Marshall Mission Files, Lot 54–D270

Minutes of Meeting Between General Marshall and General Chou En-lai at No. 5 Ning Hai Road, Nanking, July 5, 1946, 5:45 p.m.

Also present: Mr. Chang
Colonel Caughey
Captain Soong

General Chou: I did not call you during the last two days because I have been conferring with Government representatives. Today I made this appointment for one or two particular points which I would like to discuss.

General Marshall: I knew nothing of your appointments. I saw the Generalissimo night before last but did not talk business; we merely had dinner. Hence, I do not know what meetings the Government representatives have had since.

General Chou: As you may have read in the newspapers, the Government has announced the convening of the National Assembly on November 12.65 This came as a surprise to me just at the time when discussions of political negotiations were raised. It more or less constitutes a bomb shell to the Communist Party.

The National Assembly is a most disturbing matter. I presume you are familiar with its past history. Representatives were first selected some 10 years ago. This year, some compromise was finally reached on the issue of the old delegates as a result of large concessions by our side. Last year the National Assembly was postponed; that was in the midst of civil war. It was postponed again this year when on 27 April, it was decided by the Steering Committee of the PCC, presided over by the Generalissimo himself. At that time, it was agreed that no new date should be fixed pending settlement of all outstanding issues.

However, this time the Generalissimo suddenly presented the proposition to the National Defense Council to have it passed. This constitutes complete ignorance of the PCC position. Therefore, we feel [Page 1300] quite surprised. We have protested and made inquiries of Government representatives. Mr. Shao reported that the announcement of the convention was merely incidental. It was brought up in connection with the extension of the PCC and that he knew nothing about it before hand. General Chen Cheng also explained that it was merely accidental and that it was brought up by the Generalissimo himself, and that he, General Chen Cheng, did not even participate at that meeting. Dr. Wong [Wang]66 said he felt that the decision itself would stand without any evil intent and that there is a desire to consult the other parties after the announcement of how the National Assembly would be convened. He admits, however, that no one can be sure that as events develop, nothing will go off the track. If by November, all outstanding issues have not been resolved, some unforeseen situation may arise which would preclude a National Assembly would result in a big quarrel. My next remarks will supplement their statements.

I said even if I presumed that the announcement was made without evil intent, that later developments may lead to an actual split by the convention of the National Assembly. Therefore, both parties should avoid trying to deteriorate the situation. They should try by all means to overcome difficulties so that the National Assembly can be convened with success. They agreed to my remarks.

Mr. Shao said that the National Assembly Act had merely been passed by the National Defense Council but had not yet been issued as an order of the National Government. I suggested that the Steering Committee of the PCC convene immediately. Most members of the Steering Committee are in Nanking, with a few in Shanghai who could easily be invited to come here. The Steering Committee could discuss matters which have a close relation to the convention of the National Assembly, such as reorganization of the Government, a draft constitution, distribution of seats for the National Assembly, etc. Mr. Shao promised he would reconsider this matter with his Government associates, but Dr. Wong was rather hesitant on this point. Finally they reluctantly agreed to discuss the matter further. Therefore General Chou strongly doubts as to what fruitful result can come out of their discussion.

At this time General Chou made some off the record remarks.

The Central Daily News yesterday assumed an attitude similar to ours by saying that the National Assembly is being convened without securing agreement of the other parties. Such an attitude constitutes a measure to effect a national split. I told them frankly, Mr. Shao, Dr. Wong and General Chen Cheng, that prior to the Japanese [Page 1301] surrender last year, we were preparing to call an assembly of the people’s delegates of the Communist-liberated areas. I myself was then serving as the chairman of the preparatory committee. Secondly, when I came with General Mao to Chungking for negotiations, such preparatory work was entirely suspended. We did this because our policy is to cooperate. We want the National Assembly to be an assembly of unity and cooperation, and we want a democratic constitution to be adopted.

