123 Stuart, J. Leighton

Memorandum by the Director of the Office of Far Eastern Affairs ( Butterworth ) to the Under Secretary of State ( Lovett )23

Subject: Status of the Ambassador and the Embassy at Nanking

[Here follows résumé of the following telegrams on the above subject: No. 1639, November 16, 1948, from the Ambassador in China, Foreign Relations, 1948, volume VII, page 853; Department’s No. 1777, December 7, 1948, to the Ambassador in China, ibid., page 859; No. 134, January 18, from the Ambassador; No. 143, January 19, from the Ambassador; No. 9, January 19, from the Consul General at Canton; No. 146, January 19, from the Ambassador; No. 149, January 19, from the Ambassador; and No. 153, January 20, from the Ambassador.]

The Ambassador recommended (1) that the invitation to move to Canton not be accepted until at least the Foreign Minister and the majority of the cabinet should have moved to that city; (2) that when this occurred, the Minister-Counselor, with a small staff, should immediately proceed to Canton; and (3) at that time the Embassy would inform the Foreign Office, and if desirable the press, that a portion of the Embassy staff was proceeding to Canton to establish the Embassy, make initial preparations for housing and working facilities and that the timing of the Ambassador’s movements would be reserved for later consideration.

Several considerations are pertinent to this matter. You will recall that reports from the Embassy, the consular offices and the U.S. military representatives in China indicate that there is little likelihood that the National Government can effectively oppose a determined Communist advance into south China since it has little strength in terms of regular forces south of the Yangtze, except for those being withdrawn in the Nanking area. The Embassy has stated that the scattering of archives and governmental personnel over south China [Page 665] and Taiwan makes it difficult to visualize how government could be conducted.

If the Ambassador should remain at Nanking after the withdrawal of the National Government and if the U.S. should continue military and economic aid to a National Government-controlled south China, his status and that of our Embassy would be somewhat anomalous and very difficult. This would, of course, also be true of our consular offices in Communist areas and the position of U.S. businessmen in such areas would likewise be affected. The Ambassador’s presence in Nanking would in a sense be interpreted as recognition of the de facto authority of any successor regime regardless of our intentions. At the same time, the Ambassador’s presence in Nanking could be advantageous. He speaks Chinese with great fluency; he is acquainted with the leaders of all factions in China; and, as former President of Yenching University, approximately fifty percent of whose graduates are reportedly in the Communist camp, he occupies the traditional position of the teacher vis-à-vis the pupil in his relationships with many Chinese.

On the other hand, the Ambassador’s withdrawal from Nanking would be taken as indication that the U.S. was prepared to continue support and recognition of the evacuating Government and the U.S. would logically be expected to continue aid to that Government under such circumstances. In that event, the position of U.S. businessmen and missionaries in Communist areas would obviously be difficult, if not untenable, not to mention the remaining portion of our Embassy staff and of our consular offices. It should not be overlooked that with the fall of Nanking the Communists will have the capability of occuping Shanghai and that Communist control of the lower Yangtze valley, whether by military or political means, appears to be shortly forthcoming. When that occurs, the Communists will have under their control the major centers of population from Manchuria to the Yangtze valley. In these areas are located the majority of U.S. interests and U.S. businessmen and missionaries in China. If the U.S. is to afford any protection to or promote U.S. interests in these areas, it must have official representation which can get in touch with the central governing authorities of the area.

It may be expected that domestic reaction in the United States from some Congressional quarters and newspapers will be highly critical of any decision not to direct the Ambassador to follow the Chinese Government to Canton. These quarters are, however, not aware of the hopelessness of the situation as described by General Barr, Director of the Joint U.S. Military Advisory Group. General Barr has stated that only a policy of unlimited U.S. assistance, including the immediate employment of U.S. Armed Forces to block the southern advance of the Communists, which he emphatically does not recommend, would [Page 666] enable the National Government to maintain a foothold in south China against a determined Communist advance.

Pertinent also to the problem is the withdrawal of Generalissimo Chiang Kai-shek from Nanking ‘and the temporary assumption of the President’s powers by Vice President Li Tsung-jen. The latter is endeavoring to open peace negotiations with the Chinese Communists, failing which he may be expected to withdraw to the south and continue resistance. The manner in which the Generalissimo withdrew—that is, the vagueness of his farewell statement which seems to leave the way open for his return to power, his concentration of the Government’s assets on Taiwan, the indications that he is building up Taiwan as a bastion to which he may withdraw to continue the struggle and his reported withdrawal of his “personally loyal” troops toward Fukien Province—indicates that he may be expected to reenter the scene and continue resistance from Taiwan and those areas on the mainland still under his control. Should the peace negotiations fail or should they result in such terms for the Government that the Generalissimo could reject any agreement as a “national betrayal”, he would be in a position to resume the Presidency and attempt to rally all remaining resistance forces. If the past can proclaim the future, he has some such plan in mind. It is not expected, however, that the Generalissimo himself would proceed to Canton. The chiefs of foreign missions would not, therefore, even in Canton be in touch with the head of the government to which they are accredited.

In this general connection, it should be noted that the Soviet Ambassador24 has been recalled to Moscow for consultation, thus enabling the USSR to avoid sending its Ambassador with the Chinese Government. The Embassy at Nanking has reported that the Polish and Czech Chargés d’Affaires are expected to follow the Chinese Government and the USSR may take similar action.

In his telegram no. 213 of January 25 the Ambassador reports that all Government personnel except for the very top few in each Ministry is departing from Nanking immediately for Canton and that the remaining personnel is expected to be evacuated if the peace negotiations break down or when Nanking falls, whichever comes first. The Ambassador points out that in view of the current military situation and of the imminent arrival of Communist forces on the north bank of the Yangtze River, from which point they can interdict the use of all airfields at Nanking, the feasibility of the evacuation of a portion of the Embassy staff to the provisional capital is daily lessened. He suggests, therefore, that prompt action be taken to assure U.S. diplomatic representation at Canton, along the lines previously recommended by him whereby the Minister-Counselor with a selected group of necessary staff assistants would proceed immediately to Canton.

[Page 667]

It is recommended that, pursuant to the Embassy’s suggestions, the Minister-Counselor with a small selected staff immediately follow the Government to Canton and that the Ambassador remain at Nanking. It is also recommended that the Department inform the concerned Embassies here, for communication to their governments, of the U.S. Governments decision to send the Minister-Counselor with a small staff to Canton to maintain contact with the Chinese Government, preserving the position of the Ambassador himself for future consideration, as was agreed by the chiefs of mission of the U.K., France, Netherlands, Belgium, Canada and the U.S. at Nanking on January 19 (Embassy’s telegram no. 149 of January 19). Should future developments make desirable the withdrawal of the Ambassador from Nanking, the presence there of a U.S. Navy transport, together with a small complement of U.S. Marines serving as Embassy guards, would provide the necessary facilities for his departure.

A draft telegram in the sense of the foregoing recommendations is attached.25

W. W[alton] B[utterworth]
  1. Notation by Mr. Butterworth: “Seen by the Secretary, 1/26/49.”
  2. N. V. Roschin.
  3. Not attached to file copy; see telegram No. 104. January 26, 9 p. m., to the Ambassador in China, p. 668.