The Ambassador in the Soviet Union ( Smith ) to the Secretary of State
[Received November 29—6:54 a.m.]
4251. Evening November 26, Chinese Ambassador74 told me he believed his Government did not intend to extend current offensive to final assaults on Harbin and Yenan.
Decision not to attempt capture of Harbin he said was based on Stalin75 warning to Soong76 during latter’s visit here77 that USSR would not be indifferent to action which would jeopardize Soviet paramount interest in former Chinese Eastern Railway. Foo quoted Stalin as having said USSR needed use of Chinese Eastern Railway during 30 years required to make Soviet Far East impregnable against attack by Japan. In view of strong Soviet feeling regarding North Manchuria, Foo said his Government did not wish to risk provoking Soviet retaliation by attempt to capture Harbin.
Similar reasoning applied to Yenan. Foo said if Government captured Yenan, Chinese Communists would be finished; their ability to continue to [on?] guerrilla basis is much exaggerated. Such development, he went on, might incite USSR to retaliation. Therefore in reply to query by Generalissimo, Foo had recommended to Nanking not to run risk from USSR involved in occupation of Yenan and consequent collapse of CCP.78
Without attempting to comment on internal Chinese considerations implicit in Foo’s statements, I would offer following remarks regarding what seem to us as probable Soviet reactions to Nanking capture of Harbin and Yenan. I believe Central Government occupation of Harbin would indeed provoke sharp Soviet reaction, but that such reaction would probably not be open military intervention.
Because of its heavy military commitments elsewhere and its own internal difficulties, USSR will go far, even in Manchuria, to avoid direct clash with USA. Soviet reaction would probably, however, take form of intensified undercover political assistance to CCP in Manchuria and disguised military assistance. These forms of resistance would undermine and frustrate Central Government without posing open challenge to USA.[Page 570]
As for Yenan, I doubt that its capture, even with far-reaching results which Foo described, would precipitate active Soviet intervention. Certainly Kremlin would not be indifferent to fall of Yenan. And disintegration of CCP would represent a serious reverse to Soviet program for Asia. I doubt however that USSR would resort to overt military counteraction because intervention in North China would not only be more of an undertaking than in Manchuria but would involve greater risks of conflict with USA. Furthermore, USSR is anxious for political reasons to avoid evident interference in Chinese internal affairs. And finally, Kremlin, playing a patient long-term game and believing time to be on its side in China, would probably withhold its military hand—it has seen Communist parties crushed before only to rise again in strength and often of a more tractable character.
Therefore, I suspect that if Central Government occupied Yenan, Soviet reaction would be confined pretty much to a violent press campaign, incitement of front organizations in other countries and undercover aid to CCP in Inner Mongolia and North China.
In short, I do not believe reason advanced by Foo for restraint toward Yenan is wholly valid. I recognize, of course, possibility Foo may have knowingly or unknowingly been attempting to mislead me. Issue of what USSR reaction would be to Nanking capture of Harbin or Yenan is, nevertheless, of more than academic interest and it is with wider implications in mind that I offer comments in preceding paragraphs.
Department repeat to Nanking, Tokyo.