Marshall Mission Files, Lot 54–D270

Minutes of Meeting Between General Marshall and General Chou En-lai at No. 5 Ning Hai Road, Nanking, August 1, 1946, 4 p.m.

Also present: Col. Hutchin
Capt. Soong
Mr. Chang

General Chou: During your short absence, fighting continued and is now taking larger and larger dimensions. I did not call on you yesterday because I thought after your arrival, you would have too many calls. Actually the situation is very serious and I want to speak briefly about the situation.

Regarding Communist troops in Hupeh, I learned that an agreement has been reached among the team members on July 27. Previously, the Communist commander had intended to meet the field team at Lung Chu Tsai but because they were hotly pursued by Government troops, they could not stop. This time the field team agreed that a meeting would be convened in Hsian before August 5th. General Li Hsien-nien agreed to designate the representative of the 18th Group Army in Hsian, Mr. Chou, as General Li’s representative to contact the field team members. I have studied carefully the text of that agreement and found it very suitable. I am willing to accept the whole agreement. Now it depends on attitude of the Government. If the Government would before August 2 express its acceptance, then the prospect is rather hopeful. Then the pursuing and the frontal attack of the Government troops can be stopped. Communist troops are willing to stay in an assigned place, and the negotiations can be resumed. It now depends on the attitude of General Cheng Chien, General Liu Chih and General Hu Chung Nan in Hsian. [Page 1428] Should they insist on annihilating the Communist troops, then fighting cannot be stopped and might even spread.

In North Kiangsu, fighting is also being extended. The Government has no intention of stopping attacks. So far, Government troops which occupy five cities; namely Jukao north of Nantung, Tien Chang west of the Grand Canal, Hsu-wi further north of Tien Chang, Hsiao Hsien southwest of Hsuchow, and Lin Tai east of southern section of Lunghai Railroad, and many other townlets. These facts indicate that after the arrival of General Pai Chung Hsi at Hsuchow, the Government’s operational plan was to make a two prong attack both from the north and from the south. It appears to me that the Government’s plan is to clear the Grand Canal communication line south from Hsuchow to Chen Kiang. Execution of such a plan would take a long time. So far they have sustained 30,000 casualties. On the average, they occupy each city at the cost of one division. It is obvious that they cannot by force obtain their end.

In Shantung Province, along the Tsingtao–Tsinan Railroad, fighting is especially severe and the front line is moving back and forth. Two places have been recaptured by the Communists but were then again retaken by the Government troops. These two cities are Tsi-yang to the northeast of Tsinan and Yitu railroad junction on the Tsingtao–Tsinan railroad.

In Shansi, General Hu Chung Nan’s troops sustained three regiments losses in fighting. Fighting is still continuing to the north of Houma. I am further afraid that fighting will arise in Jehol Province. Until yesterday I received no report at all about that area. I learned however last night that the 53d Army is being sent into Chinchow. As you may recall, both the 53d and 54th Armies were shipped from south China to Shanghai. Subsequently the 54th Army went to Tsingtao while the destination of the 53d remained unknown. Recently I received a report that that army made its appearance in Chinchow. The Government plan apparently is to send the 93d, the 13th and the 53d Armies to attack Chengte in three columns. That attack will first be opened to the south of Chengte and at Kupeikou. According to the report of American members in Chengte, Communists are making preparations for evacuating heavy equipment. I believe the American report is true and I believe the Government is contemplating an attack to try to seize Chengte.

In Antung Province, some military operation is also afoot. Comparatively speaking, the situation in Manchuria was rather stable. But recently the Government is making troop dispositions in Antung Province. The Government 60th Army is the Yunnanese Army. It is making preparations for an attack. At the Sungari River crossing, [Page 1429] Nationalist and Communist troops are each holding one bank of that river. The American Branch suggested establishing a no-man’s-land between the two lines. Each army would withdraw 30 li. Now the Government has sent troops across to the northern bank to reconnoiter Communist positions. This indicates that they will eventually open an attack against Antung and Harbin.

From the foregoing military operations, it seems that the Government’s military plan is based on demands expressed by the Government at the end of June when no agreement could be reached on points of difference. Those Government demands were to annihilate Communist troops in Hupeh, to occupy north Kiangsu, to clear the Tsingtao–Tsinan railroad and the southern section of the Tungpu railroad, to occupy Chengte and to seize Antung and Harbin; the whole military plan is worked out accordingly.

