893.00/4–946: Telegram

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

642. Series of meetings steering committee Political Consultation Conference during past week has resulted in some progress toward settlement of disputed points with regard to revision of principles to be followed in drafting permanent constitution. Major constitutional points at issue have been:

Form and powers of National Assembly;
Relationship between executive and legislative bodies; and
Extent of provincial autonomy.

Firm agreement reached on National Assembly question on April 1. Permanent National Assembly, and not to be confused with National [Page 164] Assembly scheduled convene Nanking May 5 for sole purpose adopting Constitution, will be an actual organ of Government which will meet once in 6 years, or at such other times as may be necessary in order to fulfill following powers: (1) elect President; (2) recall President; (3) initiate amendments to Constitution; and (4) pass on amendments to Constitution initiated by legislative organ of Government. National Assembly will be composed of one member from each hsien.29 In place of hsien having population in excess of 300,000, one additional member will be allowed for each additional half million of population. Members of Control Yuan and Legislative Yuan shall be ex-omcio members National Assembly. Generally considered that National Assembly will be organ without real authority and has been created as compromise measure to satisfy Kmt insistence that Sun Yat-sen dogma concerning powers of election, recall, initiative, and referendum be nominally included in governmental structure.

Discussions continuing on question of executive responsibility to legislature, but no firm decision reached as yet. However, it seems clear that Legislative Yuan will be accepted as supreme law-making body. It will be popularly elected and hold office for three years. Executive Yuan will be responsible to Legislative Yuan, although discussions have made it clear that, in this connection, most serious obstacle to agreement is search for formula satisfactory to Kmt which will provide specific statement of term “responsible” while retaining principle of executive responsibility to Legislature. It is now proposed by Democratic League representatives that if Legislative Yuan disagrees with any decision of Executive Yuan it may, by two-thirds majority, request President to dissolve Executive Yuan or make changes therein. Should President refuse to comply, Legislative Yuan may, by three-fourths majority, again request dissolution of, or change in, Executive Yuan and President is required to act in accordance with desires of Legislative Yuan.

Problem most difficult of solution is extent to which provinces shall enjoy legislative and administrative autonomy. In deference to Kmt desires, it has been agreed that provinces shall have “self-government laws” rather than provincial constitutions. This change in nomenclature has been [made?] no difference in basic problem inasmuch as Communists and Democratic League adopt position that provincial self-government laws should not be subject to approval by central authority, provided they do not contravene national Constitution. Kmt, on the other hand, maintains that central authority should approve provincial self-government laws, that the Legislative Yuan can make changes therein, and is only willing to concede that they [Page 165] cannot be altered by Central Government administrative acts. Efforts now being made by subcommittee of steering committee to resolve principal autonomy problem by endeavoring to set forth specifically powers to be exercised by central authority and residual authority to be exercised by provinces.

Membership of State Council for interim reorganized Government remains to be settled. Fifty percent membership for Kmt (20 members) has been previously agreed, but agreement must now be reached with regard to proportionate membership other parties. Previous tentative agreement was: Communists, 7; Democratic League, 7; Youth Party and non-party groups, 6. Youth Party now demands equal representation with Communists and Democratic League. Kmt maintains solution this question is one for non-Kmt groups themselves. Communists and Democratic League balk at this stand inasmuch as they claim Youth Party is Kmt creature and is means of added Kmt power in State Council.

At present time State Council question is academic because until all constitutional questions are settled and, together with agreements reached on March 20, (Embassy’s telegram 541, March 20 [21]) are answered publicly Communists and Democratic League continue to refuse to name members for recommendation reorganized Government and PCC Constitutional Committee unable proceed with drafting permanent Constitution.

In PCC steering committee, at least there is evident desire to reach compromise agreement and it is anticipated, granting mutual good faith and no major changes in overall politico-military situation, that substantial agreement on all basic constitutional issues will be reached shortly, preparing the way for reorganization of Government. Whether or not permanent Constitution can be drafted in short time remaining before May 5th is questionable. This and purely physical problem of transportation of delegates to National Assembly from widely separated points to Nanking by May 5th makes it appear likely that some delay in convocation of National Assembly may be necessary.

During past two weeks Democratic League appears to have emerged as only balance between extreme positions of Kmt and Communists and, as far as can be ascertained, such compromise as will be achieved will be based on solutions suggested by the League. It must be borne in mind that steering committee discussions are being conducted in a national atmosphere which makes reasoned solutions difficult. Deep mutual Kmt-Communist distrust still exists and a vicious struggle for power within the Kmt is becoming more evident, but above all the obscure situation in Manchuria governs party tempers and the political scheme.

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There is no reason to be overly optimistic that decisions of PCC steering committee will be supported without additional reservations by the two major parties.

  1. District unit of government.