Marshall Mission Files, Lot 54–D270

Minutes of Meeting Between General Marshall and General Chou En-lai at No. 5 Ning Hai Road, Nanking, November 10, 1946, 11 a.m.

Also present: Colonel Caughey
Mister Chang98
Captain Soong99

General Chou: I read the Generalissimo’s statement the day before yesterday and yesterday I read the Generalissimo’s order in the papers. Following that I received General Chen Cheng’s memorandum1 brought over by Colonel Caughey.

With regard to the Government’s order, I was not informed beforehand either by the Government directly or through the Third Party or through you. Up till now I have not yet been acquainted with the purpose of the Government—whether it is merely having in mind the National Assembly or the whole situation. Before I make any comment, I would like to hear from you on this matter as you may know what has been going on. In this manner I will have some more information as a basis for consideration.

General Marshall: Starting at the conclusion, I am not familiar with exactly what General Chen Cheng has in mind. I have not talked to him nor has he sent me any information on the subject.

Going back to the Generalissimo’s statement, my assumption was that his order for his troops to cease righting, except in self-defense, was to create a more favorable situation for the meeting of the National Assembly. My efforts had been to secure an agreement for the formal cessation of hostilities. I was encouraged by this memorandum from General Chen Cheng, because while I have been told nothing of what he has in mind, my assumption would be that he is desirous of talking about the cessation of hostilities. I would assume that what was wanted was an agreement as to the draft of an order for the troops of both sides terminating the fighting. It may be that that is not exactly what General Chen Cheng has in mind, but I can think of no other purpose in the meeting of the Committee at this moment. It would seem to indicate a possibility for an immediate arrangement for an unconditional termination of hostilities, but I don’t know. The fact of the matter is that I have been in disagreement with both sides, but I was rather encouraged to see this memorandum from General Chen Cheng.

My understanding at the present time of the situation on the Government’s side is this. The principal military leaders and political [Page 503] leaders are of the opinion that the only way to settle the issue is by force. For some reason, which is not clear to me, this belief has become more common and stronger recently. On the other hand, as I have been led to believe, the Generalissimo has been of the opinion that the fighting should be stopped and a final effort made to reach a peaceful settlement. In this he has met the opposition of the military and political leaders I have just referred to. According to this, his statement of the other day appears to be about halfway between the two views. But apparently, though I have received no indication of this, the last paragraph of General Chou’s memorandum to me of November 8th, may possibly be responsible for this memorandum of General Chen Cheng’s—I don’t know. From your point of view, they might seem unrelated except as to the reference to the Committee of Three in both, but the point at issue in General Chen Cheng’s memorandum, it seems to me, is possibly an amplification of the Generalissimo’s statement regarding the cessation of fighting.

I have not seen any of the Government leaders except the Generalissimo for a long time and I have not seen the Generalissimo since Thursday.2 I have only seen General Yu Ta Wei yesterday when he brought General Chen Cheng’s message. He merely requested me to have it delivered to General Chou. He stated that the Generalissimo desired to have the action of the Committee by the morning of the 11th. I can think of nothing else to add.

General Chou: Regarding the cease firing, if the Generalissimo’s unilateral order is thought to relieve the atmosphere before the meeting of the National Assembly, then I recall that on June 30, Dr. Peng Hsueh Pei,2a in his statement to the press, used a similar expression saying that the Government has issued an order to cease aggressive action against the Communist troops except those for the purpose of self-defense. Now, the unilateral order of the Generalissimo at this moment is of similar expression, but we all know that since July the self-defensive action of the Government troops has been enlarged to cover all the Communist areas and led to the occupation of nearly 100 cities. If all these actions should be called self-defensive action no one can find a satisfactory explanation. Therefore, judging by this order alone, except for changing the atmosphere, it does not bring any substantial alteration to the situation, unless you are aware of some other effective measures. However, from what you have just conveyed to me, it seems that there is no indication of that.