If the initiative for making attack lies only in the hands of one side, it is difficult, hardly comprehensible, that Communist troops will only take up self defense without making counterattacks. The Government plans conflicts to take place only in places where they have the initiative. Even so, they may not achieve their objective because they have no assurance of being successful in all those places. Apart from that, one must consider the possibility that Communists will make counterattacks and attack in other places. This will eventually become a full scale civil war. Of course, war minded elements within the Government may be inclined to think that it is favorable to them to instigate a full scale civil war so that there will be no room for mediation.

Recently along the Peiping–Mukden railroad, some incidents took place in connection with the U. S. Marines. The Communists have submitted one note regarding seven incidents to Executive Headquarters and, with the addition of the last note, there are altogether eight incidents. Some incidents are caused by the U. S. Marines entering Communist liberated areas. The last incident also involved Nationalist troops. If the U. S. Marines are merely for the purpose of patrolling, then it is hardly conceivable they should come into the Communist area, particularly that they come along with the Nationalist troops. This may show that some element of the Chinese Government is trying to get U. S. Marines entangled in Chinese affairs, to stage some incident along the Peiping–Mukden Railroad that will enable the Government to control more areas on both sides of the Peiping-Mukden Railroad. This seems to be their intention and this is also a part of the plot designed by those who are instigating a full civil war.20

[Page 1430]

On our part we are willing to exercise our influence to prevent a civil war. Any means that can be resorted to for that immediate purpose, we will welcome. I have in mind three different alternatives. First, as I expressed the last time, since the civil war has now assumed a general character, then we should immediately announce a nationwide truce, and all documents drawn up prior to June 30 should be signed and published, with the exception of course of the discussion of local civil administration which will be left for future discussion.

As a second alternative, we may settle the hostilities piecemeal, tackling first the most serious areas of conflict such as the Communist areas in Hupeh Province, the conflicts in north Kiangsu and in Shantung Province; that field teams should be sent to all those places to settle conflicts one by one so that eventually we may effect a general truce.

As a third alternative, we may solve the military questions along with the political questions. As I explained to Dr. Stuart last time, if we cannot reach a general truce immediately, it would be wise to discuss the political matters, trying to work out a procedure for the reorganization of the Government, so that both the political and the military questions will be straightened out simultaneously.

Should the Government reject all three proposals, then it is rather obvious that the Government is inclined to extend the civil war. Since we have no other means to stop it, then again only two ways are open. The first one is: since Government troops are continuing to occupy Communist controlled places, they cannot help but launch counter-measures in some other places. Of course, I am fully aware this would only lead to a promotion of the civil war. Under such circumstances if the Government should launch an attack on Chengte, Communist troops may launch an attack on Tatung. It would be extremely difficult to dissuade the Communist troops from taking offensive actions against Tatung or Tsinan, and if the Government troops attack Wei-an in north Kiangsu then it would be difficult to keep the Communist troops from attacking Hsuchow. We are aware that this tends to aggravate the situation and is therefore extremely dangerous.

The second way, which we may be forced to accept, is to express public statements both toward the whole country as well as abroad to Americans that a general civil war is existing, that China is in a state of civil war and there is indication that the situation will be further deteriorated.

At the same time, if the Government’s intention is really not civil war but peace, as I was assured by Dr. Stuart, than I can hardly perceive how they can keep on fighting without showing any willingness [Page 1431] to settle the issues by peaceful means. If the issues are eventually to be resolved through negotiations on the status of January 10 in China Proper and the status of June 7 in Manchuria, it will have to be resolved that armies of both parties will be withdrawn to that line. Under such circumstances what is the purpose of making further attacks? I am still at a loss to understand the Government’s intention unless it is the Government’s intention to keep those places which they have occupied. If both parties persist in occupying after the peace deadline, then a deadlock will take place and the whole purpose of effecting a truce will be defeated. If the war is going on, the situation will become more and more complicated and the more difficult for a settlement. I am trying all my power to control the situation.

First with regard to the Peiping–Mukden Railroad, I wonder if it is advisable that the plan to evacuate the U. S. Marines include a provision that we send field teams to protect the railroad. I believe that the communications will be better protected. Of course, the field teams should also get assurances that Government troops will not use the line as a basis for attacks toward adjacent Communist areas. Then the Communists will also take up the promise not to destroy the railroad. Should the Marines need to go to nearby Communist villages, they should first notify Communist members and go with a Communist. Seeing that the situation is so serious, I am anxious to see that it is kept in hand.

General Marshall: Has General Chou any comment to make about this recent action involving the Marines, some 35 miles from Peiping?