As regards Manchuria, at a time when civil war was at its climax, local Communist authorities initiated a preparatory committee for the convention of a delegation conference from over Manchuria for the purpose of instituting an overall local government for Manchuria. But being eager to stop civil war, we persuaded them to suspend preparation for that assembly. We could have announced a date for such an assembly but we refrained from doing so because we want unity. However, the Government fixes a date each time, thereby threatening the Communists to come to terms before a certain date or the Government would go ahead unilaterally. This is a policy of National split and is very dangerous. If Government representatives could not dissuade the Generalissimo from pursuing such a policy, then it would be extremely difficult to reorganize the Government and to adopt a democratic constitution. I further said to the Government representative that according to PCC procedure, both the army reorganization plan and the reorganization of the Government should be effected. Right now, we are discussing supplementary matters pertaining to the army reorganization plan and some arrangement may be worked out shortly. According to the original undertaking, it had been hoped that the effective date of army reorganization plan can be July 1st. As to the reorganization of the Government, it is almost time to discuss that in line with decision of the PCC. A second PCC convention to discuss these problems would greatly reassure the Chinese people, as well as facilitate reorganization of the Government. On hearing this, the Government representatives felt they were placed in an extremely difficult position. Dr. Wong said that if the Government is reorganized, then the dispute may be carried on within the Government itself. He expressed the feeling that prior to reorganization of the Government, all present existing issues should be settled and that secondly the local administration of the various provinces should be discussed. It should be noted that according to the PCC provisions, local administration will be discussed after reorganization of the Government. The procedure now proposed by Dr. Wong is entirely different from the procedure of the PCC.

At this juncture, I raised the issue that that is a very complicated [Page 1302] problem, that it may require one or two months for discussion. In that case, reorganization of the Government could not be brought into being. There is even the possibility that the National Assembly itself would have to be postponed. If no settlement is reached on the provincial government question, then what should we do? To that the Government representatives made no reply. From their comments, I get a strong impression that at a stage when we almost settled the questions within scope of army reorganization, the Government raised the issue of North Kiangsu, Jehol, Chahar, Shantung, etc. While we did find some measures to cope with that situation, the Government again raised the question of local administration. Should local administration in the disputed areas be settled, the Government may again raise the issue of local administration all over China and in the Communist area before they would discuss the reorganization of the Government. If this line be pursued, then there will be no end which would permit discussion of the nation-wide political affairs.

In view of this I made two proposals. The first one was according to the way they expressed it. North Kiangsu should not be viewed as a matter of local administration because the question of local administration should be discussed immediately prior or after the reorganization of the Government. If that idea is accepted, then there are only two questions on North Kiangsu that have to be discussed at this moment. The first one is the military threat. I have already expressed to General Marshall that we are willing to reduce the Communist forces to two divisions during the first stage and one division during the second stage of army reorganization so as to reduce any threat to the Kuomintang areas. The second question is the political, or the so called refugee, problem. If those are true refugees, we would unqualifiedly welcome their return to North Kiangsu. One method of safeguarding their interests is to organize in each city or hsien a committee comprising representatives of the refugees, as well as representatives of the various parties. This committee would supervise the safety, freedom and property of refugees and would secure land for production. In this way the North Kiangsu problem can be settled. This, I think, is similar to the idea outlined by you day before yesterday.

The Government representatives did not feel in a position to make a reply because my proposition was too far away from their own ideas. They do admit that taking over local administration by the Kuomintang in North Kiangsu constitutes an alteration of the PCC agreement. But they point out that the Government in return has made concessions in Manchuria. I remarked that that depends on from what angle one views the Manchurian question. Viewed from our [Page 1303] side, it is we who made large concessions, particularly with regard to Harbin. Dr. Wang explained that apart from the local civil administration in North Kiangsu, the local administration problem in general will be discussed later. In this connection, I made a second proposal, that we try to solve the purely military problems. If any particular location for troops is not acceptable to the Government, then the Government may bring up the issue for future discussion so that eventually we reach an acceptable basis. The special paper prepared by General Marshall would then be agreed upon and termination of hostilities could be announced. As to local administration in North Kiangsu, that should be solved along with other political problems after the reorganization of the Government. Should the Generalissimo object, then we could call the PCC initially to discuss political matters, or have the Kuomintang-Communist Parties confer and then come to the question of reorganization of the Government. The Government representatives made no reply to this proposition. At the end we merely agreed that we will meet again tomorrow and that we will further discuss overall matters. My view is that to discuss North Kiangsu problem alone without reaching any settlement on other Communist areas is incomprehensible, not to mention unacceptable, to us. General procedure can be worked out in relation to Communist areas, then maybe we can find a way out for North Kiangsu.

