Executive Secretariat Files: NSC 22

Memorandum by the Deputy Director of the Policy Planning Staff (Butler)79

The Secretary of Defense on January 15, 1948 requested that this Department prepare a basic study regarding U. S. policy toward China for NSC consideration. S/P80 thereupon undertook a preliminary [Page 123]survey of the problem, calling in outside specialists on China for an exhaustive examination of the issues involved. S/P has therefore completed basic preparation for an overall China paper.

However, it soon became evident at NSC Staff Meetings, when the problems of interim aid to China and defense of Tsingtao arose, that this Department and the Departments of the Army and Air Force differed widely in their analyses of the China situation. This divergence resulted in a split paper on interim aid81 and a postponement of decision regarding Tsingtao.

S/P therefore felt that, rather than presenting the NSC members with another split paper on the overall China problem, it would be preferable to wait on the persuasive influence of events in China to demonstrate the validity of this Department’s analysis.

S/P feels that the time is now about ripe for this Department to submit a position paper on China to the NSC. It is, therefore, beginning to prepare the initial draft of such a paper.

Meanwhile the Secretary of the Army has submitted for consideration by NSC members on August 5 the underlying paper, “Possible Courses of Action for the U. S. with respect to the Critical Situation in China” (NSC–22).82 The attached report anticipates an early collapse of the Chinese Central Government and raises the question of U. S. policy toward recognizing and possibly aiding such regional governments as might eventuate.

There follows S/P’s comments on the concluding points in Mr. Royall’s paper, page 6, paragraph i, onward:

The collapse of the present Chinese National Government would probably have an adverse effect on the security of the U. S. However, like everything else about China, this should not be taken for granted as a hard and fast maxim. It is not inconceivable that a collapse of the Central Government might bring about a cessation of hostilities and a transfer of the struggle from the military to the political plane where non-Communist elements might retard the Communist advance more successfully than the National Government has through military action. And even if the Civil War were to continue it is not out of the question that the residual war lords, or a new non-Communist realignment, might fight more effectively than the present nominally centralized regime.

In examining courses of action open to the U. S. the underlying paper suggests that aid might be increased to the “maximum extent feasible” and then proceeds apparently to argue that such a course is infeasible. This internal contradiction, resulting from a failure to define terms, makes the suggestion meaningless.

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S/P agrees with the Army paper in dismissing the suggestion that U. S. aid might be withdrawn.

It agrees with the third course suggested, that U. S. aid should be continued on the basis of programs now authorized. S/P might add parenthetically that it does not see that any useful purpose is served by raising the questions of increasing or withdrawing aid only to dismiss them and conclude that our present policy of aid is correct.

A fourth course is that “United States recognition and aid might be shifted from the National Government of China to appropriate regional regimes that may arise as a result of the collapse of the present national government.” It is quite normal in international relations that, with the collapse of a government, recognition should be transmitted to its successor. It would, however, obviously be inappropriate to transfer recognition to several regional regimes as the government or governments of China. It is also stated in the attached paper that “Under this course decision would have to be made as to whether to affiliate with certain separatist movements or remain aloof until such time as they might of their own accord arise out of the collapse of the present government.” S/P would observe that it is not the policy of the U. S. Government to “affiliate” itself with foreign governments, much less alien separatist movements. There can be no hard and fast rule laid down for U. S. relations with possible successors to the National Government this far in advance of the “collapse” anticipated by the Department of the Army. What position the U. S. Government is to take will depend on circumstances at the time.

George H. Butler
  1. Addressed to the Secretary of State and the Under Secretary of State.
  2. Policy Planning Staff.
  3. Dated March 26, p. 44.
  4. Supra.