CA files, lot 59 D 228, 410 file

No. 94
The Ambassador in the Republic of China (Rankin) to the Director of the Office of Chinese Affairs (McConaughy)

top secret
eyes only

Dear Walter: I have been disturbed by the tone of various telegrams from the Department during recent weeks. Hence this letter, which I wish you would discuss with Assistant Secretary Robertson. You may let him read it, but I should prefer not to have it circulate further in the Department.

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The matter has been pointed up, of course, by the numerous exchanges regarding Chinese forces in Burma.1 We have tried to be dispassionate in our handling of this case, carrying out instructions as literally and fully as possible and passing along to the Department such incidental information as came to us but with no assumption of responsibility for its accuracy. In fact, as you will have noted, my fear has been that in general the reports available to the Department on this subject were not sufficiently reliable or comprehensive to provide a basis for action. Be that as it may, the wording of some of the Department’s telegrams to us leads me to believe that they were drafted by persons probably uninformed as to the background of this case and in certain instances apparently lacking in objectivity as regards the Chinese National Government. (I exclude the possibility of a deliberate attempt to deceive me, although there is precedent for such a course in the Burma matter.)

I realize that our policy toward China and other countries is undergoing careful revision at the present time, and I have no wish to hurry these proceedings. Without committing ourselves in other respects, however, there are two points on which early decisions seem necessary.

The first point relates to the attitude which the United States Government proposes to assume toward the Government of the Republic of China. Is our approach to be characterized by evident dislike and distrust of the Chinese National regime? Are we to emphasize its faults and to pounce avidly upon every critical report in the hope of finding some reason to administer a scolding? Are we to proceed on the assumption that this Government is not to be trusted, either as regards its operations in general or as a repository for confidences touching upon matters of mutual interest? In general, are we to extend “small nation treatment”, characterized by a patronizing and superior attitude of distaste? (I have deliberately exaggerated the wording of these questions in some degree in order to make my point.)

Or, on the other hand, should we treat Free China as we do our more favored friends among the free nations? Should we return friendship for evidences of friendship unless and until the latter prove false? Should we trust the Chinese with information and responsibility to the extent that they may prove themselves no less worthy of such trust than others? While not ignoring their faults, should we work with the Chinese on the basis of their relative cooperativeness, reliability and effectiveness in building strength to oppose Communism?

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Without going into particulars, which would only becloud the issue, you will know which recent telegrams and past experiences have prompted me to write the two foregoing paragraphs. Such questions should be answered as quickly as possible, both as a basis for policy development and as a guide to our practical day-to-day relations here in Formosa. If American policy is to be based upon sufferance rather than cooperation, then our huge military aid program and plans for military cooperation with the Chinese should be reconsidered and probably curtailed drastically.

The second consideration is dependent indirectly upon the first. It is the very practical matter of the amount of economic aid needed during the next fiscal year. Our military program for Formosa may well be the largest anywhere in proportion to the economic resources of the country involved. The greater part of our so-called economic aid actually serves to support the military program, and is already inadequate to do so properly. While we are seeking places to trim our expenditures for aid, therefore, it should be borne in mind that if the present military program for Formosa is to be carried out effectively, even with no thought of expansion, we must have a modest increase in economic assistance over the present level. The common method of applying an across-the-board slash in economic aid programs might well be ruinous here unless our military program is to be cut by a far greater percentage.

[Here follows a paragraph proposing an informal meeting in Bangkok between Rankin and the United States Ambassadors to Burma and Thailand.]

Kindest personal regards,

Sincerely yours,

  1. For documentation concerning this subject, see volume XII, Part 2.