From the two discussions I had with Government representatives, I have the impression that the Government is wavering, that its policy is not explicit. That means on one hand, the Government is not explicitly for peace and democracy with the intention of overcoming all difficulties. On the other hand, while the Government does have intentions of continuing the fighting, still it feels that this is not the proper way to do it. But, if they should pursue peace, then they again have fear for this and that. Therefore the Government is suspicious of any proposition brought before them. What they are now doing is groping step by step. This attitude makes it extremely difficult. Should we concede in the beginning all Government desires, then there would be no necessity to negotiate because negotiation implies to find some way out from the stand of both sides.

That is what I have to say on the negotiation and I would like to hear if you have any suggestions or some hints.

General Marshall: Judging from what you have said, I am a little afraid that year [your] stand on the local government question is going to make an agreement regarding this paper rather impossible. The Communist Party will not agree to evacuate the region unless the local government remains. The Generalissimo has stated that the Government will not accept that procedure and will not bind [Page 1304] itself to continue local governments. The reasons of both parties have already been stated but the stands taken are very firm. I have considered that they apply equally to vacating portions of Shantung and Jehol and Chahar. Therefore, it has been my hope that some temporary measure could be agreed upon, a temporary measure completing current argument on the reorganization of the Government and paving the way for the formal settlement of the entire issue. Just what this temporary measure might be, I cannot say. But I am emphasizing the fact that some agreement must be reached on a temporary basis if we are to clear the air of conflict and permit political discussions with a reasonable chance of success.

I think it very important to hold discussions down at the present time to clearing that special paper. Everything else is of secondary importance at the moment, because if the fighting is not stopped, there will be a general civil war. If that occurs, the reorganization of the government will be a most remote possibility. Therefore I emphasize again my suggestion for you, General Chou, is to bring this particular paper back into the discussion. What are the troubles that prevent its acceptance? Plow can they immediately be resolved? I suggest that you discuss the other matters after the formal adjournment of your meeting with Government representatives, at least until we get this thing settled, meaning this special paper. That is the only suggestion I have to make at this time.

General Chou: I would like to pose a question once more regarding the point you just referred to in connection with the political matters. I have particularly in mind what is the motive of the Government’s recent actions or intentions such as in the unilateral announcement of the National Assembly and what makes the Government so reluctant to convene the PCC or even the Steering Committee. Does it imply that the Government’s intention is to first reach a rigid agreement on the military matters? Or that even the military agreement will be carried out a certain degree before the Government will be willing to loosen up its control on all the political matters? If that is the case, then I have one new question to ask. This is not in line with the advocation of the Communist Party and other parties that while politics are to be democratized, the armies will be nationalized. The Nationalists would continue the same control over armies and would not loosen their control over political matters. This policy of the Government seems incompatible with the spirit of the PCC or the spirit expressed in our talk upon your arrival in China. It is also against the spirit embodied in President Truman’s statement67 in which the President emphasized the reorganization of the Government as well as the unification of the army.

[Page 1305]

General Marshall: I have had no discussion with any official of the Government regarding the sudden announcement of the new date of the constitutional assembly. I therefore at this time cannot give you any view of mine on the subject because I am wholly uninformed. I had been told of it today by one of my own people here at the house, one whom I questioned about the November date. He told me, I think, that the date had some special significance, also that it had once been proposed by the Communist Party—that is all I know. The conversation did not go any further.

Now, as to the other point you raised, I cannot answer that at this time. I can only give my opinion, which is that following the Communist attack on Changchun I noticed a general change of attitude on the part of the Government. Regarding it from their point of view, they doubted whether any agreement could be counted upon. I think it is possible that at the present time while we are still struggling for a settlement of this military problem, and I speak of settlement and not of its implementation, there is probably a hesitation on the part of the Government to commit itself definitely on the timing of the successive steps to be taken in achieving political reorganization. I have urged certain political moves and for that reason I was intent on making a start by securing an agreement to this present series of conferences on a high Government level. My hope was for a success in reaching a basis for this particular paper, particularly as to the local Governments on a temporary basis. I hoped that that in turn would lead to some larger meeting, possibly of the Steering Committee of the PCC.

General Chou: That is all I have to say at this moment and I hope tomorrow I can have an appointment to explain the overall picture of the situation. Naturally, I would like to consider your idea of working out some temporary matters with regard to this question.

General Marshall: Any time tomorrow, I will be at your disposal.

  1. Birth date of Sun Yat-sen.
  2. Wang Shih-chieh, Chinese Minister for Foreign Affairs.
  3. December 15, 1945: Department of State, United States Relations With China (Washington, Government Printing Office, 1949), p. 607.