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 16, 1946, 10:15 a.m.

Also present: Mister Chang27

General Chou: As I told you at the last meeting, I am preparing to leave. I have in mind going back on Monday. There are about 10 persons also going back with me but Mister Tung Pi Wu will remain here because we will still maintain a headquarters here. I also want Mister Chang to remain here to help Mister Tung with the work. I am not sure whether on your side transportation facilities will be available.

As to Peiping there are about 40 persons still there. General Yeh28 has recently sent a wire to me asking what should happen to them if the Government launched an attack against Yenan. I have taken up this matter with Doctor Stuart29 and, therefore, I will take up this matter with you today. If the Government does attack Yenan, then evidently the Government has blocked the last possibility for future mediation, and the Communist personnel in Peiping under General Yeh will have nowhere to go. Therefore, they have asked whether prior to a Government attack against Yenan the American Branch would help them go back. I would like to hear your ideas on this matter.

As for maintenance here in Nanking, Mister Tung will remain inasmuch as he was the Communist representative who stayed for the longest time during the war in Chungking; and a small group of the Communist office will remain in Shanghai, about 10 persons or more; and in Nanking over 40 persons. In Peiping General Yeh has told General Gillem30 specifically, and also I have told General Gillem before his departure from Shanghai, that we would like to see that the liaison in Executive Headquarters in Peiping is maintained even though there is almost nothing to do. I assume that you would like to [Page 545] see that this liaison is maintained but I am not sure what the Government’s view on this matter is. If the Government does launch the attack against Yenan, then it would indicate that it actually wants to get rid of everything. At the last informal meeting I already pointed out that the Government had withdrawn its liaison from Yenan on November 9th, which is rather significant.

During the past ten months I felt very grateful for your personal efforts despite the fact that due to various reasons (including some change in U. S. policy during the last part of this year) the negotiations have ended in vain. But I feel that I still have high respect for you personally. Particularly since you have been confronted with even greater and more insurmountable difficulties about the time Doctor Stuart entered the negotiations, for which you have my deepest sympathy. The Chinese problem is too complicated and the changes are tremendous.

By opening the National Assembly, the Kuomintang has ultimately sealed the door of negotiations. Therefore I have to go to Yenan in order to analyze and make a study of the overall situation. The Kuomintang, and particularly the Generalissimo, is intoxicated with the idea that force can settle everything but we believe that only the people can settle the issue. Primarily the determining factor seems to be: which group is “for” and which is “against” the Chinese people. We consistently stayed on the side of the Chinese people and struggled for them. We will never surrender in the face of force, but we also firmly believe that the only way out for China is peace, democracy, independence and unification. Therefore from now on we will struggle all the harder for a true peace through democracy, which means a coalition government. There must be an opportunity for a true peace and for peaceful negotiations before we will be willing to resume discussions. We do not want to be misled. I believe you are fully acquainted with our attitude.

General Marshall: In the first place, I will arrange for the air transport for you. The plane is available. Whether or not we can secure safe clearance by Monday is doubtful. Colonel Caughey31 tells me it has always taken at least three days to get a clearance from Yenan and it is not safe to fly in there until we have that clearance.

General Chou: You mean the Communist Party clearance or the Government?

General Marshall: Most of the clearance trouble is in Yenan. It takes quite a while to hear from our own agency there. We will do it as quickly as we can but I doubt if it is Monday. It is more apt to be Tuesday. I will have the sergeant here go out immediately and start them on the arrangements as soon as I have finished speaking.

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As to the members of the Communist Party in Peiping, Shanghai, Nanking and their safety in the event of an attack on Yenan, I have been told nothing about such an attack. I know nothing about it except as I see Yenan broadcasts and the newspapers. Should it become desirable on the part of the Communist Party to evacuate their personnel from Shanghai, Nanking, Peiping, I will accept the obligation to provide the planes. The problem will be whether or not there is a good airfield that is in a region to which these men would wish to go. That will have to be arranged at the time. I repeat I know nothing about such an attack, and I would deplore such action, and I would do my best to stop it.

