Memorandum by Mr. Philip D. Sprouse of the Division of Chinese Affairs to the Director of the Office of Far Eastern Affairs (Vincent)9

With the end of the American mediation effort in China and General Marshall’s return to the United States, consideration of the problem of American aid to China, particularly military aid, must be viewed in the light of the future course of our policy toward China.

It has been an oft-stated premise that our objectives in China are the creation of a united, progressive, strong and democratic nation. General Marshall’s efforts over a period of thirteen months were devoted to that end. Although unity seems, for an indefinite period at least, to be unattainable in spite of strong American efforts to achieve that goal, American policy should still be directed toward the creation of a stable, progressive and democratic nation. Unity might follow, but at least for the time being we cannot continue to make unity the cornerstone of our approach to the problem. Uppermost must be the effort to prevent China’s becoming a major irritant in our relations with Soviet Russia and to prevent China’s coming under Chinese Communist control.

[Page 787]

Chinese Reaction to American Military Aid

In the light of the events in China since June 1946, it is certain that any form of American military aid to China will arouse strong protest from the Chinese Communist Party and will bring criticism from Moscow. More important from a standpoint of the future of the United States in relation to China is the attitude of other groups in China, which are critical of both the Kuomintang and the Communists and are bitterly opposed to civil war in China. Members of this group can be found within both the Kuomintang and the small minority parties and among non-party Chinese. It is reasonably certain that this group, which includes perhaps the most pro-American Chinese within its ranks, will also be critical of American military aid to the Chinese Government. Chinese Communist propaganda has undoubtedly had a tremendous effect throughout China in arousing criticism of the United States, but the Chinese in this group are capable of reaching their own conclusions and would be critical of American military aid aside from any Chinese Communist propaganda. The Chinese university students would inevitably be swayed in their attitudes and approaches by any widespread campaign, whether of Communist or other origin, directed against American military aid to China and would in turn become strongly anti-American. The anti-American feeling in China might possibly take an even more serious turn than at present.

Question of the National Government’s Need for Military Aid

The next question that arises is that of the necessity of such aid. This is, of course, a question of the National Government’s military supply position. I do not know the present status of that position, but press reports indicate that the Chinese Government is now launching an offensive in the southern Shantung area and that the Generalissimo has just made trips to Hsuchou and Chengchow, the latter indicating the possibility of National Government action in northern Honan. If these reports are accurate, the National Government’s present military supply position cannot be too serious. The Chinese Communist forces have not yet shown any offensive capabilities in any area, beyond that for local limited actions. Their forces can cut lines of communication and succesfully carry out local operations, but they have given no indication of ability to mount a sustained offensive. The Communists have no arsenals worthy of the name, while the National Government has at least some facilities for the manufacture of munitions, small though they may be. If the National Government had no opportunity to replace its expenditures in munitions, it does not seem logical that it would be embarking on [Page 788] any present large scale offensive operations requiring the expenditure of military material. The time must come when the National Government will be confronted with the problem of replenishing its expenditures in munitions and matériel. It is possible that it will then cease any offensive action and be in a frame of mind more conducive to some settlement of the differences in China. It is feared that as long as the National Government feels that American military aid in the form of military matériel is forthcoming, it will for just that long continue to seek the destruction of the Communist forces. The amount of military aid that would be necessary to achieve that goal would seem to be far beyond the capacity or willingness of the United States to provide. The result might then be an almost never ending civil war or the collapse of the National Government through economic chaos, military losses and possible disaffections among local troops. Our aid would be sufficient to enable the Chinese Government to continue civil war but not conclude it—this would inevitably continue to be a possible source of a major irritant in our relations with Soviet Russia.

Other Means of Aid to China

Other means of aid to China exist which would not be the subject of bitter Chinese criticism such as could be directed against our military aid. Economic and financial aid for carefully chosen projects, which could not be related to civil war, could be extended as evidence was given of reform in the National Government. Such reform is the only practical means of combatting the challenge of the Communist Party in China. The extension of such aid could not be attacked on any solid basis (although the Communists would be certain to do so) as encouraging civil war; it would serve to indicate our continuing interest in China; it would assist in the economic rehabilitation of the country; and it would give evidence of our willingness to make reform in the Government worthwhile, thus encouraging reform rather than civil war. It would remove ammunition from Chinese critics who say that the United States supports civil war in China and backs the Kuomintang as a bulwark against Soviet Russia.

Possible Forms of Military Aid

If some form of military aid to the Chinese Government were felt to be essential, the bill providing for the detail of United States military and naval missions to foreign governments could be utilized for that purpose. This would aid in achieving the reorganization of the Chinese armies along modern lines without providing material support for actual hostilities. It would be a general program applicable to various foreign governments rather than China alone. As such it [Page 789] could not be singled out for criticism of military aid to China to the extent probable in the case of the bill for military aid to China. It would serve to meet criticisms that might arise in the United States of our failure to support the Chinese National Government and of our “withdrawal” from China. It would be criticized in China and in the United States, but the criticism would have less basis and the Chinese Government would perhaps not have the feeling that it was being given a free rein and a blank check in its civil war. Chinese criticism is apt to take the line that China needs financial and economic assistance and not munitions of war. The naval training program at Tsingtao, which has less relation to civil war, could be continued on its present scale.


If the foregoing is accepted, it would follow that the United States Government continues its embargo on the delivery to China of munitions of war and allows only civilian type items to be delivered to the Chinese Government under the surplus property and other programs. This should be made clear to the Chinese Government.

In brief, our policy toward China would be directed toward discouragement of civil war, toward reform and stability in China to meet the Communist challenge and toward the removal of a possible source of irritation in our relations with Soviet Russia.

Philip D. Sprouse
  1. Presumably drafted prior to Mr. Vincent’s memorandum of February 7, infra.