026 China/7–2149

The Secretary of Defense (Johnson) to the Secretary of State

My Dear Mr. Secretary: I am leaving with you a copy of the views of the Joint Chiefs of Staff concerning the China White Paper. They were handed to me as I was leaving the office and I am giving them to you in advance of a letter explaining my position. This letter will reach you later in the day.

Sincerely yours,

Louis Johnson

Memorandum by the Joint Chiefs of Staff to the Secretary of Defense (Johnson)

Subject: The China White Paper.

This memorandum is in response to your memorandum, dated 16 July 1949,38 in which the comments of the Joint Chiefs of Staff on the China White Paper, with draft letter of transmittal to the President,39 [Page 1378]both prepared by the Department of State, were requested as a matter of urgency.
In view of the urgency of this matter and the voluminous nature of the State Department document, it has been impossible to determine the precision of the innumerable statements of fact and figures, contained therein. The document and its letter of transmittal, however, have been carefully read and considered, and, on this basis, the following comments are made.
The draft letter transmitting the China White Paper from the Secretary of State to the President summarizes very well the tenor and the general content of the China White Paper. It is recommended that it be carefully read.
The China White Paper is consistent with its title, “A Record of the Years 1944–49 with an Historical Introduction”. It is most comprehensive and its documentation is extensive. The chapter headings of the Paper itself indicate the contents of the eight chapters. The Record includes not only a chronology of the events which took place, but also comment and opinion regarding these events, either direct or in the form of concurrent quoted statements, messages, and reports.
Quotation of these statements, messages, and reports raises certain possibly serious questions with respect to the security of classified documents and the security of our cryptographic systems. With respect to classification, it is noted that messages and reports originated by General Stilwell are quoted in Chapter III, that messages originated by Lieut. General Wedemeyer (in his capacity as Commanding General of United States Armed Forces in the China Theater) are quoted in Chapter V, and that messages and a final report by Major General Barr40 are quoted in Chapter VII. Since the Department of the Army is the official custodian of this material, the question of declassification as necessary should be handled with that Department.
With respect to cryptographic security, not only military, but also Department of State communications that have been transmitted by electrical means are involved. Expert opinion is that, because of interrelationship of the various cryptographic arrangements, jeopardy to the security of our departmental system constitutes jeopardy to the security of other departmental systems. Therefore, unless appropriate steps are taken by means of effective paraphrasing where necessary and omission of unduly specific data, cryptographic compromise of serious national security consequence might result.
The Joint Chiefs of Staff, although they believe that this question has been considered in the compilation of the China White Paper, have been unable to assure themselves that the risk of compromise has been completely removed. Therefore, although they realize and regret that delay in preparation of the paper in its final form will, because of the great volume of material that may be in question, thereby be entailed, they must recommend, as a matter of military responsibility, that the United States Communications Intelligence Board be designated to consider the question of cryptographic security with respect to the China White Paper and to assist as necessary in insuring that the Paper meets cryptographic security requirements.
It should particularly be noted that the China White Paper contains nothing, either direct or by implication, in any way critical of or derogatory to the National Military Establishment or to any of its Departments or their personnel. On the contrary, the contents of the Paper place the National Military Establishment in a creditable light throughout.
The China White Paper, as indicated in its letter of transmittal, amounts largely to a report intended to establish, step by step, the impracticability of the United States having prevented development of the present China situation without massive overt intervention. It contains no specific consideration of future possible developments in China, nor does it make any proposals with respect to the future position or action of the United States regarding China. The letter of transmittal from the Secretary of State to the President does, however, contain in its last three paragraphs an indication of what might hereafter in general be our China policy.
In the light of the foregoing brief description, and subject to the action recommended in paragraphs 5 to 7 above in the interest of assuring classification and cryptographic security, the Joint Chiefs of Staff perceive no major strictly military objection to publication of the China White Paper. There are, however, as discussed below, certain indirect military implications and other points of military interest in the Paper which they feel should be covered.
Apart from security considerations, decision as between publication and nonpublication of the China White Paper is manifestly beyond the cognizance of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. Nevertheless, if publication should result in materially decreasing or postponing the possibility of containing or reversing the Communist trend in China, this would have very grave national security implications in view of the enormous differential, strategically speaking, between a friendly and a Soviet-controlled or Soviet-allied China.
