026 China/7–2949

Memorandum by the Secretary of State to President Truman

Subject: China White Paper

1. Present Status of Preparation

Final revisions and corrections have been made and all revised copy has gone to the Government Printing Office. Advance unbound copies of the entire book are to be delivered at noon today.

2. Checks and clearances

The entire document, partly in galley proof and partly in typescript, was submitted to the National Military Establishment on July 15. Secretary Johnson transmitted the views of the Joint Chiefs of Staff on July 21.

The question of security was referred with the entire document to the United States Communications Intelligence Board which reported to the Secretary of Defense on July 25 that they were satisfied that publication of the document would not compromise the cryptographic security of the United States.

In regard to the declassification of certain documents transmitted through military channels or secured from the National Military Establishment files, clearance was secured from General Wedemeyer.

Revised galley proofs were carefully checked by officers of the Department of State and various individual officers of the Department especially assigned to this task.

3. Review of Basic Question of Policy in Regard to the Publication of the Paper

In the light of various doubts and criticisms which came to the attention of the Department and in view particularly of the general considerations set forth on behalf of the National Military Establishment by the Joint Chiefs of Staff and Secretary Johnson,44 the basic policy question of the desirability of publication has been thoroughly considered and reviewed. In the light of these comments and this reconsideration, the final decision regarding publication is referred to you with my recommendation that the decision to publish should be reaffirmed.

The Joint Chiefs of Staff reported to the Secretary of Defense that the decision as between publication and nonpublication was beyond their cognizance but they felt it incumbent upon them to report their [Page 1389] views to the Secretary of Defense. The points to which they called attention as requiring careful consideration are the following:

The possibility that publication would decrease or postpone the possibility of containing or reversing the Communist trend in China.
The risk that publication would incur the “deep and lasting resentment” of the Generalissimo and the National Government.
The inference that, because of the necessarily greater emphasis on the National Government, the United States might seem to display some favor toward the Chinese Communists.
The possibility that publication might cause public disinclination to support any future Chinese assistance if it subsequently should be decided that additional assistance should be undertaken. This point is stated merely in terms of the risk of jeopardizing the flexibility of the United States Government.
The possibility that the statements contained in the Letter of Transmittal might restrict the flexibility of the United States Government in determining future policy in the Far East and might influence or restrict in advance the National Security Council’s consideration of this question.

The foregoing considerations are all ones which were in mind when the question of the publication of the White Paper was originally considered. Nevertheless, they have again been restudied. It is impossible to deny that there are certain risks involved in the publication of such a document. On the other hand, the basic necessity of informing Congressional and public opinion regarding the facts in order that future policy may be made on the basis of realism and comprehension of the situation is believed to outweigh the risks involved. It must be anticipated that the publication of the Paper will cause a renewed storm of attack from certain quarters and that it will probably have a depressing effect on the Chinese National Government. It is not possible to estimate exactly whether in the long run it will stimulate those changes in the organization and attitude of the non-Communist Chinese which are essential to their becoming an effective ally in our struggle to contain Communist in Asia.

Consideration has also been given to the fact that both members of Congress and the public are aware that the Paper is being prepared and that a decision not to publish would be the basis for other attacks. In the hearings before the House Committee on Foreign Affairs on July 28, members of the Committee urged that the document be made available to them as soon as possible. The consideration of this element, however, has not been allowed to outweigh the more basic factors indicated by the National Military Establishment.

4. Time of Release

If you now determine that the White Paper should be published, [Page 1390] the time of publication would be determined by me in accordance with the following schedule and factors:

The document will not be released until Ambassador Stuart is out of China.
While there are plausible arguments for timing the date of publication with the anticipated fall of Canton, it is believed that no exact correlation with events in China is necessary. On the other hand, the lapse of some additional time is likely to bring out the situation in Chinda more clearly and to reduce the force of the possible argument that the publication has had some effect upon the defense of Canton.
The volume will be ready for distribution by Monday, August 1 but can be kept secret for a period of time thereafter.
From the point of view of distribution both in this country and abroad and from the point of view of briefing committees of the Congress and making the necessary statements to the press, it seems desirable to schedule release of the document either late in the week of August 1 or early in the following week. Drafts of statements which might be made to the press by you and by me in our press conferences would be submitted to you on Monday, August 1.

Preparations for the presentation of the Paper to the Committees of the Senate and House and materials for the briefing of the press are now in course of final preparation and will be available by the middle of next week.

In light of the foregoing I recommend that, subject to your decision as to publication, the exact timing of the public release be left to my discretion.

  1. Attached to this memorandum were the two letters dated July 21 from the Secretary of Defense and the reply dated July 26, pp. 1377, 1382, and 1386, respectively.