As to the National Assembly, there are only two days left before it will be formally opened. Up till now no political agreement whatever has been reached among the Government, the Communist Party, [Page 504] and the Third Party. Therefore, to convene the National Assembly at this moment by the Kuomintang is entirely contradictory to the PCC resolutions and such a National Assembly has never been recognized by us. Now the crux of the issue has resolved itself into this; that either the Government will call off the National Assembly and, in accordance with the PCC resolutions, call the Steering Committee of the PCC together to settle all the points in accordance with the PCC resolutions and procedure (which means the reorganization of the Government, the completion of the Draft Constitution revision, discussion of matters relating to the National Assembly and resolution of local administration, protection of the freedom and rights of the people), or else the Kuomintang Government would ignore the opinions of the Communist Party and the other parties, whether they agree or not, and call the National Assembly formally on November 12th and assert that this Assembly is a legal one. Should the latter course come to pass there will be nothing that can be done here and the procedure of the PCC will be torn to pieces and there will be absolutely no basis for calling any kind of meeting of a political nature.

As to a discussion by the Committee of Three according to the Generalissimo’s statement, it was said quite explicitly that he wants the Committee of Three to be convened, that the Communist Party will nominate its delegate and the discussion will be held on the basis of the eight points enumerated in his statement of October 16th3 to work out measures for the cessation of hostilities, restoration of communications, the implementation of the army reorganization plan and the determination of the location of troops. Thus, in his statement, he has actually laid down the conclusions. Since I proposed the convening of the Committee of Three nearly five months has elapsed and the Committee of Three has not met for over four months. Of course we still welcome the convention of the Committee of Three, but prior to that I must clear my mind on two points:

Suppose the discussion of the political matters today and tomorrow does not reach a settlement and the National Assembly instead of being called off is actually opened on November 12th. Politically there would be a state of a split and that certainly will exert some effect on the military matters. So the question is whether the discussion on the agreement for the cessation of hostilities will be successful.
According to the Generalissimo’s statement the discussion of the Committee of Three should be based on the eight points of his statement which the Government will insist upon, but which are unacceptable to the Communists. In other words, before the meeting is being called we will all be aware that there is little likelihood of success, as you have told me many times ago if we did not have a preliminary preparation for discussion you would not favor the formal convening of the Committee.

[Page 505]

We can see that the Committee of Three is being faced with these two situations and I would like to hear what your evaluation is of the prospect since you are the chairman of this Committee.

General Marshall: I have already told you that I have had no conversation on the details intended for the meeting on the part of General Chen Cheng. My impression is, judging from General Yu Ta Wei’s statement that the Generalissimo desired the result by tomorrow morning, the 11th, that they are proposing a meeting merely to discuss the termination of hostilities rather than go into the distribution of troops and matters of that sort because no one could conceive of such matters being settled by tomorrow morning. Therefore, I would suppose that what is wanted is an [in] effect a joint order for the termination of the fighting; and which I assumed the Communist Party and you would like to see become effective. Throughout the discussions of the summer and the fall it has been a demand of yours that there be a meeting of the Committee of Three to terminate the fighting before any of the political matters can be settled. In other words, the negotiations regarding distribution of troops, regarding State Council, etc., should be preceded by a termination of the fighting. Judging as I say by the expressed desire of the Generalissimo to have the result of this meeting by tomorrow morning, it would appear that what the Government wants is an agreement with you for a formal cessation of hostilities. But I repeat again I am judging that from the indication as to tomorrow morning and I repeat again for your better understanding of my point of view that I have not been in contact with these military leaders and I have been in disagreement with them. Notwithstanding the fact that I do not know specifically just what course such a meeting might take, the prospect would appear to me to be favorable towards terminating the fighting and I would think that the Communist Party would make a mistake in not taking advantage of what appears to be an opportunity to that end. If other matters are brought up, and regarding which I am totally uninformed, it remains within your province to state your unwillingness to go ahead on that basis but I do think that when there appears to be a chance of stopping the fighting that nothing should stand in the way of doing it, as this is what we have been struggling for all summer long.