General Chou: As soon as I read it from the newspapers, I sent a wire to inquire on the matter. So far I have only received this report from the newspaper on the matter. (Hands General Marshall the report21). It is not an official report. I have not yet received any formal report from General Yeh.

General Marshall: I have waited to form any conclusion regarding this matter until I received a formal report from the investigating officers sent out by the Marine commander at the direction of Admiral Cooke,22 also until I had had an opportunity to talk to General Chou and hear anything he cared to say on the matter. Admiral Cooke had lunch with me today and personally gave me the report of the investigating officers of what took place. In my opinion, in order to understand this matter, it is necessary to go back to various occurrences in Jehol, particularly in relation to the statement of General Lee Hsueh-Jui, the Communist commander in that region, [Page 1432] and also to the propaganda from Yenan which relates to the same situation and to the recent abduction of 7 Marines engaged in buying ice. This statement General Chou has just handed me of the news broadcast from Yenan is wholly different from the facts reported to me by investigating officers. One lieutenant and 41 enlisted Marines were escorting a convoy consisting of 21 small trucks (carrying the 41 men), 6 supply trucks carrying food and supplies for the Marine garrison in Peiping, but mostly for the Executive Headquarters, 1 UNRRA truck with a Chinese driver and 1 staff car with 3 U. S. Army officers reporting to Executive Headquarters.

Now, this Yenan broadcast has, so far as I can see, but two correct statements. That is that there was a fight in which casualties were sustained by both sides and later in the afternoon U. S. reinforcements arrived from Tientsin. Other than that it is a complete, and I think a deliberate, misrepresentation. In the first place this column convoying supplies for the Executive Headquarters, except the one UNRRA truck, encountered a road block and when a young officer went forward to inquire what this meant, he was shot and killed. Instantly firing was opened with rifle, machine guns, and trench mortars. We have no accurate data on the number of Communists involved. It was estimated at 300. That continued for four hours and it ceased when a Communist officer displayed a white flag. The column then proceeded on to Peiping without all the trucks. Later a relief party from Tientsin arrived and took all the trucks and drove them to Peiping. The town of Ampeng [Anping] was not raided, the 8th Route Army was not forced to defend itself, there were no Kuomintang troops involved or present, according to the reports we have which I think are correct.

Now, I would like to analyze this occurrence in relation to what I have been trying to do. Dr. Stuart and I have been endeavoring to persuade the Generalissimo to issue an order for the cessation of hostilities and to approach the present situation on a high level of political reorganization of the Government immediately. I am met always with statements that the fighting which is going on is initiated by the Communists in Kiangsu and in other places. I don’t agree with the Government because I feel that at least part of this fighting has been initiated by the Government. Nevertheless, their contention is to me, that the responsibility rests with the Communists just as General Chou places the responsibility with the Government. Since June 14th, I think the major aggressive action has been on the part of the Government. The Government does not admit that. We have been endeavoring to bring to a quick conclusion this fighting before it spread into general uncontrollable civil war. I think that General Chou’s purpose at the present time and my purpose are almost identical. [Page 1433] I have been pursuing this course and ignoring entirely the vicious Communist propaganda which is virtually directed against me because I am responsible, in their misrepresentations of the American presence in China and which is paralleled to my further embarrassment by a similar Soviet propaganda. I use the expression, “embarrassment” meaning in my relations and my influence with the Central Government.

Tragic as were the assassinations in Kunming in effect they have exerted an influence on the Government favorably in my proposals because they had a very definite effect on official, political and public opinion in the United States. Just at the critical moment in the efforts of Dr. Stuart and myself to secure exactly what General Chou has been endeavoring to get, we have this second deliberate offensive action on the part of this Communist commander in Hopei, or Jehol, I don’t know which. In connection with his protests to Executive Headquarters, I read into his previous action of permitting the efforts to intimidate my American representative in Chengte, and this recent representation he must have made to Yenan, which is almost a complete fabrication. I can’t imagine any single thing at the present time which could have been so unfortunate from the viewpoint of the desires of the Communist Party as put forward by General Chou. It puts me in a still more difficult position with the Central Government, because it is going to have exactly the opposite effect on the American people, because Americans don’t accept this sort of thing calmly.

I would rather await in this matter until General Chou has heard from his own people, that is officially. I wanted him to know immediately what I think is the disastrous effect of this procedure which I assume is due to the attitude of the local comander in that region, judging from past occurrences.

