Marshall Mission Files, Lot 54–D270

Minutes of Informal Meeting of Committee of Three: General G. C. Marshall, General Chou En-lai, and General Chen Cheng at No. 5 Ning Hai Road, Nanking, November 11, 1946, 10 a.m.

Also present: General Yu Ta-wei
General Kuo6
General Pee
Mister Chang
Colonel Caughey
Colonel Underwood7

General Marshall: Are you gentlemen ready to start the discussion?

General Chen: Yes.

General Chou: Yes.

General Marshall: I want to ask you gentlemen, in view of the strong feelings of which we are all aware and the deep suspicions of both sides, that in the discussion this morning you endeavor to exercise as much restraint as possible. That will greatly simplify my responsibility in the matter.

In view of the fact that the Chief of Staff initiated this meeting I will ask him to state what particular issues he wishes to discuss.

General Chen: I would like to state briefly the hope which I cherish in my mind regarding the military problems. Among those problems the cessation of hostilities seems to me the most important. I hope that the cessation of hostilities will be discussed in this meeting today. I would like to know the views of General Marshall and General Chou. As to the related problems, such as reorganization of the army, restoration of communications, etc., I hope they can be taken up in the very near future.

[Page 512]

General Chou: Regarding the cessation of hostilities, except that I have learned about the order unilaterally issued by the Government, I was completely uninformed before this meeting and I have no other information as a basis for the discussion of this informal meeting of the Committee of Three. In this connection, I recall that in the past we have two different kinds of experiences:

The joint signing of the agreement of January 10th which is the fundamental basis for all the cessation of hostilities.
The armistice agreement with regard to Manchuria in June which covered a period of 15 plus 8 days. At that time, the Government brought forward three subjects for discussion as a condition precedent to the formal cessation of hostilities.

These two agreements are of a general nature. Apart from that we have another one which is the March 27th agreement regarding the entry of field teams into Manchuria. All these agreements were preceeded by discussions, so we were all familiar as to what preparations and undertakings we had to make.

Particularly in view of the fact that I am now in Nanking being far away from our own areas, I have to depend on telegrams and messengers to make contact with our party; this made it impossible for me to get enough information before this meeting for adequate preparation.

The second kind of experience is that of June 30th, when Minister Peng Hsueh Pei, on behalf of the Government, made a statement with regard to the unilateral cease fire. In that statement he said that the Government had issued an order to stop fighting and was prepared to stay on the defensive. However, we have had bitter experience, for under the slogan of “defense”, fighting went on for four months and the Government troops advanced occupying a vast part of our areas and capturing nearly 100 municipalities and cities. Eighty-six percent of the Government troops are massed in the adjacent areas or within our areas.

We have these two kinds of experience. Now, the question is, will the present cease fire order fall into the first or the second category? I am very much confused as to which category it will fall into for the following reasons:

All my information is based on the reports from the front and the movement of Government troops. For instance, today I received information that the Government troops are being regrouped around the Yenan area and that the reorganized 27th Division, 1st Division and 9th Division, all commanded by General Hu Chung-nan, are being concentrated toward North Shensi. Some have reached Chungpu, Yichun, Tungkwan, and some have reached Hancheng. The units under command of General Ma Hung-kwei have reached the two banks of the Yellow River moving toward Yenchih and Sanpian.
The Government Air Force is flying incessantly over Yenan, reconnoitering and making demonstrations. Even yesterday as many as 14 planes came over Yenan. The Government liaison officer in Yenan has requested permission to evacuate his staff and radio station.

This is a situation which proceeds [precedes] an attack. As to North Kiangsu, the Government troops are now vigorously attacking Yencheng and on the Pinghan railroad vigorously attacking Yishui. Possibly they have captured that city by now.

These circumstances cannot but lead me to presume that the present cease fire order may actually fall under the second category.

