The Ambassador in China (Stuart) to the Secretary of State

No. 580

Sir: I have the honor to refer to my despatch no. 488, February 14, 1947 transmitting a memorandum on civil aviation in China prepared by the Military Advisory Group in Nanking.

The Minister of Communications visited me early in February to inform me that the contents of the memorandum are acceptable in principle to the Chinese Government. Minister Yu accordingly requested that the necessary machinery be set in motion to effect the appointment of an American adviser on Chinese civil aeronautics as recommended in the memorandum. This purely verbal acceptance has been confirmed by Generalissimo Chiang’s aide-de-camp, General Peter Pee in a conversation with Minister-Counselor Butterworth.

I should like to state that I am strongly impressed with the vital role which civil aviation can and should play in contributing to the authority which the National Government may appropriately exercise over various parts of China and consequently in contributing to the political and economic stability of the country. A strong civil aviation network reaching to the most important centers throughout China—many of which are without other modern means of transportation to urban areas of eastern and central China—would inevitably strengthen frequency of contact and the interchange of ideas and personnel. This will in my opinion be of measurable assistance in maintaining and even increasing the respect of such outlying areas for the position of the Central Government and for the decisions and recommendations which it puts forth. In short I feel sure that a well-organized, efficient and modern civil aviation establishment in China will contribute to the country’s unification and stability.

The memorandum prepared by the Army Advisory Group on civil aviation in China lucidly describes the inadequacies of civil aviation in this country today. The fleets of the civil airlines—CNAC and CATC—are now reduced to a total of 69 planes, and as practically all of these were procured from United States military surplus stocks and have not received adequate maintenance, many of them should shortly be retired. The difficulty which the local airlines face in obtaining essential spare parts, the lack of suitable airport facilities, insufficient communications, navigation and weather facilities, and the lack of adequate organization and administration point toward a worsening of the civil aviation situation. It seems that in such circumstances the southern areas under the jurisdiction of the National [Page 1013] Government will be increasingly separated physically and therefore psychologically from northern areas under its jurisdiction.

The January 15 memorandum is directed toward the development of a first-class civil aviation establishment in China. It is strictly a technical document in that its aim is the creation of a civil aviation system operated by and for Chinese. It is not directly concerned with the domestic political situation; in the sense mentioned above, however, the implementation of the recommendations of the memorandum, including the appointment by the United States Government of a civil aviation adviser to China, would be of major political significance of a broad nature.

Minister Yu worded his request to me for the appointment of an American adviser as suggested in the memorandum in such a way that I was not at all assured that he intended that the adviser should come to China with the understanding that the recommendations of the memorandum would be fully complied with by the Chinese Government. You will recall I am sure the frequent disputes and jealousies which have characterized the relations between the Ministry of Communications represented by General Yu Ta-wei and the Chinese Air Force represented by General Chou Chih-jou in connection with civil aviation policy in China. These jealousies and disputes came forcefully to my attention in the closing weeks of the negotiations on the Sino-American Bilateral Air Transport Agreement7 and they continue to hamper progress in the field of civil aviation generally.

The January 15 memorandum which I handed to the Generalissimo contains specific, frank and pointed reference to these difficulties as they confront the organization of a civil aviation program in China and recommends—in the same manner—that civil aviation and military aviation be divorced from one another with the Chinese civil aeronautics board to be responsible directly to the Executive Yuan. Furthermore, in view of the sizeable financial outlay essential to any program for the advancement of civil aviation in China and considering the Chinese awareness that an adviser officially designated by the United States Government might facilitate the advancement of funds from the United States Government, it seems necessary that the position and powers of the adviser be not only clearly defined but understood and accepted in advance by the Chinese Government. I am sure that General Yu would be pleased, for instance, to receive a Civil Aviation Adviser from the United States whose functioning authority and position were ill-defined, if at the same time he might come closer [Page 1014] to obtaining funds from the United States Government thus far not available to him.

With the above considerations in mind the Embassy of course considers such unwritten and informal approach to this important matter inadequate; without further written assurances from the Chinese Government regarding the terms under which the adviser would be appointed, it would not seem wise to proceed with his appointment and I do not recommend that this be done now.

According to his secretary, Shen Ch’ang-huan, the Generalissimo is inclined toward an American adviser fully responsible to the Chinese Government, though Dr. Shen did not indicate that the Generalissimo’s mind was made up in this matter. The Embassy feels, on the other hand, that the adviser should be an employee of the United States Government with the initiative for his appointment and his recall remaining in the hands of the United States Government, and that he should be a man of military rank—probably a Major General. Having military rank the adviser would be able to elbow his way through the adverse complexities of civil-military aviation in China in his effort to establish a strong and independent civil aviation establishment.

A number of the executive officials in the Ministry of Communications, the newly formed Chinese Civil Aeronautics Administration, and the domestic airlines are officers or former officers of the Chinese military forces. In addition, in view of the lack of trained Chinese specialized and technical civilian personnel, the adviser would in all likelihood be forced, prior to the institution of an effective training program for civilians, to draw initially upon the Chinese Air Force for such personnel. These persons all would have respect for the position of a military as compared to a civilian adviser.

The Embassy therefore would advise that the senior American adviser envisaged in the January 15 memorandum be a Major General of the Army Air Force familiar with commercial air transport operations, well versed in the technical regulations of the United States Civil Aeronautics Administration, and conversant with the procedures and powers of the Civil Aeronautics Board. It is suggested as a preliminary basis of consideration that five American assistants to the senior adviser would be in order—one each for operations, communications, maintenance, weather, and examination and training of flight personnel. It is suggested that these assistants could be employed by the Chinese Government after they had been accepted by the senior American adviser.

It is of course important that the Chinese Government establish a civil aeronautics board charged with the responsibility for effectively implementing and giving legal sanction to the recommendations which the adviser may make to it. In my judgment, this board, constituted [Page 1015] and empowered as recommended in sections 10a and 11a of the memorandum of January 15, should be established by the Chinese Government prior to the arrival of the adviser in China. Otherwise, I fear that prolonged delays in its establishment or inadequate delegation of authority to it may lower the prestige of the adviser and limit his usefulness.

Although, for obvious reasons, it has not been emphasized in the enclosed draft letter to President Chiang,8 the Embassy contemplates that through the medium of the proposed Executive Office correlating the activities of all American officials in China, the adviser would be responsive to the wishes of the United States Government in policy matters.

It seems to me that the purposes and objectives which we seek in this case will be most expeditiously and satisfactorily met if I receive written assurances from the Generalissimo that the memorandum of January 15, 1947 and the contents of a letter along the lines of that tentatively outlined in the enclosure hereto—which I propose forwarding to him should you approve—are acceptable to him and to Chinese Government. With such a confirmation we would have a broad field of operations in which the senior adviser could operate as outlined in the memorandum and suggested in the letter. This approach might in the long run give the adviser broader scope in carrying out his work than the conclusion of a formal written agreement describing his powers and position would do.

I look forward to your comment on the course of action herein recommended and wish to express the hope that instructions will be forthcoming permitting the Embassy to take steps as suggested which will lead in the near future to the designation by the United States Government of a senior civil aviation adviser to China. Meanwhile, the United States Civil Aeronautics Administration may wish temporarily to discontinue its present endeavors to obtain suitable competent advisers to Lt. Colonel Tai of the Chinese Civil Aeronautics Administration.

Respectfully yours,

For the Ambassador:
W. Walton Butterworth

Minister-Counselor of Embassy
  1. Signed December 20, 1946; Department of State Treaties and Other International Acts Series No. 1609, or 61 Stat. (pt. 3) 2799.
  2. Not printed.