893.00/5–1649: Telegram

The Consul General at Shanghai (Cabot) to the Secretary of State

1656. That Generalissimo feels no compunction but likely satisfaction in seeking make Shanghai battlefield and shambles regardless all but his own shortsighted interests is conviction most observers based on evidence such as:

Feverish defense preparations: Ruthless leveling wide belt villages and estates around city perimeter now being followed by fortifying roof tops and sandbagging main buildings and junction spots into very heart city with apparent expectation street fighting.

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Other military signs such as selective retention in city all operable army tanks and air strafing of Communists at very low level rarely risked by Nationalist planes.

Anti-Communist parade with floats depicting Communist and Yellow Ox atrocities; exhortation of populace by speeches, hand bills to support “supreme military authority” unconquerable stand against “Red bandits”, make Shanghai second Stalingrad, et cetera.

Desperate efforts bolster collapsing army morale with various rumors American aid, announcements of unprecedented privileges, free meals, entertainments, et cetera, to be given “our soldier heroes” and alleged hasty replacements undependable units with new divisions from Formosa.

Intense secret service activity directed by Generalissimo through his son Ching-kuo and BIS chiefs: Assignment special troops handle desertions and rebellion; and increasing terroristic suppression student, leftist, civil and business elements suspected as likely promoters peaceful turnover by wholesale arrests, man hunts, deportations and intimidation. Even Mme. Sun Yat-sen16 said now in some danger arrest.

Attempted removal all government organs from city; arbitrary requisitioning of motor cars; heavy exporting of city’s removable equipment and materials; and financial manipulations to syphon off all available wealth.

Persistently reported plans demolish utilities, dockyards, et cetera, upon final withdrawal Nationalist forces.

Generalissimo’s apparent strategy making Woosung region his final defense area to permit full completion his stripping, demolition and evacuation programs.

Aside from vindictive punishment Shanghai leaders and groups whose non-cooperation has earned them his bitter hatred, Generalissimo’s primary motives for apparent planning this senseless fighting and destruction appear to be:

Exploit Shanghai stage for limelighting melodramatic show last ditch defense of “international city” against world Communism in face overwhelming odds unaided by “ungrateful” America.
Crush all possibility of an orderly city turnover under circumstances propitious for development of mutually beneficial modus vivendi among Communists Shanghai Chinese and international interests; and force Communists to take city in ruined chaotic state with every possible liability and problem serving to complicate city’s existence, exacerbate Communists relations with foreign interests, and increase tension between Moscow and western democracies.
Protect Generalissimo’s operations “drama” “udder” “dynamite” and “Dunkirk” to last possible moment.

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Meanwhile mounting Communist military pressure and close approach city leads many now believe final showdown may come any moment. Seems likely Communists will (1) press attacks at many points perimeter with view force Nationalists spread thin their inferior strength; (2) seek minimize destruction in city by avoiding heavy bombardment and taking city by infantry alone as far as possible; (3) close in on Nationalists’ Woosung bastion with view cutting off of Generalissimo’s evacuation. Generalissimo’s need to retain Woosung area longest and general Communist pressure around city will probably force him attempt early withdrawal from city to Woosung or coast to escape trapping. Observers feel his forces will disintegrate rapidly under Communist attack and that Communists could smash his resistance in week or so if ready for determined effort. Prospects of imminent violence and disorders in city preceding, during and immediately following final battle are increasing in view of following factors:

Progress of secret preparations for establishment of intermediate peace maintenance regime appears delayed as result of Generalissimo’s energetic surveillance of movement’s chief organizers, of his bellicose preparations—which lessen chances for early crumbling or voluntary abandonment of Nationalist resistance and, perhaps, of Communists’ waning interest in project owing to its now dubious potentialities for effective action. [W. W.] Yen, following his recent creation of maintenance regime, has been hounded by Generalissimo to point forcing him retire to hospital confinement; and Chinese source who claims regular contact with Communists says Communists themselves disapproved of his relief body as method for formation peace regime. Other leading organizers (Yang Hu, Hu Chow-wen and Hsu Kuo-mou) said in imminent danger arrest.
Generalissimo’s reported intention to force municipal police to leave city with withdrawing troops, if carried out, could materially increase looting and lawless excesses, though known control of part police force by anti-Generalissimo groups and probably refusal of many police to leave posts (especially if adequately paid and fed) would undoubtedly nullify his efforts to some extent. Military has savagely threatened any police who defect.
Events seem heading rapidly toward moment when commencement of attempted Nationalist evacuation of city will set stage for Generalissimo’s reported demolition program; final looting by armed and unsated Nationalist soldiers ideally distributed for effective plundering of entire city; further pillaging by local riffraff. Communist underground and Yang Hu’s police and plain-clothes agents are understood to be ready prevent some destruction but they can hardly hope to stop general looting (unless Yang’s troops have been bought off to much greater extent than Consul General aware) and their very efforts will provoke fighting.
Any further aggravation of food, fuel, currency and labor aspects of economic crisis is likely precipitate rioting with street fighting in which Communist underground may feel compelled to participate.

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While these conjectures represent well-informed consensus, events may prove them unduly pessimistic. Possibility of reports being spread for ulterior motives should be always kept in mind. We have fortunately no concrete evidence support observers’ general expectation Generalissimo’s plans demolish utilities and demolitions thus far have all been outside city proper. Also source close to Yang Hu tells us this morning change-over will come soon without serious disorders—though unknown capabilities of Yang’s organization suggest great caution re this assurance. All in all there remains little visible basis for optimism. Best hope is that events, perhaps spurred by massive defections, will move with sufficient rapidity to prevent destructive fighting in city or extensive demolitions. If Communists are welcome even by conservative business interests not to mention populace, it will not be surprising.

If any approach to Nationalist authorities to urge them abandon senseless fighting and destruction is to be made, need for action is urgent. Delicacy and probable inadvisability of attempting have Shanghai declared open city is realized, but feel we could properly insist to Nationalist military authorities there be no demolitions of essentially civilian installations—possibly taking parallel action with British and French—in view fact utilities are virtually all owned by interests of the three countries. I urge Department authorize representations this sense.

Sent Nanking 919, repeated Department, OffEmb Canton 461.

  1. Widow of the founder of the Kuomintang and of the Chinese Republic; sister of Mesdames Chiang Kai-shek and H. H. Kung and of T. V. Soong.