The Ambassador in China (Stuart) to the Secretary of State
[Received January 28.]
Sir: I have the honor to submit an account of the elections for the National Peoples Assembly which were held November 21–23, 1947.[Page 44]
Although complete returns on the National Assembly Elections have not been announced, it is apparent that the Kuomintang secured a large majority. Given the advantages of the party in power and the lack of any effective opposition, the result could hardly have been otherwise.
The total number of delegates to be elected to the National Assembly is 3,045, apportioned among representatives of hsien and municipalities, elected on the basis of population, and Mongolia, Tibet, border peoples, overseas Chinese, occupational groups, women’s organizations and “nationals in the interior with special customs and ways of living.” The heavy weighting of representation in favor of occupational and women’s groups gives these organizations disproportionate influence in the Assembly and at the same time facilitates manipulation of the elections by the party in power.
Nomination of candidates was either by petition or party nomination. Party candidates had to be approved by Central Party Headquarters, and minor party candidates in districts where the Kuomintang agreed to support them had to be acceptable to the Kuomintang.
The election was administered by national, provincial and local election offices, the personnel of which were appointed by the National Government. There are some indications that the Kuomintang may have used its favored position in this setup to advance party interests.
In order to secure nationwide representation in the National Assembly, a formula was adopted whereby provisional delegates could be elected to represent areas partially or wholly controlled by the Communists, and elections for these so-called “pacification areas” were held at a later date than those for the rest of China.
Electioneering took place on a limited scale prior to the election, but no great interest was aroused among the public in general and balloting was light. It is exceptional, even among government officials, to find a person who knows anything about the details of the election or is interested in the returns.
Prior to the election the Kuomintang agreed to assist the Young China Party in obtaining 300 seats and the Democratic Socialists in securing 160. These agreements were bitterly criticized as simply demonstrating the thorough-going control which the Kuomintang expected to exercise over the elections. Unexpectedly, however, seventy to seventy-five per cent of the minor party candidates which the Kuomintang had agreed to support failed to be elected, primarily because Kuomintang members ran against them in defiance of instructions from Central Party Headquarters. In order to fulfill its pledges to the minor parties the Kuomintang sought to persuade such successful [Page 45]Kuomintang candidates to withdraw. Although this move has met with strenuous opposition, some success has been achieved and the party leadership estimates it will be able to fulfill seventy to eighty percent of its pledge.
In a conversation with an Embassy officer regarding the election, Ch’en Li-fu attributed the sweeping victory of the Kuomintang and the miserable failure of the minor parties to the “long and glorious history of revolution” of the Kuomintang which has resulted in attracting to it most of the able men of the country, creating a situation in which the minor parties are unable to compete effectively. Ch’en stated that the Kuomintang has promised to assist the minor parties to elect 75 delegates each to the Legislative Yuan, but anticipates even more difficulty in this election than the previous one because it is harder for the Kuomintang to control the larger Legislative Yuan election districts than to control the Hsien and municipalities, which were the basic election district in the National Assembly election.
End of Summary
[Here follows detailed account of elections.]
The National Assembly elections were the first step in setting up the form of democratic government prescribed by the newly-adopted constitution. The form is there, but little of the substance of democracy is yet observable. Given the conditions under which the election was held, the result could hardly be otherwise. Kuomintang control over all branches of the government, complete lack of effective opposition, and the ignorance and political inexperience of the people combined to produce the inevitable Kuomintang landslide. Any consideration of the election must also take into account that a less propitious time for the experiment in democratic processes could hardly have been chosen, with the government engaged in a fierce struggle for survival, and the people preoccupied with the problems of their own livelihood.
The real significance of the election for the immediate future may lie in the rents which have appeared in the fabric of the Kuomintang itself. The importance of this can only be determined by analysis of the election returns and observation of the National Assembly in action. For the long run, some encouragement can perhaps be derived from the recognition for the first time in China of the principle that the rulers must appeal to the people periodically through electoral machinery, even though in practice, effective democratic control of the government may not materialize for many years.
First Secretary of Embassy