I accepted the fact that American officers would be under fire from time to time in the ordinary performance of their duty on the field teams. That has been unavoidable. As a matter of fact, I think we have been very fortunate that some of them have not been badly hurt. These other occurrences are quite different matters, especially as it appears that in this case the supplies were directly concerned with Executive Headquarters, except the truck of UNRRA supplies. I agree with General Chou that the start of hostilities is generally that of civil war and I have assumed that it is on the verge of spreading into a general state of civil war. My fear, rather my belief is that it will soon get beyond control of either side. Serious as that is, carrying the country to the verge of a chaotic condition, nevertheless I have come to the conclusion that the military settlement, while an immediate necessity so far as is necessary to stop the fighting, is a [Page 1434] secondary consideration, that if we are to save this situation, it must be done by the immediate initiation of some form of coalition government. It would seem to me and to Dr. Stuart that the initiation of the State Council is the only practical approach. General Chou has mentioned the possible complication of the resumption of the situation as of January 13 which I imagine will immediately present a difficult point of compromise. I have not discussed this with the Government at all. As we approach the conclusion of our negotiations regarding military adjustments, the Government position was to resume that of January 13th. As General Chou has said the situation has since changed very radically and I anticipate that will bring new difficulties for adjustment which will increase every day. Incidentally, I have not discussed with any member of the Government this affair of the Marines, but I can anticipate exactly what the effect is going to be. It will not be to my advantage in pressing for a solution to the general situation.

General Chou: I am inquiring about the statement of General Lee. I am not familiar with the statement.

General Marshall: It is following the release of the 7 Marines and then he submits this protest to the Communist member of the team. The message is from the Communist member of the peace team at Peitaho, sent to Commissioner Yeh Chien Ying signed Colonel Lee Kwang Tze (member of team). He first speaks of the Marines, that they were well treated, then he says “according to our Lee Hsueh Jui, commander of those areas, the American troops stationed along the Peiping–Liaoning railroad invaded our liberated areas. On June [July] 9th, American soldiers with automatic rifles and one automobile from Tongshan entered our Chen-ku-chuang and Ding-fu-chuang area, 20 li west of Tongshan and on afternoon of same day more than 10 American Marines in one truck entered again said district for activities. The afternoon of June [July] 10th, American soldiers with a jeep came from Hsing Ling to our Chien-pow-chen area, 20 li N. E. of Kyui railroad station and they took foodstuff. When our commander objected they paid no attention to such objection. July 11th more than 10 American soldiers stationed at the bridge 53 at Shih-fakow with 3 amphibious tractors entered the vicinity of our Ta Hsi-fachiang area 30 li S. W. of Hsien and destroyed much agricultural area. On afternoon of July 13th 8 Americans from Len Hso Ying went with 1 auto to Hsiao-nan-ching and fired one shot and we fired two shots in the air and they were captured and disarmed by our troops. The three points just mentioned on which the Americans did not send any notifications or proceed beforehand, but just according to their wishes invaded our liberated areas is unreasonable.” The next refers to the [Page 1435] 7 Marines. It says all of these occurrences indicate that the Americans are supporting the Chinese civil war.

General Chou: I also received a similar report on the incident you just read from your reports with a slightly different version, but all of the information came from Peiping. I feel that the severity of the whole question is not only connected with these unfortunate incidents, but in the very existence of such a problem. According to your analysis, the statement made by Yenan had produced certain effect among the lower officers and therefore the attack of the local commanders toward the American forces stationed in that area has given rise to such an incident. This is one side of the story. We are confronted with three points. First, the mission of the U. S. Marines in north China is to protect the railroad, but on the other hand we are also aware that the Nationalist troops are using that railroad to transport arms and to launch attacks against the Communist areas. Of course these two are two separate matters but obviously the Communist personnel naturally would think about the result of such a coincidence.

General Marshall: I will have a careful check made by the Marine commanders of the Government troop movements from Tientsin to Chinwangtao. I think there have been almost none. Where the Government has been using the railroad is from Chinwangtao to Manchuria, with which the Marines have nothing to do. The Marines have been guarding the railroad from Chinwangtao to Tongshan the coal mine area.

General Chou: Secondly, we must take into consideration that Nationalist troops are right now waging a war against the Communists and so naturally they have a tendency to hail a conflict between U. S. Marines and the Communist troops, and the more the civil war is extended, the more they hope that the conflict of the Marines and the Communists will be enlarged. We may say with certainty that such an intention is existing and this is a factor that must be taken into consideration.