Another still more serious political factor is the National Assembly convened by the Kuomintang which is due to meet tomorrow. This National Assembly is not convened in accord with the resolutions and discussions of the PCC. Once this National Assembly is opened, it would indicate a political split. Since the representative of the Communist Party and the Third Party Groups came to Nanking to resume discussions on October 21st everyone has made his best efforts in seeking a solution. However, unexpectedly at this moment, the Government made a surprise move of issuing the unilateral cease fire order, while the National Assembly is still going to meet leaving all the outstanding issues unsettled. At this moment we are still continuing to make efforts. Politically we have held a round table meeting, and yesterday we again had another informal meeting of the Steering Committee. Thus, we are making all kinds of exertions, but last night the Third Party groups were informed by the Government that this Steering Committee probably would not meet today and that the National Assembly will still be opened as scheduled tomorrow. According to the Government representative, the only way to save the situation is for the Communist Party and the Third Party Groups and non-partisans to submit the lists of delegates. Of course, we are all aware that this is not possible because this National Assembly is not what we have agreed upon. All the issues are still unsettled.

So, we are facing a situation that the National Assembly will meet tomorrow and its opening will indicate the political split. Under these circumstances, i. e., a political split, how may we have a military truce? Military matters should always follow the political matters. Furthermore, we have to take into consideration that this present cease fire order is a unilateral one and it, like Dr. Peng’s statement at the end of June, includes a proviso that the Government will stop attacks, but still reserve its right for defense. Thus, while on the one hand we are heading for a political split, on the other hand a unilateral order has been issued for cessation of hostilities, but still retaining the handy pretext of “defense”.

[Page 514]

So, I feel quite at a loss as to how to approach the discussion on the cessation of hostilities. For this reason yesterday I stated to General Marshall that I would make a last attempt, hoping that the National Assembly will eventually be called off so that in the military discussions we may arrive at positive results. But today it seems that this hope is almost non-existent and, therefore, we are all the more left without a basis to approach the question of cease firing. Of course, I am aware that General Chen merely represents the Government on the military matters and it would be difficult for him to make a reply as to whether the political situation can still be saved or not.

Since this meeting is an informal one, may I take the liberty to ask a question which is somewhat outside the scope of our discussion? Both General Chen Cheng and General Yu Ta-wei are members of the Government so may I ask them whether, according to their appraisal, there is still some chance to save the situation? If there is still some possibility to save the situation in the political field, then I can also make every kind of consideration of the possibilities in the military field. Therefore, I feel that I cannot but ask this question.

General Marshall: I suggest that we have a five-minute break for tea.

General Marshall: The meeting will please come to order. I wish to ask General Chen to express his views.

General Chen: Does not General Marshall wish to present his views?

General Marshall: I would first like to see the Government proposal for the termination of hostilities.

General Chen: I have in mind to propose how to stop the fighting. As General Chou has already pointed out, the present cease fire order issued by the Government is unilateral. In this present meeting or informal discussion I hope that some means will be worked out so that the war will be stopped completely and we find a way to accomplish that. The measures for the cessation of hostilities to my mind are: first, that hostilities will be stopped on the spot pending the arrival of field teams to make readjustments. Second, after the arrival of the field teams to the different areas, ways and means should be worked out to separate the opposing forces and to arrange for necessary movement of troops away from each other. Third, some means must be worked out for solving disagreements in the field, in field teams and in Executive Headquarters.

After listening to General Chou and after a short discussion with General Chou just a minute ago, I think that both sides still lack mutual confidence. I hope earnestly that this mutual confidence can [Page 515] be reestablished from now on. Of course only facts will help to establish that mutual understanding, and it will be proven only by facts and deeds.

