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 12, 1946, 6 p.m.

Also present: Colonel Caughey
Colonel Underwood
Mister Chang

General Marshall: Doctor Stuart just told me of the meeting he had with you this afternoon and what was said, so I know that.

[Page 525]

General Chou: I just came from a meeting of the Steering Committee at Doctor Sun Fo’s residence.

General Marshall: Was that an official meeting?

General Chou: It was an informal meeting.

General Marshall: Were the actual members of the Steering Committee present?

General Chou: Yes.

General Marshall: Anybody else?

General Chou: There were some others from the non-party group.

General Marshall: I see.

General Chou: At this meeting, Doctor Wang Shih-chieh16 made a proposal of the following two points:

He hoped that the others would recognize the National Assembly which is going to meet on the 15th, and that they would participate in this meeting.
He hoped that after the National Assembly is started the other parties would not regard it as a split, but would go on with the negotiations.

Regarding the first point, prior and after the meeting, Doctor Wang made the above statement and I told him frankly that it was absolutely impossible because the National Assembly was convened by the Kuomintang unilaterally and the postponement was also decided by the Kuomintang alone. Therefore it would not meet with our approval, nor would it receive our attendance. There is no necessity for me to seek instructions from Yenan.

Secondly, I stated that there are two different matters. Regarding the split, it is not initiated by the Communist side, but because the Government has announced the opening of the National Assembly and thus proclaimed a political split. Today’s newspapers also reported that the postponement for three days is merely for the purpose of affording an opportunity for the other parties to submit their delegates. This split is initiated by the Government and not by us. The whole matter rests with the Government and not with us. We would never initiate a split. We have shown forbearance many times. For instance, the attack against and the capture of Kalgan. We had stated that that would constitute a split, but the Government requested continuation of discussion so we returned to Nanking for negotiation for over 20 days. Another instance is Antung. The capture of Antung caused bitter resentment on our part; still we continued the discussion. So it is obvious that we never initiated these matters. On the contrary, we have shown our patience and forbearance on many occasions because we are aware that these are matters of minor importance and the most important thing is the National Assembly. [Page 526]That depends on the attitude of the Government.

As to the possibility that the Communist delegation might go back to Yenan for consultation, that is quite logical. When the Government convenes the National Assembly, in which we would not participate, this event would lead to a split, in which case we must consider how to cope with the new situation which would open a new chapter. Therefore, we must contemplate what further action to take.

These two are entirely different matters and our return cannot be construed as an indication that we want the split. Actually, whether there will be a split or not depends entirely upon the Government.

The Third Party made the following proposal. Since there are three days left before the National Assembly, they suggested that we all should make further efforts to hold meetings to discuss any possible actions. Not only the Steering Committee of the PCC should hold further discussions, but also the Draft Constitution Reviewing Committee and the Committee of Three should hold further meetings. Their attitude is that so long as there is still time we must exert further efforts, and when it becomes clear that the matter is absolutely hopeless we can be comforted by the fact that we have at least done our best.

However, there are only two days left and there are still so many questions, military and political, that have to be solved. It is impossible to solve them all within such a short time. To set November 15th as the deadline would make the utmost restrictions on all of us. It is tantamount to saying that the Communists should make promises within the next two days and if there is anything that would not be promised within this time, then everything is finished. So the result would be that the Communists have to hold discussion actually under threat. It is my opinion that to solve the issues we have to discuss them in a free atmosphere so that we can find a just and fair solution. However, this cannot be accomplished within two days. Of course I would not refuse to participate in any meetings, but two days would not produce results. In this manner the situation is made so tense and such a heavy burden is placed upon our nerves that we have no time to contemplate or discuss the matters. I am afraid that any formula worked out will be highly unsatisfactory. It would only serve to make the matter worse instead of improving it.

