be a matter of days—more a matter of months. He did not think there was any intention on the part of the Generalissimo to wait over a period of months while we got the communications open before there would be a cessation of hostilities. He thought what the Generalissimo wanted was a clear-cut agreement on the subject. General Marshall said his thought for the immediate discussion was that if there could be an agreement on the part of General Chou that no interference would be made for the reconstruction of the track, then there was a basis for reaching an immediate decision regarding hostilities.

General Marshall closed the meeting by thanking General Chou for coming over.

  1. Lt. Col. Claire E. Hutchin, of General Marshall’s staff.
  2. See May 28. p. 907.
  3. May 26, p. 901.
  4. See Madame Chiang’s letter No. 1, p. 891.
  5. Supra.
  6. May 26, p. 903.
  7. See Madame Chiang’s letter No. 1, May 24, p. 891.
  8. President Chiang’s letter of May 28, p. 907.
  9. See statement to the press. May 20, p. 865.
  10. See draft of May 25, p. 900.
  11. See memorandum of June 3, p. 946.
  12. General Chou’s letter of May 26, p. 903.