While the China White Paper is primarily factual and, on the whole, lets the record speak for itself, the cumulative effect of its many [Page 1380]hundreds of pages of fact, opinion, and clarifying comment is one that is highly derogatory to Generalissimo Chiang Kai-Shek and the Chinese Nationalist Government. Regardless of whether or not the unfavorable conclusions inevitably to be drawn from the contents of the Paper as to their character and intelligence are fair, the record as compiled risks the incurrence of their deep and lasting resentment. This, because of racial and national pride, might also be the reaction of the Chinese people as a whole.
Unavoidably, the Paper, in recording so extensively the shortcomings of the Nationalist Government, makes it possible readily to draw the inference that the Chinese Communist Party is, by contrast, far less culpable. Although such an inference is certainly not intended, and both the Paper and its letter of transmittal make it clear that Communist domination of China is altogether unacceptable to the United States Government, their contents in many respects could prove very valuable for use as Communist propaganda.
It can be foreseen that the Paper in its demonstration of the relative futility to date of United States assistance to China, might cause public disinclination to support any future Chinese assistance. The point here is not one of whether or not additional assistance should be later undertaken, perhaps on different terms and in the light of unpredictable future developments. It is simply that flexibility of Governmental decision might be jeopardized.
Paragraphs 11 to 14 above are based solely on the conviction of the Joint Chiefs of Staff that the military implications of an irrevocably Communist China are very serious in terms of our national security. Admittedly, the situation there is indicative now of an almost overwhelmingly Communist trend. The Communist successes in China, however, make it all the more important that there be no avoidable obstacle to any steps that may be found practicable for containing or reversing that trend. Publication of the China White Paper might well constitute such an obstacle.
In connection with the foregoing possible implications of the China White Paper, the Joint Chiefs of Staff note that the over-all question of United States Asiatic policy, a matter of extreme and far-reaching importance in terms of our national security, is now under consideration by the National Security Council. They note, as previously stated, that the Paper itself does not embody any specific considerations of future possible developments in China or of future United States policy regarding China, but that the Paper’s letter of transmittal contains in its last three paragraphs some general consideration of our future China policy.
It is the considered opinion of the Joint Chiefs of Staff that neither the document nor the letter of transmittal should undertake [Page 1381]consideration of future Chinese developments or policy, since this would tend to influence and restrict in advance the National Security Council’s conclusions as to our Asiatic policy. Furthermore, if consideration of our future China policy is to be retained in the letter of transmittal, the Joint Chiefs of Staff are not prepared to agree that the policy generally outlined in the letter’s last three paragraphs is, from the military viewpoint, necessarily best.
The China White Paper contains many messages and reports originated by General Marshall, General Stilwell, Major General Hurley, Lieutenant General Wedemeyer, and Major General Barr. The Joint Chiefs of Staff feel that it should be made clear that the opinions of these officers, as reflected in their messages and reports, are their personal and individual opinions and do not directly commit the National Military Establishment to their views, and that Lieut. General Wedemeyer and Major General Barr, who are still on active duty, have not reviewed the portions of the Paper and letter of transmittal dealing with their messages and reports. General Marshall, Major General Hurley, and Lieut. General Wedemeyer (during his special mission status) were not, in fact, functioning as representatives of the National Military Establishment when their opinions were expressed. In all cases, there would be an impression, if uncorrected, that the National Military Establishment’s official views have had much greater influence than actually was the case on the course of our Governmental policy towards China to date. This might extend even to an impression that the National Military Establishment had collaborated in, rather than commented on, the Paper.
The Joint Chiefs of Staff object to the publication of the China White Paper until (a) there is assurance that there exists no cryptographic compromise (b) action has been taken to assure that there exists full authority for declassification of material of which the Department of the Army is the custodian. Further, they wish to emphasize that:
They are not committed to agreement, from the military viewpoint, with all the views expressed or implied therein;
They reserve their opinion regarding the question of future United States policy toward China pending consideration of this question by the National Security Council;
The action recommended in paragraph 7 above is essential as a precaution against possible cryptographic compromise of serious national security implications; and
They earnestly believe that the China White Paper should be published only after the fullest consideration of all comments and suggestions contained herein.

For the Joint Chiefs of Staff:
Louis Denfeld

Admiral, U.S. Navy
  1. Memorandum not received by the Department.
  2. For letter of transmittal, dated July 30, see Department of State, United States Relations With China (Washington, Government Printing Office, 1949), p. iii.
  3. Maj. Gen. David G. Barr, Director of the Joint U.S. Military Advisory Group (JUSMAG) in China; for further correspondence, see pp. 472 ff.