Another member of the Third Party made a second suggestion and he made it in view of the Government’s contemplation to open the National Assembly on the 15th. After opening the meeting, instead of holding the formal meetings, he suggested that preliminary meetings be held so that at the same time the other committees might continue their discussion. He thought it possible to just open the meeting [Page 527]and to have only the preparatory meetings instead of the formal meetings. This is also not possible because once the National Assembly is opened the Government will proclaim it to be a legal assembly and will propagandize it throughout the world. Some of the other parties, like some non-partisans or the Youth Party, have promised to participate in the National Assembly, and the Government will seize this fact to prove that the National Assembly is a legal one.

On the other hand, if the different committee meetings will be held to discuss the various issues, then there will be so many issues involved that it will be very difficult to have them settled within such a short time. Apart from that, we have also to consider the question of the implementation of the agreements that are going to be reached. We had many agreements in January but now the dispute is over the implementation. The implementation of each agreement is thus closely connected with the National Assembly. I don’t believe that such a procedure would solve the matter.

As far as I know and my knowledge stems from what I learned from the contact by the various sides with the Government, the Government policy is that it more or less does not believe that it can solve any questions with the Communist Party, or that it can discuss with sincerity with the Communist Party. Therefore, it (the Government) is merely making a mock gesture by inviting the Communist Party to discuss matters, but actually it only wants a part of the non-Kuomintang members to participate in the National Assembly to enable them to demonstrate that the National Assembly is a democratic one, and that the Government is determined to restore power to the people, and that the constitution is a democratic constitution, and that the unilateral issuance of the cease fire order before the convention of the National Assembly was a gesture for peace. Actually, it has no intention to solve matters with the Communist Party. At the time when Kalgan was captured and the Government issued the order for convening the National Assembly, it placed the Communist Party in a very difficult position. These moves are intended to make a demonstration. However, we showed our patience and when the Government wanted to discuss with us we returned to Nanking. On coming here we waited for 18 days without having any discussion with the Government directly. Now, our attitude was a most liberal one. Now, to us it is immaterial whether the fighting will first be stopped and then discussion will be held or whether the discussion will precede the cease fire.

General Marshall: Will you repeat that last sentence.

General Chou: Whether the discussion should precede the cease firing, or the cease firing should precede the discussion—either procedure will be agreeable to us.

[Page 528]

On the 8th of November the Government again made a condition to inviting us for discussion in stating that I must reply to you on the eight points. The Government took unilateral action with regard to the date of the National Assembly. All these are intended to exert pressure upon the Communist Party. The latest move of postponing the National Assembly for three days merely serves the same purpose—namely, pressing us. The Government has no intention whatsoever to settle the issues. They have invited us to discuss merely for propaganda purposes, as it can be seen that they did not discuss with us directly with the exception of the last 2 days. So the Government’s tactic is to get the stage set and to put the Communist Party into a corner so that they can exert the utmost pressure upon the Communists.

Now I want to speak on one concrete matter. That is the military discussion. I will not repeat the discussion we had yesterday in the Committee of Three, but there are two matters that lay squarely before me. The first is regarding the discussion we had yesterday. I have to wait for Yenan’s instruction or else I have to go back to Yenan to receive new instructions. Another question is, I want to ask you whether there is any possibility to adopt the procedure we followed in June, which means that we would not only discuss the cessation of hostilities but also the other questions concerning demobilization arrangements and the disposition of troops during army reorganization. I believe I have ample reasons to suggest this procedure because in June the Government contended that if we did not settle these questions in an overall manner, there would be no settlement because the Communist forces were continuously constituting a menace to them since the Government had only a small number of forces in and around the Communist areas. But now the situation is reversed. The Government has occupied so many of the Communist places, not only surrounding them but actually penetrating into the areas and capturing 100 cities. They further are preparing an assault against Yenan. I referred to the planes which recently came over Yenan and yesterday further planes appeared over Yenan. All these obviously constitute a military threat and therefore I put the question. It seems that in adopting the June procedure now is entirely justified by the present situation. Therefore I ask whether we can discuss all the issues; otherwise the threat will still be in existence—this is based upon the experience we had in June.