General Chou just referred to many incidents where the Government moved certain troops and occupied certain cities, etc., and most important of the incidents mentioned by General Chou is that the Government is preparing for launching an attack on Yenan. To my mind, at the present moment, we need not pay much attention to the so-called preparation of attacking Yenan. To me the most important thing is to make another agreement on the cessation of hostilities, after which deeds will enhance the mutual understanding and the facts and deeds will prove that preparations for attacking Yenan are not true. Then, mutual understanding will be established. Because I hope for nothing more than the cessation of hostilities. I do not want to complicate this discussion of accusation or debate. Therefore I merely mention the foregoing points. Otherwise I would make the short story long instead of the long story short. I would just like to cite an example. The Government’s military movement into Northern Kiangsu was the result of the Communist attack on Tai-hsien. The Government movement into Shantung is also the result of the Communist attack on Te-chou and Tai-an in that province. There are similar instances like that in other provinces as well.

Regarding the political issue, General Chou just mentioned that at this present meeting the agenda on points to be discussed is still limited to military problems. If we can get agreement on military problems I hope that it may have some influence on political problems that will lead to a better understanding on political grounds. I hope that if we limit this meeting to how to implement the cessation of hostilities, it will throw attention to this one problem and perhaps we will make some progress.

General Marshall: I take this view of the situation. In the first place, I regard it as a very important step that there is a meeting here this morning. My knowledge of things Chinese is too limited for me to penetrate the various phases of the present political differences. Actions that at the time seem unimportant to me are given great importance and exactly the contrary in other cases. What I have regarded at certain times as matters of very minor importance, and in which Dr. Stuart has agreed with me, we have found later were considered of great importance. And this has confounded both Dr. Stuart and me in our efforts to divest the situation of small issues in order to settle larger ones.

I have stated officially in a number of meetings that I did not agree with either side, and I restate that most emphatically now. Whatever the complications politically today in view of tomorrow’s meeting [Page 516] of the National Assembly; whatever determining effect the meeting of the National Assembly tomorrow is believed to have, I feel that an arrangement for the termination of hostilities, not a truce, cannot fail to have a beneficial effect in restoring some measure of confidence that will enable a political compromise to be reached, whatever that may be. The fact that the Government issued an order to cease fighting under certain conditions to its troops in a unilateral decision is incidental, I think, to the important question of whether or not this opportunity should be seized to terminate hostilities in a definite manner. Certainly, so far as the people of China are concerned, there is no loss, that I can foresee, involved in a termination of the fighting. I agree with General Chou that the situation is a curious and complicated one, in that with a very serious political difference at the moment we are, I assume, approaching a possible military agreement. When I think of all the complications that have robbed us of success during the last ten months, this particular complication, which involves a cessation of fighting, is the least serious. I have resented throughout my connection with these discussions the continuation of hostilities. I have deplored acts of retaliation which have been our greatest evil, I think, and which have not been confined to either side. But all of my views may be summed up in the statement that if we can find an immediate way to terminate hostilities, it cannot but help to improve the general situation, and the quicker it is done the far better it will be for all. That expresses my feelings at the moment.

General Chou?

General Chou: I agree that any military accomplishment would enhance the political matters, if the political situation were not so acute as it is today with the National Assembly due to meet tomorrow. We have had many opportunities in the past but they were all let slip by. Just a while ago I told General Chen that if the ceasefire order had come earlier regardless of the conditions, or if it were unconditional, then we would still have some time to go ahead with the settlement of the political and military issues. If the National Assembly had been called after these other discussions were completed then it would certainly have been a great deal better.

The difficulty at this moment is the scheduled meeting of the National Assembly tomorrow. By that time, all the political discussion will have to be stopped. By the way, I stated a while ago that even the discussion could not be possibly held today on the political matters. So, it rather becomes inconceivable for us to solve the military issues. Of course, if the fighting were stopped a day earlier or later it means a great difference in the loss of the people, but it can still be stopped if we would continue to make efforts. But once the National [Page 517] Assembly is opened, the party in power would say that this is a legal body, while the opposing parties would say it is not legal. Thus the country would be in a state of split. Once the Constitution is passed it would be subscribed to by one faction, but the other faction would oppose it. It would appear at this moment that, once this National Assembly is convened, we would then have to call another one to replace the present one. If we discard the present National Assembly, why should we bother to call it at all? So, most probably the result will be that while one party says that the National Assembly is effective, the other would say “No”, and the dispute would be revived. In modern Chinese history there have been many wars for the sake of the Constitution and the Parliament. Dr. Sun Yat Sen has undertaken such a struggle for the sake of these.