General Chou: It is true that cessation of hostilities is what we have been struggling for all the time but at the same time it is our sincere hope that the peace we get is a genuine and lasting one. Not a false one like what we had after the agreement of March 274 which was completely ignored. It led to large scale fighting in Manchuria and also after the June armistice Doctor Peng also stated that the [Page 506] Government would not take any further aggressive action, but merely defend themselves. Again it led to aggressive action into a vast area. Now this time you just stated that it would be best to have the fighting stopped then to discuss the matter of the government reorganization. But at this juncture it leads me to this statement: Discussions concerning the National Assembly are affiliated with discussions of peace; the National Assembly should be convened amidst a peaceful atmosphere and it should be called by a reorganized government according to PCC resolutions. But now the government has not been reorganized and the National Assembly is already going to be convened. How can one be made to understand what is behind it? The question of the National Assembly is a political matter and the military matters will be subject to political matters. Even the democratic tradition of America would respect this point. Now, moreover, the Government is again vigorously violating the Draft Constitution in that the whole matter is being turned over to the Legislative Yuan. From these actions I certainly see no indication of a genuine desire for peace. Therefore, with respect to the Committee of Three, it seems to me that in the first place a discussion of the cessation of hostilities is connected with the question whether the National Assembly will be convened. As a matter of fact there are two days left before the opening of the National Assembly and it is inconceivable that while militarily we have the truce, politically we have an immediate split. Under such circumstances everyone will doubt whether a cease firing order can be effective. I see no way that I can convince Yenan and the Communist military commanders, local authorities, and the people in the liberated areas that such a cessation of hostilities will be genuine. This leads me to ask you whether, according to your evaluation, there is still any measure that can lead to the calling off of the National Assembly. We might then have a discussion of the political and military matters. We can convene the Committee of Three to discuss the military matters and convene the Steering Committee of the PCC to discuss all the political issues so that in both the military and the political matters we will find an overall solution. If, according to your evaluation, there is such a possibility, then within these two days we will still make a last attempt and, if there is no such possibility, my whole mission is being put on a questionable basis. I cannot conceive it to be my mission that while at the same time as I am discussing the cessation of hostilities, on the other hand I am acquiescing in a political split. Should the circumstances lead to such a stage, which I am most unwilling to see, I can see no other way than to inform you that the Communist delegation here needs to go back to Yenan for holding a meeting and for seeking new instructions in order to re-evaluate the changed situation. In this event I would have no way to execute the [Page 507] instructions I have so far received and I would have exhausted all my resources, my forebearance and patience in seeking a compromise. So the only thing I could do is to let the delegation go back to report its work, have a meeting and see whether some new measures could be worked out.

General Marshall: I have had no indication from the Government that they would postpone the National Assembly. I had hoped there might be a compromise solution in the form of a temporary adjournment after formal convocation; adjournment for a definite limited period, during which certain steps might be taken. I have had no information that such an adjournment would be considered. Just before your arrival, a telephone message came to me from Dr. Stuart. I did not talk to him directly, I just have these notes.5

I might say first that I have not been a participant in these various discussions of a political nature, though I have been called upon by the members of the Third Party who have asked my advice from time to time.

Dr. Stuart is rather optimistic this morning. He referred to the meeting yesterday afternoon, at which I believe you were present. He states that there was a meeting with the Generalissimo last night and that his (the Generalissimo’s) reaction showed a readiness to participate in any way possible to arrive at a peaceful solution. He (Doctor Stuart) referred to a possible informal meeting of the Steering Committee of the PCC this afternoon. Now that is all of my information at present.

