The Ambassador in China ( Stuart ) to the Secretary of State
[Received February 26—2:07 p. m.]
369. Foreign Minister73 informed me February 24 that Chinese Government had agreed to appointment Major General Roschin as Soviet Ambassador to China. According to vernacular press February 25, agreement to appointment was reached on February 22. It seems apparent that conversations re this appointment have been proceeding since at least February 18 (see Moscow’s telegram 5 of February 18 sent Department as 31974).
Department will recall that some time prior to his departure for Moscow, General Roschin was reported to have discussed with Chinese Army officers in Nanking their difficulties in the civil war, and expressed hope for peace. In making farewell calls immediately prior to his departure, it is known that he raised question of possible Soviet mediation with Chinese Government officials, including Shao Li-tze75 and General Chang Chih-chung. While Government has officially denied that any such Soviet approach has been made, officials of the Government have admitted in private conversation with Embassy officers [and others] that démarche was, in fact, made and there is evidence that Chang Chih-chung at least had Generalissimo’s tacit approval to see what could be done toward obtaining Soviet assistance in halting civil war in China. At least the Generalissimo has not stopped Chang’s activities to that end.
Although the Communists have so far obtained all their military objectives in Manchuria without too much difficulty, it is entirely possible that they themselves would wish at least a temporary cessation of hostilities after they have captured Mukden, during which they could consolidate their position in Manchuria in preparation for intensified penetration south at appropriate time, meanwhile denying [Page 118] responsibility for operations for Communists south of Wall. Also, at this stage of Soviet expansion we can conceive how Soviet Government would wish to complete its buffer of satellites in northeast Asia by setting up a puppet regime in Manchuria strategically located between Korea and Outer Mongolia. We are prepared to believe, therefore, that the return of Roschin as Ambassador may mean a Soviet desire to mediate at this time.
On the other hand, Chinese concurrence in appointment Roschin does not necessarily mean Chinese Government has immediate intention of seeking Soviet mediation. However, we feel that this may well be the case if Chinese Government becomes convinced that its military position in Manchuria is hopeless. Wei Li-huang, Commander in Chief Manchuria,76 has indicated that his ability to maintain a foothold in Manchuria is entirely contingent upon the willingness of the US to supply military matériel immediately and on a large scale. Government Nanking has been equally pressing in its demands for military assistance. While we are of the belief that these appeals for aid are based on real and urgent need, we also feel that they may have been put forward at this time to test our intentions, present or future. In the event that military assistance of the specific type now requested from US is not forthcoming, it is conceivable that the Government might make use of the channel provided by the presence of General Roschin to accept the good offices of the Soviet Union in mediating in the civil war. Previously Generalissimo has been adamantly opposed to any Soviet approach or resumption of negotiations with Communists and there is no reason to believe that he has changed his mind as yet. It is possible, however, that in this situation the Generalissimo is subject to pressures arising from the desire for an end to the civil war, which he cannot withstand. War weariness is spreading and the desire for peace is held to an increasing degree by high military and civil officials, and is becoming prevalent in high military circles where its presence was not formerly apparent. Unless convinced that it is our intention to supply sufficient military assistance to turn the tide in their favor, the military group, now becoming increasingly convinced that the civil war cannot be won by the Government without American aid of type not hitherto contemplated by US, may possibly, we feel, exert every influence on the Generalissimo to seek a peaceful settlement with the Communists.
We wish to reiterate our belief that the ruling factors in the overall situation as seen by the Government are military. Generalissimo himself, we believe, remains convinced that military solution is possible. He is adamant that he will hold Mukden, Changchun and Kirin. [Page 119] As we see it, the Government may be, in the present juncture, taking advantage of the Soviet démarche to seek to force from us a clear commitment of our intentions on a military level. At the same time the Government appears purposely to be giving us a plain indication of an alternative course of action open to it in the event we do not supply its immediate requirements for military aid.
As has been his practice in times of acute crisis, the Generalissimo has been communing with himself in Ruling for past 2 weeks and we have good reason to believe that when he returns to Nanking, now anticipated February 27, he will effect changes in the political and military setups. These changes, when known, should give an indication of course of action he intends to follow.
Department please pass to Moscow.