The Ambassador in China (Stuart) to the Secretary of State

No. 1

Sir: I have the honor to report to you the conversations with President Chiang Kai-shek during my recent visit to Kuling Mountain when I presented my credentials. Messrs. W. Walton Butterworth53 and Robert L. Smyth54 accompanied General Marshall and me on July 18. We arrived on the mountain in the late afternoon and had dinner [Page 1389] that evening with President and Madame Chiang. As he and I greeted each other I told him that I wanted him to think of me not so much as an American official but as his old personal friend and one who had long been trying to serve his country. I thought of my present position as continuing this purpose temporarily in another form, and in order to help General Marshall in his special mission I hoped that he himself would feel free to let me know how I could be of use to him also. His response to this approach seemed entirely cordial.

After dinner that evening, the men gathered in one of the rooms, and President Chiang soon began to question General Marshall as to recent developments. General Marshall quite frankly pointed out the signs of approaching unlimited civil war and what seemed to him to be aggressive acts on the part of the Government. One comment led to another, and he soon spoke in very plain language of the two unfortunate assassinations in Kunming and the harmful effects these would have on American public opinion. The President was evidently embarrassed, and General Marshall said afterwards that he hesitated to speak so pointedly in the presence of both Chinese and Americans but that President Chiang had brought this upon himself by putting the questions he had at that time. Personally, I was very much pleased that the conversation had taken this turn and that General Marshall had spoken with such frankness. The Chinese problem, as I see it, has now come in certain decisive aspects to be largely the psychology of this one man.

The next morning we had a simple but dignified ceremony when I presented my credentials, with General Marshall and the other two American representatives present. I was notified that President Chiang wished to see me that afternoon, and I spent about an hour with him. He began by asking me about my impressions of the general situation, and I parried by insisting that I was anxious to learn his views before even attempting to form my own. When, however, he continued to insist, I told him that I was going to speak as his old friend and a friend of the country, and that if in doing so I seemed to overstep diplomatic proprieties I hoped he would call my attention to it. I then told him of my grave concern since returning to China about the first of May over the increasing threat of civil war and the consequences this was having: the mounting inflation; the painfully high cost of living; the suffering of the masses; the advantage for Communist propaganda; the inviting opportunity a divided China affords to a predatory Russia. I spoke of the way in which the Government was losing influence among the intellectuals and the masses and hinted that his personal popularity, which still held, would not be able to offset this loss of confidence in the Government and the party [Page 1390] as a whole. The recent assassinations had caused wide-spread consternation and were interpreted everywhere as the beginning of a policy of suppression of political thought and action. I then spoke of what seemed to me to be the solution.

I greatly desired to see him lead the party in a revival of the original revolutionary reform when its leaders really had a high patriotic motive and were heroic in exposing themselves to danger with no thought of self in their desire to establish Chinese independence with a democratic form of government. I knew that he himself still held this vision and was doing what he conceived to be his utmost to bring it into realization. I felt perfectly certain that the great mass of Chinese of all classes desires national unity, stability and peace under his leadership, and with the establishment of true democracy as rapidly as this could be safely accomplished. The reform movement should be inward in correcting the flagrant abuses which were destroying confidence both in China and abroad, and positive in creating socialized legislation that would bring economic benefits to the common people. The best and perhaps the only way to cope with the Communist movement was to institute agrarian and other reforms that were still more beneficial than those advocated by the Communists and yet were free from the violence, dictatorial methods and possible foreign influence of the Communists.

Concretely, I suggested three immediate measures. The first was a public disavowal of the assassinations on behalf of the Central Government and the assurance that intellectuals who did not use violence need have nothing to fear because of any political affiliations, discussions or other activities as being inherent in democracy. The second was to remove the ban upon the numerous daily papers and periodicals which had been suppressed nominally because they had not complied with the registration procedure but, as popularly believed, because of government policy. The third was the calling, within a few days, if possible, of the steering committee of the Political Consultative Council (PCC) as the beginning of immediate measures for ending the period of “party tutelage” and establishing constitutional government.

President Chiang agreed at once to all of these in principle. He then defended his policy in dealing with the Communists at some length and asked me if my acquaintance with Chinese history did not support his belief that the rulers and the dynasties of the past had succeeded or failed according as they maintained the principle of a blend of force and kindliness in dealing with political rebels and other organized forceful opposition. He quoted a classical phrase which is the crystallization of this policy and reminded me of a series of individual opponents of his with whom he had successfully [Page 1391] used this two-fold method. He could not tolerate armed rebellion but had no thought of exterminating or persecuting the Communists once they abandoned military force, and he realized that democracy must have an opposition party, and he had always been entirely willing to have the Communists become a constitutional party with complete freedom for the spread of their political ideology and economic policy.