Now as to continuing the liaison in the Peiping Executive Headquarters, (and I assume the Changchun Headquarters) I understand you to say that you wish that continued however little it may be able to do. Is that correct?

General Chou: Yes.

General Marshall: Suppose there was an attack on Yenan as you fear. What about Executive Headquarters?

General Chou: Now just a short reply to your last question: If the Government attacks Yenan, I, myself, have been considering this question because General Yeh has asked my opinion. I thought that this would block all future opportunity for negotiation because Yenan is our brain center and the Government attack would force the Communists to fight out. Up till now we still maintain liaison. That means that although the door of negotiations is closed, we will let our people stay in Peiping, Nanking, Shanghai though there is little to do, just to wait as there might be a future opening for negotiation. But in case the Government attacks Yenan, I believe, though I did not inquire Yenan about it, that Yenan would instruct a complete withdrawal. This is entirely my personal opinion. While I am here I am always thinking about how to bring about a peace, but when such a moment comes I am afraid there is no other way to do it. But I say again I am not informed as to what Yenan’s intention is. As I, myself, see it, up till now we are entirely on the defensive despite the fact that 86% of the Government troops are fighting in our areas. But if they attack Yenan, that would force us out of our areas and we would have to penetrate into the Kuomintang areas. That would bring about an immense chaos and block every possible door of the negotiation. I believe that not only the Kuomintang must restrain itself from taking such drastic action but also that some officials within the American Government, such as you and Doctor Stuart, who want to see peace in China, and also those who are thinking of world peace, must give sober thought to this matter. That is entirely what is coming out of my heart.

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General Marshall: I appreciate your personal opinion. I hope the fears regarding Yenan will prove groundless. Certainly I will do my best to avoid such a calamity.

There is a matter which I wish you to take up in Yenan. Dr. Stuart told me this morning of Philip Fugh’s32 call on you and what you had said in relation to American policy and particularly in relation to American military men and to myself. It is useless for me to endeavor to mediate if I am not trusted as being sincere in an effort to be impartial. It does not matter what the Communist Party may feel or may think regarding the policy of the United States. The fact remains that if Yenan does not consider me in a position to be sincerely impartial it is perfectly useless for me to remain here and, I should imagine, would do more harm in the end than it could do possible good. Therefore I wish you would formally determine from the proper authorities in Yenan whether or not specifically they wish me personally to continue in my present position. I ask your associates to view it as a plain business proposition, without regard to the Chinese consideration of “face”. I am not interested in that. My interest is solely in whether or not there is a possibility of my being able to render some service by way of mediation. I know I cannot do that if Yenan has lost confidence in me. I certainly do not wish to continue in this painful position any longer than I have to. As I told you the other day, Dr. Stuart is here and his heart is in China. He will continue to be here, and the question then is—What is the best arrangement towards a possible peace and adjustment here in China? I am making a specific request of you and I will await your answer from Yenan.

I might add this thought: If the Government launches an attack on Yenan, the matter will be settled otherwise, because I think under those conditions President Truman would recall me.

General Chou: I sympathize with you in making this request and I will put the question before Yenan without reservation.

Before I depart, I would like another appointment with you for a free discussion.

General Marshall: I will be very glad to at any time.

  1. Chang Wen-chin, secretary to General Chou En-lai.
  2. Gen. Yeh Chien-ying, Chinese Communist Commissioner of Executive Headquarters at Peiping.
  3. J. Leighton Stuart, Ambassador in China.
  4. Lt. Gen. Alvan C. Gillem, Jr., American Commissioner of Executive Headquarters at Peiping.
  5. Col. J. Hart Caughey, Executive Officer on General Marshall’s staff.
  6. Assistant to Ambassador Stuart.