Memorandum of Conversation, by Mr. Philip D. Sprouse

Present: Mr. Wang Yung-sheng, Editor-in-Chief of Ta Kung Pao, Shanghai
Mr. Hsiao Chien } members of the Ta Kung Pao staff
Mr. Kao Chi
Mr. Li
Mr. Connors45
Mr. Sprouse

I have known Mr. Wang and two of his staff members present during the conversation for 4 or 5 years and believe that his frank expression [Page 671] of views results from this long acquaintanceship and feeling that his confidence would not be violated. Following is a summary of his views of the situation in China:

A continuation of the present rate of deterioration in the military, economic and political situation will lead to the narrowing of the extent of National Government authority and the spread of Chinese Communist control. It will probably result in Communist control of Manchuria and of North China north of the Yellow River in from 6 to 8 months. The National Government will be left in control in the Lower Yangtze Valley and separate regimes will rise in other areas, such as Kwangtung–Kwangsi. The eventual result may be Communist control of all China, but this will require a long period, the length of which it is impossible to estimate, because of lack of communications, extent of the area and other factors.

The only solution to the present situation is peace, to allow restoration of communications and rehabilitation and reconstruction. This would have to be accompanied by a compromise political settlement with the Chinese Communists and the establishment of a coalition government. When asked whether this was now considered possible in the light of past events, he said that it would be difficult but that the alternative was the utter exhaustion of the country and that it could be done. The US must not treat China as a strategic area vis-à-vis the USSR. The recent sale by the US of ammunition to the Chinese Government caused feeling on the part of many Chinese. Action of this kind serves to turn people toward the Communists. The US must encourage peace in China, not war.

US Aid to the Chinese Government would be welcome in economic and financial fields to build up China’s economy. It should be given under close US supervision and under specified conditions. It should be given piece-meal, each portion to be preceded by performance and progress by the Government toward reform—not promises of such action. The Gimo and the Government would accept such conditions and such aid; its effectiveness in reconstruction and reform might restore the prestige of the Government, which has now lost the support of all classes. Even many Government officials are dissatisfied. Asked what reforms should be expected and who could judge the carrying out of these reforms, Mr. Wang said that Americans could easily do so. It would mean the abolition of the secret police—ending arrests and murders, lawless acts of destruction of property and the general policy of suppression and oppression which turns people against the Government. When asked if military officials in civil posts should be replaced by civil officials, he said this was unimportant as the leader of the nation was a military official. He stated very pointedly that [Page 672] progress toward reform and democracy could be easily made if the Generalissimo would “rest for two months”. Civil officials in provinces and districts should be elected and not appointed by the Central Government. The history of China shows the need for decentralization of power and the establishment of a federated type of government. One man and his ideas cannot successfully control the whole country. The same would apply to Communist rule. It is possible that federation might eventunally grow out of the present trend toward disintegration and unity might be achieved through some such system. Mr. Wang concluded by returning to his first thesis that the only solution was peace and cessation of civil war and that the US should not act to encourage civil war since, until the Gimo knew that he would not be given military aid to fight a civil war, he would continue to carry on his unsuccessful and inconclusive campaign against the Communists.

Mr. Wang’s views are those of a middle of the road conservative. His newspaper represents in general an independent view and it is still able to express, within limits, its views chiefly because of its close connection with high ranking Government officials, particularly those of the Political Science Group.

Philip D. Sprouse
  1. W. Bradley Connors, Public Affairs officer at Shanghai.