Memorandum by the Chief of the Division of Commercial Policy (Willoughby) to Mr. Paul H. Nitze, Deputy to the Assistant Secretary of State for Economic Affairs (Thorp)

Subject: New China News Agency (Communist) Editorial of December 31, 194837

This editorial, translated in full in the FBIS38 of January 5, 1949, deserves careful study and analysis for possible clues to developing trends of Chinese Communist policy.

The distinguishing characteristic of this editorial, as compared with other North Shensi broadcast material I have seen, is its polemic style. Never before, in anything I have seen, has there been any indication of the slightest doubt as to what Communist policy is or should be; but clearly in this editorial there is developed strong argumentation directed not against the Kmt, not against foreigners, but against what appear to be views believed to be held by elements in the Chinese Communist Party itself or in groups allied to it. Ostensibly it is put in the form of a warning not to be taken in by pleas of Kmt “liberals” and non-Kmt “liberals” for conciliatory policies of accommodation leading to peace; but obviously there is a fear that these pleas will strike a responsive chord among large sectors of Communist supporters—hence the warning: “We reiterate, the Chinese people’s revolutionary Front must be consolidated by unity. Bad elements must not be allowed to break into our front.” This is almost a confession of divided counsels.

Some points advanced deserve particular notice. It is admitted (1) that “the revolutionary front of China must be expanded”, and (2) that “it must accommodate all those who are willing to participate in the present revolutionary mission”. These two points are obviously presented as basic assumptions on which Party members are agreed. The disagreement thus must relate to the extent to which the Party must “accommodate” other elements in order to consolidate its control over China.

Now the line the editorial takes is that the “fundamental interests” of the people (in Communist eyes) require “the thorough destruction of all reactionary forces” (see earlier passages listing “war criminals”), and the “driving out of American aggressive influence”. Note that the reference to “reactionary forces” is suitably vague, and that the reference to American influence is qualified by the word “aggressive”. In general however the tone of the editorial is uncompromising [Page 17] and much more violent than that of Mao’s39 December 1947 allocution;40 and the impression given is that of an attack on Mao’s more tolerant policy enunciated therein.

Note also the curious statement that “The revolutionary mission of the Chinese people requires a major military force and an allied military force. Without the help of an allied military force, the enemy cannot be beaten”. This statement appears in juxtaposition with the immediately preceding admission of the need for broadening the support of the party among the Chinese people, and with the immediately following insistence that the Chinese people “at the height of the revolution” must “recognize and remember their friends.”

This propounds a puzzle that has interesting implications. The reference to an “allied military force” may mean merely the local militia that is organized for service by the Communists wherever they move in; but it may also be intended to argue for a military alliance with the Soviet Union leading to Soviet intervention in the Chinese civil war. If taken in connection with the preceding reference to the need for broadening the base of Communist support, it has the first implication, if taken in connection with the following statement regarding the importance of “remembering friends” it appears to have the second implication.

But in view of the general impression given, of an attack on Mao’s conciliatory policy of toleration, it seems to me that the second inference is more probable.

If this is correct, however, it has far-reaching consequences. If Mao’s views are being seriously attacked, Mao’s leadership would appear to have been challenged by persons or groups who hold the view that (1) an uncompromising Communist revolution must be enforced in China, with no concessions being made to non-Communist groups, and (2) that a close military alliance must be made with Russia, and the Russians invited in to help finish off the civil war. The alternative conclusion would be that Mao himself is reconsidering his policy and has permitted open discussion of alternatives. But since Mao’s consistent policy over a long period of years has been one of denying the possibility of an immediate, thorough-going Communist revolution in China, and of adapting his tactics to what is practicable in the Chinese situation, it is difficult to believe that he is now reversing himself; and the fact that his policy of moderation has paid off in significant gains in the past year makes it even more unlikely. I therefore find it difficult to believe that this editorial is not an open attack on Mao by Russian-indoctrinated and Russian-controlled [Page 18] Chinese Communists, in an effort to bring Communist China under strict Russian control. If this is so, it is 1926–27 all over again, and the issues between Mao and Moscow are precisely those raised at that time.

The bearing of all this on policy matters under discussion is obvious. If the conclusion above is true it indicates that Moscow’s effort to move in and take over Chinese Communist policy is beginning earlier than expected; that it has advanced sufficiently to force an open discussion of the questions involved; that apparently infiltration has already had considerable success among the propaganda services of the Chinese Communists; and that Mao probably will soon be faced with the alternatives of yielding control of policy to these elements or of fighting back.

If Mao fights back, he will undoubtedly have to seek strength wherever he can find it. Unless he is knocked out promptly by a Russian takeover, there should therefore be an excellent chance of success for the policy toward China recommended by CP41 for the United States.

  1. Not printed; for general summary, see telegram No. 14, January 4, from the Ambassador in China, p. 5.
  2. Foreign Broadcast Intelligence Service.
  3. Mao Tse-tung, Chairman of the Central Executive Committee of the Chinese Communist Party.
  4. For summary, see memorandum of January 12, 1948, by the Chief of the Division of Chinese Affairs (Ringwalt), Foreign Relations, 1948, vol. vii, p. 29.
  5. Division of Commercial Policy.