Memorandum of Conversation, by Mr. Philip D. Sprouse
[Nanking,] 25 July 1947.
Memorandum for General Wedemeyer:
- The following is the substance of remarks made to me by Dr. Chiang44 during the course of a long conversation at his home on 23 July. (It might be pointed out that I have known him for more than 10 years and that he has always been frank and outspoken.)
- The key to the situation in China is the U. S. S. R. No fundamental and lasting solution of the Communist problem in China can be achieved save possibly through another world war. The Chinese Communists do not receive direct orders from Moscow but there is always compliance with the U. S. S. R. in major questions of policy. The U. S. S. R. is somewhat contemptuous of the Chinese Communists but recognize their usefulness to Soviet aims. There is no hope of saving the Chinese Government without U. S. assistance. This must consist of financial and economic aid and military aid in training and equipping completely new armies south of the Yangtze. This must be accompanied by the complete reorganization of the Kuomingtang through the introduction of new and younger leaders. There will continue to be Kuomintang domination of the Government as the minority party leaders are not experienced in governmental administration. The process of education in democracy through local elections, regardless of their imperfections, must continue. The Generalissimo is handicapped by the limitations of his background and training in Japanese military school and he must be viewed in that light. If he understood the west, a solution of China’s problems would be less difficult.
- It is realized that U.S. aid to China must be accompanied by close supervision. The Gimo is a realist and would be willing to accept such supervision. This is particularly important in respect [Page 670] to military aid. The greatest corruption in China is that among the military commanders, all of whom in Manchuria are expecting a crash and are making the most of their opportunities. Without U. S. aid the Government will slowly dry up—it will be a slow process and the Government might still last for another year or more. With U. S. aid, the Government can rebuild in the Yangtze and South China areas and the civil war may continue for years. The U. S. S. R. is not likely to allow the Chinese Communists to be defeated and will probably give military equipment to them while denying such action. If the Government should slowly dry up, there may be local commanders who will assert their authority in the provinces but there will probably be no leader and no organized movement capable of successfully opposing the Communists. It must be remembered, however, that the Generalissimo was practically unheard of until he assumed the leadership of the Kuomintang in 1927 and there may be “a man on horseback” who will emerge in such an eventuality.
- When I reminded Dr. Chiang that he had told me in 1944 that while there was little hope for China during this period, China would emerge in about 50 years as a strong stable nation, he said that he now felt that such an emergence might be either good or bad, and that no one could be certain of predictions under present circumstances. He concluded that he did not feel that he was being pessimistic—rather, he was being realistic; that China was still going through the process of digesting western civilization; and that even if the Chinese Communists gained control at this time, the individualism of the Chinese would reassert itself in the long run, and bring about their overthrow.
Philip D. Sprouse
- Chiang Mon-lin, member of the Chinese State Council and former Secretary General of the Executive Yuan.↩