I then told him that, as it seemed to me, the Communists hesitated to take this step, chiefly from a very genuine fear that whatever his own enlightened policy would be, reactionaries of his own party would not be satisfied with anything less than their destruction as an organized unit. This might be partly used by them for propaganda purposes, but it was also to a large extent genuine and perhaps not without good grounds. I was willing, if he agreed, to undertake to give the Communists my personal assurance that they need have nothing to fear if they took this step and would do everything in my power to see that they were protected. I told him that they had already been making advances to me, that I had known several of their leaders for a long time, and that they had suggested that I make a trip to Yenan. He at once urged that I do so, but I replied that the time did not seem to me to have come and that if I ever should do so I would want to have very concrete proposals from him.

On my departure he told his private secretary to escort me home. It happens that this young man was one of my former students and has the full measure of loyalty which that relationship has always obtained in China. He had been present throughout the interview, and I went over most of the above points with him in further detail, asking him to remind President Chiang of the urgency of his attention to these matters and to say things in my behalf which in Chinese social relations are usually conveyed in some such indirect manner. He had an opportunity to do this that evening with the result that another appointment was made for me the following morning before my departure at noon.

In regard to freedom of the press, President Chiang assured me that he was entirely willing to see that this was done, with the exception of Communist publications in Government-controlled areas until or unless they ceased to use armed force. I told him that this was in my opinion a reasonable stand for him to take and that the effect which I sought at this time would be secured if it became known that there were no other restrictions. He pointed out some technical difficulties in procedure in the calling of the PCC and its steering committee, but he promised that next month, or at the latest in September, there would be a meeting of this nature. We went over various [Page 1392] other points in the discussion of the previous day, and after urging me again to move to Kuling for the summer both in order to be close to him and for my own health, he allowed me to leave.

I, of course, reported these conversations at once to General Marshall. The experience was reassuring to me in two respects—first, I feel that President Chiang’s attitude is such that I need no longer feel embarrassed in talking freely to him despite my present official status. He continues to welcome from me constructive suggestions and even frank criticism that is well meant. I have been somewhat perplexed as to the proprieties in talking with him as a representative of the American Government and the degree of freedom this permitted. That anxiety has been entirely removed. Secondly, it was transparently clear in our conversation that he has the greatest admiration for General Marshall and even something in the nature of personal affection for him. Outspoken as General Marshall has been in his comments, often unfavorable, this has increased rather than weakened the respect of President Chiang and his desire for a continuation of the relationship. As to this I was not at all surprised, but it was reassuring to have such clear evidence of it. The whole situation is, as you are well aware, extremely confused and very near the breaking point, both as regards an extension of military conflict and aggravation, of economic and inflationary troubles, and the disorders that the various groups concerned are apt to create deliberately or unconsciously as they become desperate. On the other hand, the stakes are, as you understand better than I, enormous and call for our utmost endeavor. We have as assets the vigorous and patriotic leadership of President Chiang, the desire of most all the Chinese for the very things which we Americans desire for them, and their eagerness for our help, even to the point of wishing us to interfere in their own domestic concerns. It is, of course, perfectly possible that they may reach a point of frustration at any moment when one faction or another will start an anti-American agitation, which could become dangerous if it should get out of control.

In a somewhat more personal note, I venture to express my own deep satisfaction that the policy of my Government toward China is one which I have heartily approved as an individual and can therefore work for without any hesitation in my new function. As this has been put into effect by General Marshall, I can now wholeheartedly attempt to assist him in carrying forward.

President Chiang asked me to send a message of personal good will to President Truman and his hope that the President is enjoying good health. May I take this opportunity to add an expression of my own high regard and respectful good wishes to you as well as to the President. This may seem to you to be a rather tediously lengthy report. [Page 1393] I shall try to make subsequent ones somewhat more succinct, but it occurs to me that since I have been perhaps an entirely unknown personality to you, this detailed statement may in a way be a sort of introduction to my new Chief.55

Respectfully yours,

J. Leighton Stuart
  1. Counselor of Embassy in China, with the personal rank of Minister.
  2. Consul General at Tientsin.
  3. In his telegram No. 623, August 19, 11 a.m., Acting Secretary of State Acheson cabled Ambassador Stuart: “We have read with much interest your very informative and discerning dispatch No. 1 of July 21 and shall appreciate further similar reports from you from time to time.

    “In the midst of all your trials I want you to know always that you and General Marshall have our full support and confidence.”