Now in discussing the cease firing and other matters, the Government referred to certain provisions that have been agreed upon in the June negotiation. Now I wish to ask that since it is my view that if we will take reference to some of these provisions, then we should make reference to all those provisions and not merely select those which are favorable to the Government and discard the others which [Page 529]are unfavorable to them. On this point I should like to hear your views because it would help me a great deal in contemplating military matters and would help me to eventually work out military proposals.

General Marshall: I do not think there is any question but what the Government desires to discuss all those matters to which you referred. However, I think you probably mean that all those matters should be discussed and settled before there is a termination of hostilities, as the Generalissimo has stipulated in June. Is that correct?

General Chou: However, there is one complication involved; that is the relation of the cease firing to the National Assembly. If there were no question of the National Assembly meeting in a few days, we would fully subscribe to a cease firing procedure before everything else. But now the question is, suppose we have a cease firing agreement and the National Assembly is opened and disputes arise which lead to further fighting—that would make the situation again complicated. By that time if the fighting starts again, the cease firing agreement will be broken down. But the National Assembly will be in meeting and the Government will use the National Assembly to exert pressure upon the Communists.

General Marshall: As I understand you, you have not answered my question which was—are you proposing that all these matters of distribution of troops, demobilization, etc., be settled before a cease firing agreement is promulgated? That was the case in June, the Generalissimo insisting upon a complete settlement.

General Chou: The question is still related to the question of whether or not the National Assembly will meet. If the National Assembly is called off, then I fully subscribe to the procedure of having first the cease fire agreement and then the discussion of all the other matters. But now if the National Assembly is not to be called off, it indicates the Government is heading for a political split. In that event I will require a guarantee on the military matters and we will have to settle all the military issues in an overall settlement before we can announce the cease fire agreement, because under such circumstances there is no political guarantee, and I cannot perceive the situation that while on the one hand we have the political split but on the other we have the military truce, unless we have settlement of all the military questions.

General Marshall: To the question you asked me in regard to the Government’s attitude in taking part of the June agreement and not all of it, I suppose you refer to General Chen Cheng’s recent cease firing document yesterday in which he took the actual wording of a June paper in part and then introduce[d] new terms with regards to the dates for determining the position of troops. The wording of the Chief of Staff in general was unimportant in the sense that it was about [Page 530]the only manner in which the issue could be stated regarding troops in close contact. Some other expressions might be substituted, but that was all rather incidental to the main factors which related in June to January 13th and June 7 and which now, according to the Government statement, would relate to the date of the new agreement. I cannot give any other answer to that than what I have endeavored to indicate; that the portions quoted from the June agreements were in a sense unimportant and incidental statements. The real issue is the date—whether it is November, or June 7, or January 13.

To go back to your general statement, in the first place, at least a portion of that was covered in your discussion with Dr. Stuart to which Dr. Stuart made certain replies with which, I think, I am in general accord. Therefore, there is no purpose in repeating them. However, I wish to say this: I think that, to an important extent, we are being defeated by suspicions and misapprehensions. I know this in part to be true because there have been incidents in which I was the principal actor, at least the initiator, and I found the result to be entirely misjudged, the Government being accused of some evil purpose. I believe I am aware of the occurrences which have stirred your feelings. I know I am aware of the statements that have been made by various Government leaders which have not been pacifying or reassuring. Nevertheless, I am convinced that you, in part, are laboring under misapprehensions to the great disadvantage of the Communist Party. There has been undoubtedly a very serious battle within the Government ranks, and what I believe you do not perceive nor understand is the fatal effect on the liberals in the Government of the abrupt, almost contemptuous, refusal or suspicion by the Communist Party of proposals which have been wrung from Government military and political leaders with the greatest difficulty. You stated the belief you entertained on the part of the Government that the Communists would not go through with agreements, and, therefore, you felt that their proposals were mere gestures to aid the Government before the world. I have a number of times told you the same thing as to the belief on the part of many members of the Government, and I have had to overcome time after time the obstruction caused by this belief to the conciliatory action or compromises which I felt were required. The situation has now gotten to a point where there is almost nothing that can be said on the Government side in which the Communist Party will place any faith. Along with this is the insistence that each detail of procedure (I am not referring to fundamental principles) of the PCC be followed in a meticulous manner. I am just as much interested in, and I give just as much importance to, the procedure for the drafting of the Constitution and for the treatment of that Constitution before the National Assembly [Page 531]as you do. But the fight is not being made on that, it is being spread over a dozen details, which I think is a great mistake. In view of this attitude, I am almost at a loss to know what can be done to save the situation.