Regarding the military matters, I only want to say this. That up till now, Communists have been strictly on the defense. We never dashed out from our area. It is the Government troops which penetrated into our areas.

As to the statement General Chen made regarding the measures for the cessation of fighting, I am not yet in a position to make concrete reply at this moment because I am not prepared. However, though today is the last day before the National Assembly, I will still make the best efforts and I would like to listen to General Chen’s statement of a detailed nature on these points—the specific stipulations he has in mind. If he would care to tell me this, on the one hand I can render a report to Yenan and on the other hand I can also make a study myself. Thus, following what General Marshall has just said, we should make exertions as much as we can. In spite of the fact that today will be the last day, we will still demonstrate that we are making the best efforts. General Chen has stated the Government’s idea about the cessation of hostilities in general terms, but I would like some amplification of that.

General Chen: The Government, in view of the common hope of the people for peace, issued the cease fire order recently. After that, I requested General Marshall to call the informal discussion today to study the concrete measures for the cessation of hostilities. It is needless for me to say that I sincerely hope that we can accomplish the cessation of hostilities so that it will have a beneficial effect on the political issues. I share General Marshall’s views that by a cessation of hostilities, it will be beneficial to the people and it will not do any harm to the Government nor the Communist Party. I drafted a brief proposal and hope that it will be considered as a basis for discussion. The following is a unilateral proposal of the Government offered as a basis for further discussion: [Page 518]

  • “1. Commanders of forces in close contact or engaged in actual fighting will immediately direct their troops to cease firing and will seek to secure local truce by establishing liaison with the opposing commanders pending the arrival of a field team.
  • “2. If necessary, the readjustment of troops found to be in close contact or actually engaged in fighting will be directed by the field team on the ground by requiring opposing forces to withdraw for specific distances of one or both forces according to the circumstances. The local situation believed to have existed as of noon, November 11, 1946, will be the basis for determining the readjustment of troops.
  • “3. If there are disagreements among the members of the field teams, the Advance Section of the Executive Headquarters in Manchuria as well as the Executive Headquarters in Peiping, this disagreement should be settled by the following stipulations:
  • (These are practically the same as we have discussed in June. Stipulations regarding field teams, Advance Section in Changchun and Executive Headquarters in Peiping.)
  • “4. The reorganization and disposition of the armies will be further discussed and settled by the Committee of Three as early as possible.”8

General Marshall: There is no reference made to the detailed instruction to the teams that General Chou fathered. I don’t know that they should be specifically covered, in this discussion, but I wondered if they had been considered. It is more or less of a detail, and I don’t want to complicate the discussion; I am just asking the question.

General Chen: The detailed instructions to the field teams, of course should be considered after we have decided on the principle.

General Chou: I have two comments to make.

The first: As I have just stated, a while ago, I came here entirely unprepared. If there is some reference for discussion I would like to point out that we had four draft papers in the negotiations during the June armistice which might serve today as a basis. If we compare those papers with the one presented by General Chen there are, of course, certain points in common, but I also notice a wide disparity with reference to the second paragraph. Of course the disparity can be interpreted in two ways. First, that the cease firing will be implemented right on the spot. On this point there is a common ground, but the second point is, “to what status will be restored?”

According to the June paper, we have made two steps. Within 10 days the status of June 7th was to have been restored through the country. In the next step within 20 days, the status of January 13th was to have been restored in China proper. Now in the paper presented by General Chen today, no mention is made of this. I am also aware, of course, that a discussion of those points will lead to debate.

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The second: I am not prepared to discuss General Chen’s draft today. However, I will commit myself to transmit the draft to Yenan and make a study myself. In the present informal meeting of this Committee I am assuming the attitude, as General Marshall and General Chen have expressed, of trying to exercise some influence on the political negotiations and am thus making a last effort.

