893.00 Mongolia/8–946

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

No. 40

Sir: [Here follows discussion of Mongol autonomy question reported in Chinese press.]

Although little is known with regard to any relationship between the autonomy movement in Manchuria and the Communist-sponsored movement in Chahar, an alleged informal agreement delineating spheres of operations for the two authorities has been reported. This agreement is also stated to provide for unmolested passage of Communist Eighth Route Army troops from the Shansi–Chahar–Hopei Border Region across Mongol areas of western Manchuria. The facility with which Eighth Route Army troops crossed through western Manchuria in the early months of 1946 would tend to lend credence to the existence of such an agreement which may well have been reached only after the delegation of Manchurian Mongols had received a partial rebuff by the Generalissimo’s Headquarters at Peiping in February.

It may be anticipated that the Communist-sponsored movement in Chahar will be more dynamic and radical than that in western Manchuria and it is probable that the former will tend to absorb the latter unless the Central Government is prepared to take active and energetic steps to undercut the Communist appeal. Unfortunately the [Page 1492] record of Chinese Government relations with the Mongols and other national minorities is not a savoury one. In the past the partitioning of Inner Mongolia into a number of Chinese provinces prevented the Mongols from uniting effectively. The intervention of the provinces, the authorities of which did not act from motives of national responsibility but solely for the personal profit of their controlling military, and financial cliques, created among the Mongols a deep and abiding distrust and hatred of Chinese administration in general.

There thus exists in Mongol areas a state of mind receptive to the blandishments of organizers who are prepared to propound the identification of the Mongols as a separate people entitled to choose for themselves wherein their interests lie. Communist organizers may also hold out to the Mongols the hope of separate provincial status of their own and under their own “banner” system of administration. Such a movement was promoted by the Inner Mongolian Autonomous Political Council under the leadership of Teh Wang in the early 1930’s. At that time the Central Government, partly because of its distrust of any racial autonomy movement and partly because of its inability to control the border province governors, notably Yen Hsi-shan, successfully sabotaged Teh Wang’s movement and he, probably sincerely in the interests of his people, became a puppet of the Japanese. In 1936 Mr. Owen Lattimore66 made the observation that “as for Teh Wang, he has not ‘gone over’ to Japan; he has been bound hand and foot and thrown to the Japanese.” From the time of the defection of Teh Wang to the present, Inner Mongolian autonomy has been a dead issue.

Teh Wang’s movement was the only spontaneous Mongol attempt to form a united front with the Chinese against Japan; the Mongols were spurned by the Central Government and the attempt failed. “Teh Wang has been discredited in the eyes of the Mongols themselves, because his failure meant that the only honest, young, talented, patriotic Mongol prince willing to modify the hereditary privileges of the aristocracy for the sake of the nation was unable to accomplish anything real for his people. Since his failure was due partly to the defection of the most dishonest Mongol princes, as well as to the intrigues of Chinese politicians, the ruling class as a whole has been even more thoroughly discredited.”*

Against this background the Communist-sponsored autonomy or separatist movement in Chahar may be expected to meet with sincere autochthonous support wholly aside from the question of any artificial outside stimulus. The preoccupation of the Central Government with pressing political and economic questions in China proper also plays [Page 1493] into Mongol hands and into the hands of those who may wish to make immediate use of legitimate Mongol aspirations for the advancement of their own ends.

During the Japanese occupation of Manchuria the Mongols grew to like the Japanese less and less even though the Japanese had granted the Mongols nominal autonomy in Hsingan Province. It does not necessarily follow, however, that they grew to love the Chinese more. Likewise the Mongols of Chahar and Suiyuan have been disappointed in the past by their own leaders and by the exploitation of Chinese provincial officials. In the meantime the prestige of Outer Mongolia has been rising. An area and a people with a basically sound case for some form of autonomy, but without the resources enabling it to act independently may be expected to look toward the nearest source of possible support. In the case of the Mongols this support is immediately available from the Communist Border Region Governments. To the north, however, there is always Outer Mongolia where there is a Mongol Government and the only Mongols in centuries who have become allies of a strong nation without becoming a wholly subject people.

Therefore with regard to any Mongol autonomy movement, by whomever sponsored, the position of the Central Government is fundamentally weak. There is no intent herein to ignore the probability of Soviet political expansionism in Asia or that Soviet influence may possibly be affecting already the situation in Inner Mongolia. It is suggested, however, in view of past performance that until such time as a Chinese Government is in position and willing to offer and to implement a program of reform sufficient to undercut any outside appeal, it seems unlikely that the Mongols can be expected to orient themselves toward China.

Respectfully yours,

For the Ambassador:
W. Walton Butterworth

Minister-Counselor of Embassy
  1. Then director of the Walter Hines Page School of International Relations at Johns Hopkins University and Editor of Pacific Affairs.
  2. “Eclipse of Inner Mongolian Nationalism”—Owen Lattimore—Lecture before the Royal Central Asian Society, April 29, 1936. [Footnote in the original.]