General Chou: I wish merely to comment on one point. It is your statement that we are insisting merely on the procedure and not on the important stipulations. Actually, it is true that we cited four procedures, but these procedures are derived from the important stipulations of the PCC. Take for instance, the National Assembly. It is not a matter of procedure. As I have told Dr. Stuart, some National Assembly delegates were brought into being 10 years ago. In no other country in the world would they recognize delegates of such a nature, but why did the Communists make a compromise on this point? It was only because at the PCC we reached five resolutions and thus secured a compromise on all the issues. Therefore, we considered the question of the delegates as an unimportant matter. But now, all the other resolutions are not being carried out, but those delegates which were brought into being 10 years ago are being called together by the Government by unilateral order without consulting the other party, despite the fact that the Generalissimo stated on April 24th that he would consult the other parties regarding the date for convocation of the National Assembly. Now he has broken that promise. Under such circumstances, how can we endorse his order and submit our list? This is not a question of the procedure, but a question of fundamental principles. Now they are going to meet, and we are only in a minority position. The Government has not yet been reorganized, the Draft Constitution is not yet finished, and there is no guarantee for cease firing. What means do we have to cope with this situation? Should we simply recognize the National Assembly which is due to meet three days later? In all constitutional history throughout the world there is no parallel with the present situation in China. It is only because the Chinese affairs are too complicated. I cannot give you an outline within a few minutes to make you fully understand this. I wish to repeat that it is not a matter of procedure.

General Marshall: I understood that it was the contention of the Communist Party and the Third Parties that a constitutional draft should be agreed upon by the Steering Committee and that that draft should be formally confirmed by the National Assembly—not amended, only confirmed—as a formal action to make it the law of the land. Is that correct?

General Chou: Regarding the Draft Constitution, your understanding is correct.

[Page 532]

General Marshall: Then I fail to see the tremendous importance (I am using the word tremendous carefully) of the arguments about my complications and as to the delegates. The Generalissimo is reported to have made a verbal statement on April 24th that becomes a great issue today apparently. From an American point of view, the great issue is the draft of the Constitution and the basis of its acceptance—for the new law of the land. Even the issue of the State Council becomes, it seems to me, of minor importance because that is only a temporary arrangement. The Constitution is something of vast permanent importance to China.

I realize my lack of understanding of the full import of the political complications of the situation and I make this statement to indicate why it seemed to me, and to Dr. Stuart, and to other Americans I have talked to, a great mistake not to concentrate on the draft of the Constitution and how it was to be handled, instead of having the entire affair collapse on procedural details to the tragedy of the people of China. The other issues seem to us of minor importance.

I had been pressing the Generalissimo all summer long to reconvene the Constitutional Draft Committee and to have whatever agreement is reached confirmed by the Steering Committee of the PCC. I finally got him to agree that if the Five Man Group under Dr. Stuart’s chairmanship met and seemed to be reaching an agreement, he would reconvene the Draft Committee. I did this because I thought it was a matter of paramount importance, however much it was desired to have appointments in the Ministries from the various minority parties. These Ministries will change all the time by relief or by death, but a Constitution is a foundation. Therefore, I have been baffled by the number of issues which have dominated the present discussion and blocked progress, issues which seem to an American to be details, and yet which seem to mean chaos in China. I repeat again that I realize I do not understand the many ramifications of the political situation, but my hope had been that in this great emergency, the fighting could be resolved around a few great fundamentals; notably the constitution and the cessation of hostilities.