General Marshall: General Chen, do you have any further comment?

General Chen: Regarding the reorganization of troops and the redisposition of troops together with the restoration of communications and the January 10th cease fire order, I stated in my draft in the fourth item that those problems will be discussed later in the Committee of Three in an effort to reach a solution. In any event, after the reorganization plan, every unit has to be assigned a garrison area. That has to be discussed, and there is no question about that.

As regards the cessation of hostilities in Manchuria discussion in June, I do not recall whether garrison areas were stipulated in that discussion. I would like to suggest that the garrison areas, both in China proper and Manchuria, the reorganization of the armies be discussed in the future. Let us first settle the question of the cessation of hostilities.

General Marshall: The garrison areas in Manchuria were stipulated, I think. That is merely a comment.

Does General Chou have any comment on General Chen’s statement?

General Yu: I would like to add that I agree with General Chen Cheng that it is very urgent and important to get a cease fire agreement. That can only be done with the troops in their present position. As to the future location of the troops, I agree with General Chen Cheng that it should be left for discussion when the reorganization of the Army is taken up.

General Chou: In the June armistice negotiations there was a stipulation regarding the restoration of the troop disposition status as of June 7th, but as to the stipulation concerning the location of the divisional commands, both parties made proposals, but no agreement was reached.

Regarding the statements just made by General Chen and General Yu that we should first have a discussion of a cessation of hostilities agreement and leave the disposition of troops for a later discussion. I have to recall the experience we had in June and which showed that it was not so simple. In the June negotiations, General Hsu9 and General Yu both remember, we had actually reached an agreement on the termination of hostilities and even the appendix which I drafted [Page 520] had also been agreed to in the meeting. At that time I voluntarily made a considerable concession so that we readily reached agreement with respect to restoration of communications and the settlement of the peace agreement within the Executive Headquarters and the field teams. But on coming to the question of army reorganization the discussion broke down, though the cessation of hostilities could have been effected by that time. So, at this moment, we cannot help but pay a little thought to the possibility that the negotiations may again meet a stumbling block when we come to the question of reorganization of armies. Therefore, I would like to say that it is not a simple matter to think that the two questions can be entirely separate from each other.

There is also the question of the local self-government and the local administration. It is true that that falls under the political category, but in the June negotiations it was included and today we are still trying to reach a settlement in our political discussions on this point. However, at this moment I do not wish to start a debate over these deliberations. I merely want to state that I am ready to transmit General Chen’s draft to Yenan and to make a study myself.

General Marshall: If agreeable, we will adjourn to meet when it is agreed between you two gentlemen that you are ready for another discussion.

General Yu: General Chen and I have just one comment to make before we adjourn. Whatever relation the redisposition of troops may have to make on cease fire, we want to point out today that we do not think it advisable to waste too much time on debate since debate would only delay the cease fire. We want to call General Chou’s attention to that.

General Marshall: Is the adjournment agreeable now, General Chen?

General Chen: Yes.

General Marshall: General Chou?

General Chou: Yes.

General Marshall: I would like to thank both of you gentlemen very much and very sincerely for the careful restraint you showed in a discussion which I know means so much to both of you, and to the Government, and to the Communist Party. I trust that the continuation of this discussion, which I hope will be prompt, can be kept clear of bitterness which is bound to pervade the political debates. I recognize that General Chou is in the peculiar position of meeting politically one minute and militarily the next. I can only hope that when he comes in my door he sheds the political animosity and resumes the calmer demeanor of military men.

  1. Gen. Kuo Chi-chiao, Deputy Chief of the Chinese General Staff.
  2. Col. G. V. Underwood, member of General Marshall’s staff.
  3. For complete text of the Chinese Government proposals, see infra.
  4. Gen. Hsu Yung-chang, Chinese Government representative on the Committee of Three.