The Consul General at Dairen (Benninghoff) to the Chargé in China (Robertson)20

No. 4

Subject: Survey of Political Situation in Dairen.

Sir: I have the honor to submit some comments and observations regarding the political situation in Dairen. It should be remembered that during the four weeks my staff and I have been here we have been almost completely cut off from reliable news of the outside world. We know nothing of the negotiations regarding Manchuria said to be taking place at Chungking and Nanking. We have been unable to communicate with the Embassy or the Department, and we do not know whether our message to the Embassy at Moscow sent through the Soviet Consulate here on April 17 was ever delivered. The comments and conclusions contained herein, therefore, were arrived at from the strictly local viewpoint.

Basic factors

The most important single political factor affecting this area is of course the Treaty and related documents signed by representatives of the Chinese Government and the Soviet Union on August 14, 1945. [Page 1167] The sovereignty of China over the area is recognized, and the National Government is acknowledged as the central government of China. The U. S. S. R., however, acquired certain special rights by the provisions of the Agreements relating to Port Arthur and Dairen. The effect of these two documents is to make the actual administration of the “Port Arthur Naval Base Area” (somewhat smaller than the former Kwantung Leased Territory) a matter for the Chinese Government, but the Chinese administration must fulfill the proposals of the Soviet military commander with respect to security and defense. However, Dairen is excluded from “the sphere of efficacy of the naval base regulations” during peacetime, and is under military supervision or control only in case of war against Japan.

Soviet Policy

Lieutenant General G. K. Kosloff, Commandant of Dairen, made it clear in my first interview with him that as a state of war with Japan was still in existence, and as the Soviet Union had special rights and obligations by virtue of the Sino-Soviet Treaty, Dairen must still be considered as subject to Soviet’s military regulations. Accordingly, he stated, the port area of the city was restricted and official visits to the installations of the American oil companies must be deferred for the time being.

Another fact of great importance in the local situation is the complete absence of representatives of the Chinese Government. Preliminary observation leads me to believe that the Russians will use this to the limit in preventing or obstructing the development of American and other interests and the opening up of the port of Dairen. For instance, when I raised the subject of telegraphic communications during my initial conversation with General Kosloff, he stated that as the Chinese Government had not yet been able to re-open commercial facilities, the only channel now open was under the control of the Soviet military. Similarly, when I raised with the Soviet Consulate the question of installing my own radio transmitter, the attitude of the Chinese Government, as well as those of the American and Soviet Governments, was mentioned.

The great question, of course, is the interpretation of the expression “open port”. While I have not yet felt myself well enough installed to broach the subject directly with Soviet officials, responsible persons with whom I have discussed the matter state that the Russians have always been evasive when the question is raised. Under the terms of the Agreement concerning Dairen, the Chinese Government must declare the port open, and must appoint certain officials. Neither of these steps has been taken, so far as this office is aware. The Russians, therefore, are in a position to state, when pressed, that they [Page 1168] cannot open the port as a unilateral act, and must await the arrival of Chinese officials.

In the meantime, the port is closed to non-Soviet ships, while from eight to twelve Russians vessels are constantly in the harbor reportedly loading cargo of all kinds for shipment to Soviet ports.

Local Chinese Administration

It is interesting to note that the Russians took cognizance of the absence of Chinese officials when they officially relieved the Japanese and installed a local Chinese administration two months after their arrival in the city. (Japanese officials had of course long since disappeared.) Order No. 11 of October 28, 1945, issued by General Kosloff, states (in unofficial translation):

“Until the National Government of the Chinese Republic assumes power in conformity with the Agreements (of August 14, 1945), and taking into consideration the unanimous wish of the conference of representatives of the civil organization of the Chinese population of Dalny (Dairen) held on October 27, 1945 … I appoint …21 to the post of Mayor of Dalny (Dairen) the Chinese citizen Chi Tse-sian, and to the post of Deputy Mayor the Chinese citizen Chen Yun-tao.”

It is not without significance that the Mayor may act only with the concurrence of the Deputy Mayor, and that although the former is an old resident, the latter is a recent arrival.

