249. Editorial Note

At the 391st meeting of the National Security Council on December 18, 1958, Director of Central Intelligence Allen Dulles commented on political developments in the People’s Republic of China during his briefing on significant world developments. The relevant portion of the memorandum of discussion by Marion W. Boggs, December 18, reads as follows:

“Mr. Dulles said that [2-½ lines of source text not declassified] Mao is giving up his position because he is not well and wishes to divest himself of some ceremonial functions; there appears to be no friction in the Chinese Communist leadership serious enough to cause the change. Mao will remain the No. 1 man in Communist China. Mr. Dulles Felt Mao’s move should be studied carefully, even though no great change in the structure of the Chinese Government was involved. Perhaps the move could be exploited in propaganda. Mr. Dulles promised the Council a briefing at a later date on the Chinese Communist commune program.” (Eisenhower Library, Whitman File, NSC Records)

The reference is to Mao Tse-tung’s decision to retire from his position as head of state. The decision was announced on December 17, but press reports based on Nationalist intelligence sources had been published earlier; information on this subject is in telegram 1095 to Hong Kong, December 13, and telegram 3197 to London, December 15. (Department of State, Central Files, 793.00/12–1358 and 793.00/12–1558, respectively)

At the 392d meeting of the Council on December 23, Dulles again commented on Chinese political developments in his briefing. The relevant portion of the memorandum of discussion by Boggs, December 23, reads as follows:

“Mr. Dulles said CIA had obtained an interesting Chinese Communist public document, i.e., the resolution of the Central Committee accepting Mao’s resignation as Chief of State. This document represents the first attempt to apply the brakes since the commune system was adopted. While reproving officials who have pushed the commune system too far, it reiterates the objective of obliterating the old society and announces some modifications in the commune system, e.g. some private property is to be permitted. One amusing item is the assertion mat cooks must be chosen from the ranks of those who are politically reliable. Mr. Dulles believed the commune situation in China provided us with a great psychological warfare opportunity. He also noted that the Soviets dislike the commune system.” (Eisenhower Library, Whitman File, NSC Records)

The reference is to a resolution adopted by the Chinese Communist Party Central Committee on December 10 and issued on December 17; the text is in Communist China, 1955–1959: Policy Documents With Analysis (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1962), pages 488–503.