Thirdly, the U. S. Marines of course feel that they are invited, having secured the approval of the Government, to go to north China and that they may move around freely in that area, but in view of the complications of the North China situation where two Chinese armies are standing hostile to each other, it is quite possible that they may not fully evaluate the complication of that situation. I think that factor should be taken into consideration.

Though the cases cited by Commander Li in his note refers only to minor incidents, viewed from the angle of the local commanders they are, to him, not so small and they are liable to lead to conflict.

[Page 1436]

Now, regarding the latest incidents, so far I have not received any official report but I am very much concerned over this matter. Regardless of what the Yenan press release states, I feel that an investigation should be made as to the actual situation as to when the American convoy first arrived at that spot, how the reported 300 Communists made a sudden raid on the convoy. If the report by the American side be true then it appears to me there must be some cause behind it and we must find it out. What is the reason that led them to open fire on the American convoy, whether merely because they came in 21 trucks or were there some other considerations behind it. It might be possible that the Nationalists side sent a small band to instigate some hostilities which then led to armed resistance on the Communist side. The Communists may have tried to ambush another Nationalist attack withile [sic] Nationalists were already aware that some American convoy was going to pass that point and therefore they tried first to project some incident. Of course this is merely presumption on my part but it is not entirely impossible.

I have no intention of making an entirely unilateral investigation because the report I receive may vary quite considerably from the American side and instead of clarifying the situation would only complicate it. Since the matter concerns Executive Headquarters, I hold the view that Executive Headquarters should send its most able staff in the form of a peace team to investigate the incident and the related matters. They should determine the responsibility, whether 1, 2 or 3 sides are at fault, and then make recommendation to Executive Headquarters to announce punishment of the sides responsible. If we wish normal relations to be maintained on all sides, then we must tackle this incident with a responsible attitude. Of course any investigation reports submitted by the U. S. Marines or by our side may also be used as reference and once the whole situation has been clarified and the guilty party has been determined it would not influence our other issues. This is my suggestion to this matter.

You just mentioned that this incident will give some argument for the public opinion and may affect negotiations. Of course such kind of reaction is unavoidable but the attitude I would like to assume is toward the settlement of this incident. We are anxious to determine the true responsibility for this incident. It is our attitude that all three parties should participate in the investigation, unlike the Government attitude in investigating the Kunming incident by appointing only the Government people to that party. We want to clarify the whole matter because this incident is not in line with our policy because it would defeat any purpose we may have for the present time. Such an incident must be caused by certain factors. We must, therefore, get to the root of the incident and find the true responsibility. I fully realize that this incident will be used by the Government [Page 1437] as a pretext to block your efforts, but this can only be effective for a short time and in the long run if my suggestion with regard to the west section of the Peiping–Mukden line can be accepted it would insure communication and would also guarantee the freedom and safety of the American Marines in that part.

General Marshall: In connection with what General Chou has recommended and the message I have just received from Commissioner Robertson, I am agreeable to sending this message, “Since the Nationalists and Communists both wish to make a fact-finding investigation, it appears advisable to send a special team carefully selected, especially as to the American Member.” (General Marshall later added the sentence, “General Chou concurs with this message.”23) Is that agreeable General Chou?

General Chou: Very good. I fully understand and approve the sending of this team. I agree entirely to the message General Marshall is sending. I also am sending a message to General Yeh, asking him to send a capable staff member from his fact-finding team to investigate the matter. If the responsibility should be on the part of the Communists, it will be shown. I desire to find a settlement on the incident and not to make it more complicated and worse.

General Marshall: Would it be convenient for General Chou to see me tomorrow at 4:30 p.m.? Of course if nothing comes up in the meantime it may not be necessary but I thought it best to have a tentative date for 4:30. I will reaffirm it tomorrow.

General Chou: Very well. Have you sent any reply telegram to the 9th Field Team with regard to the agreement they reached?

General Marshall: I received your message about that and I sent you a note which you have not yet received. I repeated your note to Peiping and asked if they could get the Commissioners to agree to that. If they agree, it will save us from running into a block at this end. I thought it was best to try to get it settled there because they deal directly with the team, and also because they might reach a settlement, while down here we might not.

  1. See vol. x, pp. 848 ff.
  2. Apparently report of July 31 by the New China News Agency of Yenan, not printed.
  3. Vice Adm. Charles M. Cooke, Jr., Commander, U. S. 7th Fleet.
  4. See telegram No. 1224, August 1, infra.