The local Chinese administration, which is of course strictly controlled by the Russians, is thus purely provisional and derives no authority from the Chinese Government. It cannot, therefore, open up the port, appoint officials, or take any other action provided for in the Treaty and related documents. (Materials are being collected for a detailed study of this administration.)

Coming as I did from the super-charged political atmosphere of Korea, I was immediately struck by the almost complete absence of political activity in Dairen. There are only a few political posters visible in the streets, and although the sole newspaper being published (a Chinese language daily) uses Yenan exclusively for its foreign news and generally follows the Chinese Communist line, there is no overt attempt to strengthen the Communist Party or to install it as the sole legal political organization. The local Chinese administration is not known or propagandized as a Communist government, although there are a few known Communists in it. The Deputy Mayor, mentioned above, is thought to be a Communist from either Shantung or Yenan, but that is not definitely known. The Mayor, and most of the other officials, are long-time residents of Dairen.

[Page 1169]

Law and Order

Under the Chinese administration mentioned, there has been set up a police or “Public Peace” organization. This appears to have been largely recruited from local coolies; it is armed with rifles of Japanese origin, and is of doubtful efficiency. It is officered by persons of some military training, whose logical source would be the Eight Route Army. Russian military police are only in slight evidence, and then only as guards for Russian residences and buildings. As a matter of fact, Russian troops are relatively scarce in Dairen, the larger concentrations being in Port Arthur and elsewhere on the peninsula. Most Russian officers and men are armed.

Although curfew has been officially eliminated, there is practically no traffic between sundown and sunrise. Shops begin to board up their premises by five p.m., while restaurants and bars are closed by six p.m. Rifle shots and machine-gun bursts are heard frequently throughout the night and are not unknown during the day. Robbery and shootings of a professional and non-political character are said to be numerous, with Russians, Chinese and Japanese all being the assailants. There is also reported to be a good deal of friction between two Chinese political factions, while in the past few days rumors have been heard of increasing assassinations of Russians by Japanese. There are no reliable reports, but conditions are generally regarded as unsatisfactory. Residents state, however, that the situation is better than it was several months ago when the Russian troops were under less control than at present.

The Japanese

There are estimated to be 240,000 Japanese in the area, including a substantial number of refugees from Manchuria. All military and official Japanese have been removed by the Russians and no information is available concerning their whereabouts. Those remaining are not suffering under any particular disability. They are permitted to engage in such trade and commerce as exists, and a great number are being retained as technicians and specialists of one kind or another. They are denied the right of public assembly and the only organization permitted them is the officially-sponsored “Japanese Labor Association”, but otherwise their treatment by the Russians is so favorable that the Chinese are understood to be critical.

The Japanese are of course greatly interested in the question of their repatriation, and many of them thought that this office would have information in that regard. A number of Japanese formerly associated with American firms have called, and have expressed disappointment that the Americans are not prepared to send them home. They have heard of repatriation from Shanghai, Tsingtao, and more [Page 1170] recently from Hulutao, and are anxious to be included. However, if it is made clear that they will be allowed to remain in this area and to engage freely in trade and commerce, probably a large number would choose to remain. Several have told me that they realize there is little for them to do in Japan, and that if they could be assured that as a matter of policy they could remain comfortably in Dairen, they would choose to do so.


It seems apparent that the Russians intend to play their hand in Dairen in such a manner as to exclude American and other Allied interests for as long as possible, and that they will use their Treaty position and the continued absence of Chinese Government officials (a condition which they have doubtless sedulously cultivated) to that end. When they eventually agreed to the opening of the port, either willingly or unwillingly, they have in the various provisions of the Treaty and related documents a number of strong trump cards which could force other nations to play the game according to Russian terms.

It would seem wise for the United States to do everything possible to assist the Chinese Government in setting up an administration for this area so that the port can be declared open to the trade of all nations. This preliminary move, I venture to suggest, is necessary before trade and commerce in the accepted sense of the terms can begin to flourish in Dairen and Manchuria, and the sooner it is done the less strongly entrenched will the Russians be.

Respectfully yours,

H. Merrell Benninghoff
  1. Copy received in Department about July 22.
  2. Omissions indicated in the original despatch.