Marshall Mission Files, Lot 54–D270: Telegram

General Marshall to President Truman9

1210. Dear Mr. President: Since my message to you of July 22nd, I remained in Nanking 4 days waiting for delayed return of General Chou En-Lai from Shanghai where he had been negotiating matters with UNRRA10 and CNRRA11 regarding Yellow River project. During this period the fighting had increased in intensity and in the number of contacts. The Nationalists blamed the Communists for starting fighting in the Kiangsu and Tatung regions while the Communists blamed the Nationalists in Kiangsu, Shantung and Hupeh. The acts were hard to determine and the data confusing. Meanwhile [Page 1420] the assassination of two college professors of the Democratic League in Kunming and the close surveillance of similar individuals in Shanghai by secret police agents created great excitement and caused the feeling among liberals that terroristic methods were being employed to suppress any spoken or printed opposition to the Government. On Chou En-Lai’s return to Nanking, I conferred with him to see if I could find any new basis for conciliatory action and found him strongly condemning what he claimed was the deliberate policy of the Government to stand clear of successful negotiations while pursuing an aggressive military policy to secure every possible advantage over the Communists before entering into political negotiations.

Leaving our new ambassador Doctor Stuart in Nanking to confer with Chou En-Lai on a possible basis for initiating a coalition government, I proceeded to the summer capitol at Kuling to see the Generalissimo. Doctor Stuart followed a day later and we arranged for him to analyze personally the entire situation for the Generalissimo, that is, the tragedy impending, the overwhelming desire of the people of China for peace and their rapidly growing disapproval of the methods of the Kuomintang party, the turn of public opinion in the United States, especially following the assassinations and the statement of Madame Sun Yat Sen,12 and the threatened loss of prestige by the Generalissimo if an immediate and drastic step was [not] to be proposed for actual measures to start a coalition government. Since Stuart speaks Chinese fluently and there would be no necessity for the presence of a third party and since he has long been a friend and admirer of the Generalissimo and is universally conceded to comprehend the peculiarities and conditions of things Chinese, it was thought best for him alone to prepare the way by a very frank statement as indicated before I again participated. Unfortunately immediately after his arrival in Kuling he was stricken by a severe case of dysentery and confined to his bed where he still is. I delayed any action for two days thinking he was about to make a full recovery but when he tried to meet an appointment with the Generalissimo last night he proved to be too weak. I sent to Nanking for American doctors and they arrived this morning at Kuling, pronounced the trouble dysentery—the Chinese doctor had been treating him for malaria—and reported that he should be well on the way to recovery tomorrow.

Under the circumstances I had a long and very frank talk with the Generalissimo today covering most of the ground Stuart was to cover and while no definite result was achieved he was brought to a better [Page 1421] understanding of at least the American point of view. Stuart will go into details with him tomorrow Wednesday or Thursday and will either report back to me here at Nanking where I just arrived or I will take Chou En-Lai back with me to Kuling. It is extremely critical and what I most fear is the spread of the fighting into the province of Jehol, northeast of Peiping, and then inevitably into Manchuria which we have so far managed to keep quiet. The Generalissimo’s attitude is that of counseling us to be patient, quoting a Chinese proverb to the effect that when the fruit is ripe it will drop into your hands and referring to the Chinese traditional method of dealing severely with an opponent at first and then tempering the action with kindness. My view and that of Dr. Stuart is that this method is leading directly into an uncontrollable civil war and that the seeds of distrust and violence now being sown will make later political settlements impossible.

On top of this situation comes today a report of an attack by Communists on a Marine convoy near Peiping with loss of three American lives and a number of wounded. I will see Chou En-Lai tomorrow and hear what he has to say regarding this incident. It is undoubtedly the result of violent Communist propaganda against so-called American military support of the National Government and the present confusion of military action all over North China. I suppose it will precipitate a strong demand for the withdrawal of Marines. As a matter of fact I notified the Navy 3 weeks ago to plan for Marine withdrawal initially to start from Tsingtao and informed Commander of Seventh Fleet Wednesday last to proceed with withdrawal as soon as transport and arrangements could be made. This step was taken by me as Government had reinforced its Tsingtao garrison sufficiently to protect the port. This has not yet been done at Tientsin. No press release on commencement of Marine withdrawal will be made until the dates are settled.13

G. C. Marshall
  1. Copy transmitted by the War Department to the Secretary of State on July 31.
  2. United Nations Relief and Rehabilitation Administration.
  3. China National Relief and Rehabilitation Administration.
  4. Madame Sun’s statement, released July 22, was reported in despatch No. 37, August 8, from the Ambassador in China, not printed.
  5. For further correspondence on this subject, see vol. x, pp. 848 ff.