Memorandum by the Second Secretary of Embassy in China (Melby)

Sino-Soviet Relations

In a sense the whole problem of Sino-Soviet relations must be considered as an extension of Soviet-American relations. As such, the problem is a relatively simple one, free of the complications and nuances which beset the relationships of the major powers in the other principal areas of conflict, of the world. In the Far East alone does the United States come in direct contact with the Soviet Union without the injection of a third major factor which would increase the flexibility of relationships and operations. This conflict in the Far East can be stated very briefly. The basic Soviet objective is the extension of its influence and primacy of interest throughout China [Page 679] through the instrument of the Chinese Communist Party and eventually the extension of this influence throughout Asia, to the exclusion of other interests. The basic objective of the United States is to prevent this Soviet expansion (as well as preventing the emergence of any one power as the dominating force), to preserve primary Chinese orientation toward western democracy and specifically toward the United States, and to achieve these objectives by the creation of a stable regime in China whose ultimate goal will be the growth and development of an ideology and practice comparable to our own. Caught between these two major forces stands China, straddling an uneasy fence, desirous of destroying the Chinese Communists and eliminating the Soviet influence, while at the same time, and in relationship to the United States, being desirous of securing a maximum of assistance at a minimum of cost to China. This is in marked distinction to Europe and the Middle East, where several major powers are involved whose interests are more direct than those of the United States, thus not only complicating the situation, but also increasing the range of maneuverability for the United States. Even though the fundamental orientation of the National Government is quite specifically much more in the direction of the United States than of the Soviet Union, it is also equally apparent that there is in Chinese foreign policy the strong and ancient tradition of survival by playing off barbarian against barbarian. At present, the stronger and more imminent threat of the Chinese Communists must necessarily counsel an orientation toward the United States.

The most important and pressing factor in Sino-Soviet relations is, of course, the relationship between the Soviet Union and the Chinese Communist Party, which has already been discussed by Mr. Ludden.54 Suffice it for our present purposes to repeat what he has already said, namely, the question as to whether there are direct ties between Moscow and the Chinese Communists is basically an academic one. The ideological affinity is strong and real. To the extent that if the situation at any given moment might demand it and it would serve the eventual Russian interest, material aid will be forthcoming. The Chinese Communists are a strong and effective extension of Soviet foreign policy and as such, a threat to the existence of any democratically inclined National Government of China, and therefore, a threat to the interests of the United States. Since the largest non-Russian Communist army in the world can be counted on to serve Russian purposes, the Kremlin can afford the luxury of taking, for the time being at least, a negative official attitude toward China. The Russians are fortunate that circumstances in the Far East can [Page 680] permit them for the time being to concentrate their energies and efforts in Europe and the Middle East.

Meanwhile Sino-Soviet relations are complicated by Russian activities in other directions. Dairen, despite any strictly legal rights, is an obvious case of obstructionism in which Soviet action appears to be based on a conviction that it is only a matter of time before all Manchuria is under the control of the Communists, whereupon it will be feasible for the Russians to turn over Dairen to a locally installed administration which, of course, will be entirely Communist.

Outer Mongolia has been effectively detached from China with international sanction. It has at the same time been effectively lined up with the Soviet Union without international sanction, this constituting a matter of fact about which very little can be done.55 The consensus of available evidence strongly suggests the Outer Mongolians are being used as the extension of Soviet policy of penetration into Inner Mongolia, relying on ties of blood, religion and community of interests among all Mongols coupled with a gross ineptitude of the Chinese in dealing with minority peoples which has turned most Mongolian eyes away from the Chinese. Inevitably, the concept of a greater Mongolia must be an important factor on the Sino-Soviet frontier and most probably in the end at the expense of China.

To the west, five of the twelve regions of Sinkiang are to all intents and purposes, a Soviet puppet area. Expansionism of the Mongols endangers the northeastern part of the province. Chinese bungling throughout the whole of the province, Chinese inability to conciliate minority peoples, as well as Chinese preoccupation with more urgent problems in China proper, will almost inevitably drop the entire province into the Soviet lap unless an overall solution to the Chinese problem is found in the fairly near future. The Chinese Foreign Office may protest developments in Sinkiang; it may drum up strong public feeling on the subject; but under present circumstances it can do little more than put its views on record.