I am rather badly confused at the moment and I think it is due to the struggles within the Government on one side and my difficulties there, and the overwhelming suspicions on the other side, yours in particular. Frankly I think that, whatever the provocation, you have reached the point where you do not believe anything. Therefore it is very difficult to discuss the various issues. Time after time I have labored with the Government to have them moderate their stand, to have them commit themselves to definite statements regarding matters that I felt certain were strong desires of the Third Party and the Communist Party group, only to find that this result of my effort was viewed with profound suspicion. So I was left between the antagonism of the political and military leaders of the Government to what I had insisted upon and to the suspicion and refusal on your part on the other side, which was rather an impossible situation for me. That has happened a number of times. I have actually had incidents where after days of effort I prevailed upon the Government to express themselves in certain definite language which they did not want to do at all and then found that language thrown back in my face. I [Page 508] may have been wrong in the choice of words, but certainly there was no evil purpose and certainly they were not the Government’s words and certainly the facts were that it had been extraordinarily difficult to secure any such commitment on the part of the Government. So I repeat again that I am badly confused.

General Chou: I am also badly confused.

General Marshall: I am badly confused and I have welcomed the intervention of the Third Party to relieve me from the burden of misunderstandings. Now again I am in a confused state. While we did not have any information beyond the statement in General Chen Cheng’s paper, yet I was greatly encouraged because it looked as though the Government was going to commit itself to what I had been insisting upon. That was my evaluation of this. To go back to your final question—that is my evaluation. I repeat that I have been given no information by the Government that they would delay the meeting of the National Assembly or that they would agree to a temporary adjournment after formal convocation for the purpose of certain actions such as the completion of the draft of the Constitution by the PCC Committee and the completion of the organization of the State Council. I was encouraged by this (indicating General Chen Cheng’s letter). I was encouraged by Doctor Stuart’s message to me this morning. I am discouraged by what you tell me. But I do think, especially in view of the tremendous factors involved for the people of China, that you have to be on guard against such overwhelming suspicion in endeavoring to logically estimate the situation.

I am being very careful in my statements so that there can be no misunderstanding, I hope, on your part. Throughout the summer and the fall I have been very careful to give you all of what I considered the bad tidings in order that there be no confusion in your mind as to the attitude of the Generalissimo as I could then determine. At least once, Doctor Stuart had talked to you and given you one impression. I very carefully discounted that, in other words tore it down, because I did not think it was in strict accordance with what the Generalissimo had actually said to me and which I wanted you to clearly understand.

General Chou: I would not like to cause any misunderstanding as to the language because I have been working with you for a rather long time and I would not care too much about the language. Now as regard the statement of the Generalissimo, the political nature of that statement outweighs the military nature. In that statement regarding the political matters—and the Generalissimo has written quite elaborately, giving detailed steps—he is perfectly aware that that has no relation with your efforts. It is entirely something worked out by the Generalissimo. Moreover, yesterday the Generalissimo [Page 509] again sent a letter to the Legislative Yuan and instructed the Legislative Yuan to complete the draft constitution which was largely unfinished by the PCC. This has also been published in the press—and again Mr. Chang Li Sheng, the Minister of Interior, stated publicly that the National Assembly would not be delayed nor adjourned. It is quite obvious that the National Assembly will meet as scheduled. If your assumption is correct that there will be cease firing during the period of the National Assembly meeting, I am the more confused as to how it would work out. I don’t see how discussion on cease firing could be conducted while, at the same time, the National Assembly is in session. This would mean that militarily, we would have cease fire, but politically, we could have a split. I am confused as to how to render a report to Yenan, and this is not a matter of suspicion or misunderstanding. It is indeed inconceivable to me to have both cessation of fighting and political split all at the same time. This is insensible as well as illogical, and I will certainly appreciate it if you can explain to me just how that can be done, just as a friend, if you would care to. As far as I can see, I don’t see any sign of optimism. Instead, there is only confusion.