General Chou: Regarding the Draft Constitution, this is the first time I have heard from you and Dr. Stuart that it is of such vast importance. Previously you had inquired on this matter, but you had never stressed such importance.

General Marshall: I asked General Chou in August and September if the draft of the Constitution was not the issue which they regarded as of first importance.

General Chou: As I remember, it was in connection with the discussion of the agricultural reform that you brought up the question of the Constitution, but later on the discussion was confined to the informal committee and the reorganization of the State Council.

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General Marshall: The minute the Generalissimo brought up the question of delegates I asked you if you did not regard the draft of the Constitution as of first importance. I asked that because I was insisting on the Generalissimo carrying out the provisions of the PCC in regard to that. I was insisting that that would have to be done in connection with the delegates. The State Council was merely one issue on which Dr. Stuart and I thought we might be able to get agreement. An agreement on anything at that time would have been like an oasis in the desert. Then the Generalissimo introduced this question of delegates and I was immediately involved in that problem.

Stating it in its simplest form, on one side we have the belief of certain Government leaders that the Communists will not go through with any agreement and we have on the other side the complete suspicion of the good faith of the Government in every proposal. The suspicion that whatever is proposed if agreed to will be maneuvered in a fashion to suppress the Communist Party or render it powerless. I think that is a pretty accurate estimate of the situation and the problem is how to resolve that situation. There are many liberals in the Government and I think a more far-sighted policy on the part of the Communists might have had the effect of practically putting those liberals in control, just as I have assumed that there are liberals in the Communist Party who are defeated by radicals in the Government in their effort to reach a compromise within the Communist Party.

You have been in a battle of negotiations today and I don’t want to exhaust you with my lengthy discussions. I merely wanted you to know what was going on in my head because my object is solely the termination of hostilities and a two-party Government. I say two party; there could be more parties, but you must have an opposition party in the Government. I was asked informally a long time ago to come to China as an advisor for the Government. I was approached on the same matter last summer. My reply was that I could give the necessary advice briefly and immediately. The reformation and modernization of the Government of China depended on the creation of an opposition party. There could not be a reform of the Government, of the Kuomintang party, so long as it did not have a genuine opposition party to compete with, to criticize, to force reforms. That is the only procedure that makes possible a democratic form of Government as we understand it in our country. We have just had an example of that last Tuesday in America. We have had many like it in the past. It all depends on an opposition party. You can’t reform the Kuomintang Party from the top. That can’t be done. There must be opposition. Accordingly, I thought the Communist Party, particularly with its intense interest in the peasantry of China—which comprises the largest class—could render a very important service to the people of [Page 534]China in the role of an organized, legal, opposition party. Somehow or other we have to get rid of the army menace and I had hoped, and we had made plans, to have parallel action on the two problems.

I don’t want to bore you with any more of this.

General Chou: In principle I have the same understanding on the two points to which you have referred. Otherwise we would not have cooperated for a fairly long period in a satisfactory manner so that we have pushed the PCC to success. That was entirely due to the fact that we had a common ground. To speak briefly there are five matters involved which are most important: Constitution, coalition government, the joint platforms (program for peaceful reconstruction, etc.), integrated army, and a peaceful environment.

I think I can fully understand your mental state when you were discussing those questions. The question now facing us is that in order to have such a consideration we have to work in the way that we adopted in the PCC. After the PCC, the Draft Reviewing Committee has not been in session for three months and has not completed its mission. Later on the Generalissimo did not convene that Committee any more in Nanking. On my return here on October 21st I again brought up the point that four kinds of conferences should be held, one of which is the Draft Reviewing Committee. Dr. Stuart is aware of this fact. Up till now it still has not been convened. There are only two days left. Thus it shows that we have been struggling for this all the time and we do look upon it as a matter of utmost importance, but the Government still stated their conditions on the question of the National Assembly and name lists. Even today they still insist on these two and I merely want to cite that fact.

Meeting adjourned.

  1. Chinese Minister for Foreign Affairs.