Another irritant in Sino-Soviet relations has long been the presence in China of several tens of thousands of White Russian refugees. These individuals for the most part have been, of course, bitterly anti-Soviet. The older ones who have been able to exercise influence, kept alive and increased the feeling against the Soviets. This has been particularly true since the Gimo’s coup d’état against the Communists [Page 681] in 1927 and the departure of the Russian advisors. The German invasion of the Soviet Union was a turning point for the Russian communities in China. Russian nationalism proved stronger than ideology and Russians, particularly the younger generation which was born and raised in China, forgot the past and gave its support to Moscow. This change has been most effectively exploited and thousands of these individuals now possess Soviet citizenship and work for Soviet interests. Several weeks ago it was announced that some 15,000 individuals in China would be repatriated. This comprises most of those holding Soviet passports. There is some reason to believe that the Chinese Government welcomes this development since the Russian elements in the country, be they pro or anti-Soviet, have proven themselves singularly unassimilable and also, since they have been stateless for so many years, are almost entirely without standards of any kind. Though there has been a general Russian policy of repatriating citizens throughout the world, it seems likely, that another motivation at the present time in the case of China has been to extricate those of its citizens whom it may conceivably find useful at a later date. The Soviet Union has no great surplus of individuals who know the language and ways of the country and if events develop as they confidently expect, they will need these individuals in their overall plan. Repatriation has the further advantage of putting the families into Soviet hands to be held as hostages for the good behavior of those who may return later to China.

Direct Soviet propaganda activities in National Government China have been relatively negligible both as to quantity and content. Such activities as they do carry on are in the face of continual Chinese obstruction. This does not seem to disturb the Soviets unduly, since the Chinese Communists can, of course, be counted on to do their work for them without direct Russian implication.

Mention should also be made of Manchuria. Behind the backs of the Chinese Communist Army, the Russians are proceeding to integrate Manchurian economy into that of eastern Siberia. The Red Army stripped most heavy industry from the area. The objective was to make Manchuria again a producer of raw materials feeding into Soviet factories and a consumer of Russian manufactured goods, gradually building up the indebtedness of Manchuria and Siberia and making it progressively more impossible for the area to break away except through a major upheaval of violence. As long as Dairen is closed, such trade as exists must flow eastward out of Vladivostok and northward into Siberia. Unless and until National Government armies occupy all Manchuria and forcibly reorient the economy of the area, nothing seems likely to change the trend which was initiated when the Soviet armies entered in August of 1945.

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This process of Soviet expansion into the peripheral areas of China, together with the growing strength of the Chinese Communists, all in the face of more or less ineffectual National Government opposition, has found its formal expression in an endless series of little-publicized protests and diplomatic exchanges between the two governments. Lacking any other weapon the Chinese are continually protesting Soviet activities and the Soviets show their customary skill in haggling over technical details and interpretations, all designed to postpone solution. The Soviets in their turn, also protest to the Chinese Government on things that displease them. It is hardly likely that Moscow looks on this endless exchange as being anything more than an exercise in the gentle art of note writing. Another mark of the Soviet attitude towards its diplomatic relations with China is that since the end of the war, Soviet representation in Nanking has been mediocre and lacking in forcefulness. The Soviet Ambassador56 has been absent since late spring and it is not known when or if he will return or who a possible successor might be. The Embassy staff has been greatly reduced in size and those remaining are men of little consequence.

  1. See memorandum of July 23, p. 656.
  2. In a separate memorandum Mr. Melby made the following statement: “It is now, of course, axiomatic that Outer Mongolia is a Soviet puppet state, in actual practice not dissimilar from any of the sixteen republics which compose USSR, despite the plebiscite held in October of 1945 which voted for independence.… No action of any importance can be taken without concurrence of the Russian advisors and their only foreign relations are with Moscow.”
  3. Apollon Alexandrovich Petrov.