Memorandum of the Secretary of State’s Press and Radio News Conference, Wednesday, March 10, 1948, 8:15 p. m.
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Q. Sir, in the House Foreign Affairs Committee hearing this morning, Congressman Fulton of Pennsylvania5 said that there has never been a disavowal of American policy favoring a coalition government in China, to include the Communists. He said that apparently is still our policy. Is it?
A. Actually, what occurred was, the principals, meaning the head of Kuomintang, the head of the Chinese Central Government, Generalissimo Chiang Kai-shek, and the head of the Communist Party, Mao Tse-Tung, reached a partial agreement in September, 1945.6 Then in November, 1945, they reached a formal agreement for a meeting of what they called the PCC, Political Consultative Conference. Then there was another agreement in December, I think, the 17th of December. The date of the meeting of this conference and the delegates which were to include all political parties in China—the date for meeting was set as of January 10.
Now, I don’t recall at the moment exactly the date on which the President, Mr. Truman, gave publicity to his statement of the policy of our Government,7 but it was a few days before I arrived in China, so I imagine it was about—
Q. It was in December.
A. I arrived there about two days before Christmas. I think it was about the 18th of December. I think the 17th was the agreement over there between these two principals, Mao Tse-Tung, and the head of the Chinese Government Chiang Kai-shek. And the basis of that was to bring all parties in—everybody into discussion to endeavor to settle this thing by political means.
Now, there has been no further announcement by our Government in regard to that matter. The terms, as I recall, were expressed in very broad language, that they must widen the basis and give representation on a broad basis—
Q. That still is our policy?[Page 139]
A. That still stands the way it is right now, but it was not as you put the question to me, to force them to do this through any issues that have occurred. This is not for attribution because this is a long procedure and it would take me about an hour to go into it.
The issues that developed there were the breaking of agreements—who broke what, after they had agreed to something, had signed it and made an announcement on it. Then the issue began to be who was breaking the agreement. That was from about the last week in February that it began to be the issue. Here they had reached agreement on a political basis among themselves and then they had reached a military agreement about fighting, of which I was a party as the mediator, which was signed on January 10.8 Then after the meeting of the Political Consultative Conference, there was another agreement of which I was the mediator as to military adjustments and demobilization of the armies down to what was actually 50 divisions on the government side and 10 divisions on the Communist side, and certain things to be done.9
Then the next stage was the National Assembly for the adoption of the Constitution on May 5. Between the signing of that agreement which I think was about the end of February—maybe the first few days of March, and the military organization people, the PCC—between that and the postponement of the meeting of the Assembly by the Generalissimo—that was a unilateral action there—was where the dispute was over “who was doing what” took place.
Q. Sir, in view of the fact that where Communists form a coalition government with other governments in Europe which would certainly result as in Czechoslovakia, why is it that we support the coalition in China?
A. I think I am going to answer this for background only—not for attribution.
I think the most serious difficulty that was run into in China refers to that particular thing—coalition, but not, I think, probably for the reason that you are attaching to it. That is a convenient expression but it has no practical application, I felt, to a government which is not a solid body. To explain what I mean, the British could readily form a coalition government, during the war period, the great emergency period, because they had a long solid foundation of governmental procedure of the two-party system or more parties, maybe. We could form a coalition government. We did in a small way in the last war. The Secretary of the Navy and the Secretary of the [Page 140] Army10 were both Republicans and to that extent, that was done out of political considerations. But it is a vastly different thing to start off in a great experiment of a two or more party system of government in breaking away from a single party on a coalition basis, because to them—to those in China, that meant a Cabinet representing various groups, notably the government group and the Communist group.
Well, as the matter would be a beginning, the first breaking away from the one-party government, it did not seem to me a practical basis for genuine teamwork with officials who had so little in common.
Now, if a coalition could have been interpreted to mean all parties in the Assembly and one party, we will say, in power, that would have been quite a different matter. There was a State Council. It may have been a practical proposition to have the State Council—I think possibly it was under the conditions—to have had a State Council of these various representations but when it came to the working agencies of the Government, under the Executive Yuan which includes quite a number of branches and several other independent branches with their ministers, there is a beginning in the development beyond a one-party system. I don’t think a coalition government was a practical proposition.
Here, for instance, in our own experience, not in my own personally, because such a condition does not exist at the present time, but we have had lots of instances where a division among Cabinet members of the same party have made it a very difficult procedure to go ahead with.
Now, when you take such great differences as exist between the Communist Party and the Kuomintang and you bring representatives of both into it as active heads of the various agencies, I thought that was an impractical proposition. They, in their discussions, did not recognize at all what is commonplace to us, the fact that the party out of power struggles in every way to get in power, and that the fact that all parties have their representation in the Assembly, in the Parliament or in the Congress, as it is here, gives the opportunity to exercise a certain influence and as you increase your hold in offices, you finally get control of the government. That was very little understood and they felt unless they had these various individuals in Cabinet seats, that their desires were not properly satisfied. My own feeling, as I have said, was that in an entirely new government, such procedure was not a practical proposition. It was only in a period of great emergency for a government which had a very firm foundation in regard to procedures would such an affair work.
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Q. Mr. Secretary, I want to make sure that I understand your earlier record correctly as stated, that our policy still favors broadening the base of the Chinese Government.
A. To broaden the base of the Chinese Government?
Q. Would that include Chinese Communists in any respect in that government?
A. The problem now, of course, is that the Communists are engaged in open rebellion against the Government. How that would be handled in the end is a matter for the Chinese Government to decide and not for us to dictate. The earlier situation was one where first they got all fighting stopped and they were in conference and reached political decisions. Then the breakup occurred when it came to implementation of those decisions in which each side accused the other and in which each side, I felt, was at fault. But the trouble was always who started what. I got an agreement—I am talking not for attribution—an agreement on the cessation of propaganda. I would have it on one side and then the other side would add something different in retaliation. That was the policy. For a while I stopped all of it. They were seeking a political decision. Now, it is open rebellion with a declared purpose.
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- For statement by Congressman James G. Fulton, see United States Foreign Policy for a Post-War Recovery Program; Hearings before the Committee on Foreign Affairs, House of Representatives, 80th Cong., 2d sess., pt. 2, p. 2227.↩
- See summary of conversations, October 11, 1945, United States Relations With China, p. 577.↩
- See statement of December 15, 1945, Department of State Bulletin, December 16, 1945, p. 945, or United States Relations With China, p. 607.↩
- Foreign Relations, 1946, vol. ix, p. 125.↩
- For the agreement signed February 25, 1946, see ibid., p. 295.↩
- Frank Knox and Henry L. Stimson, respectively.↩