General Marshall: I agree with you as to the confusion. I suffer as much as you do. Maybe more so, because I am not accustomed to the peculiar ways of Chinese political maneuvering, and I am also not too well informed as to their psychology. Further, I cannot know what is behind the Government in its various political moves nor can I be fully certain what is behind the various political moves of the Communist Party. We have a saying—it may be one of Confucius’ I don’t know—“While there’s life, there’s hope”, and I have been traveling on that a good many months.

The Communist Party has been very determined in its stand in regard to the PCC resolutions, particularly as to procedure. The two aspects of the PCC are the fundamental principles agreed to and the procedure—ways and means—to implement those fundamental principles. My impression recently is that there is more intensity given to procedure however, circumstances having distorted the picture, than has been given to the fundamental principles.

In the knowledge that I now possess and with no other information than I have given you regarding the attitude of the Government, I would certainly advise participation in the meeting of this Committee of Three as quickly as possible. By this means you could determine whether or not there was merely the order for the cessation of hostilities involved, which might be rather quickly agreed to. You could also determine if that might lead to adjustments regarding the issue of the National Assembly and the reorganization of the Government.

[Page 510]

I have felt all along that we missed a great chance last summer to head off much that has already happened, militarily, if the proposal of Dr. Stuart and myself about the meeting for the State Council could have been attempted. But General Chou’s condition was first unconditional termination of hostilities. I now get the impression that this proposal of General Chen Cheng’s means that, regardless of how inconceivable it may seem to you that hostilities be terminated on the one side while political failure and complete cleavage be the state of affairs on the other. Nevertheless, I had assumed that the chances for effecting some agreement regarding the political measures would be enhanced or improved. I did not expect this proposal of General Chen’s. It came as a surprise to me. I did not think the Government would issue it. Therefore, I was encouraged by it, whereas I believe you are discouraged by it.

General Chou: During the time Dr. Stuart participated in the discussions it was hoped that there would be a cessation of hostilities, but now there are different factors that have to be considered. At that time, there was no impending National Assembly, so once we had a guarantee of the cessation of hostilities we would have had ample time to discuss the National Assembly. In that way we might have moved simultaneously in the field of military and political matters. Now, the situation has changed so greatly that the National Assembly will be convened within two days. Militarily speaking, there is also some change in that the Government has occupied a number of Communist areas and has now sent many troops into the areas under Communist control. That factor also has to be taken into consideration.

We must pay a thought as to what we will do after the cease firing. The Government stated time and again that the situation has changed. That was repeated in the latest statement of the Generalissimo. Now the Government wants a cease fire after it has taken Kalgan and Antung and we may expect that after the Government has occupied more areas it would be still firmer for the cessation of hostilities.

So, under the present circumstances, we have to take into consideration both the military and political factors. The pressure now has become heavy and there is almost no breathing spell for us. I cannot see any compromise steps with regard to the National Assembly.

This afternoon, at three o’clock, we will have the informal steering committee meeting. I will make another try. Militarily I think we may just as well call an informal meeting of the Committee of Three. I hope that you can invite General Chen Cheng here for an informal discussion so that we can know his idea about the military matters and in what relation they stand to the political matters so that he can at least clear my mind.

[Page 511]

I am telling you all this with a frank heart because I clarify myself and I find it difficult to make suggestions to Yenan. If I myself am in a confused condition how could I make a report that would clarify Yenan. I presume you would understand my situation.

General Marshall: When do you suggest we hold that meeting.

General Chou: Either this evening or tomorrow morning.

General Marshall: At 8:30 or 9 o’clock or tomorrow morning?

General Chou: Any time that would be convenient to General Chen Cheng.

Colonel Caughey: I will telephone General Chen Cheng to find out the acceptable time.

Meeting adjourned for lunch.

  1. Chang Wen-chin, secretary to General Chou En-lai.
  2. John L. Soong, U. S. Army, language aide to General Marshall.
  3. November 9, p. 495.
  4. November 7.
  5. Minister of Information.
  6. Ante, p. 377.
  7. Vol. ix, p. 603.
  8. Supra.