Reading Eagle (November 3, 1944)
ON THE RECORD —
The Chinese crisis
By Dorothy Thompson
It is probably just as well that the recall of Lt. Gen. Joseph W. Stilwell from China has lifted the veil on conditions there. Correspondents who have returned from the Far East have discussed the situation privately with anxiety for years. Toward none of our allies, considered as a people, are American hearts warmer than toward the Chinese. The dogged sacrificial heroism of the Chinese common soldier has been confirmed by every American reporting on China,
Nor were we, for a time, in a position to make criticisms of the conduct of the Chiang regime, Stilwell went to China as hardly more than a token of good will, and a promise substantially to aid, as and when we could. No officer ever undertook a more thankless mission. I believe that at least one general turned it down, before Stilwell said laconically: Okay. When do I start?
But with the epochal naval victory in the waters of the Philippines, the war in the Far East enters a new phase, and American prestige has skyrocketed in the Pacific area. So, it became necessary both to clear up certain matters as a preface to new operations, and possible to take a stand in good grace. If the withdrawal of Stilwell is confirmation of a diplomatic failure it is dubious whether our prestige suffers as badly as the Generalissimo’s.
For Lt. Gen. Stilwell is not a man who cares about prestige – certainly not about his own. If he did, he never would have undertaken his mission in the first place. Stilwell is an American patriot, a warm and sincere friend of China, whose language he speaks fluently, and over and above everything else, a soldier. Although the President said in his press conference that it was all just a personal matter – which is the diplomatic way for the head of a state to put it – the personal matter extends to the American Ambassador, Clarence E. Gauss, who has resigned and is on his way home.
The sad truth is that diplomatically and politically we have recognized China as the fourth power on earth, which she potentially is, but as a promise of future greatness and not as an existing fact.
The existing fact is that China is not yet an organized national state, but a country that has been fighting a civil war since 1911, and a foreign war for seven years, without pacifying the internal struggles. We have three Chinese areas: The one controlled by the Japanese; the one controlled by the Chinese “Communists,” who are in reality radical agrarian reformers with attractions toward the Soviet Union, but as a party more independent of Russia than any other Communist Party has been; and, third, the Chung-King area of Chiang’s Kuomintang.
The three areas are at war with each other, and two of them at war with Japan. Constant attempts have been made, with American support, to end this feud, which is tying up, from Chiang’s side an estimated three to five hundred thousand men, and from both sides, from six hundred thousand to one million men.
The opening of the Pacific offers possibilities of fighting the Japs, in other ways than from the interior of China. If we should have a united Chinese Army on the Asiatic mainland, it would be worthwhile to surmount the fantastic difficulties of supplying such a force. But if, on the other hand, this Chinese force is paralyzed within itself, and the leader of the Chinese state unwilling to accept an impartial American command, which might be able to cement the politically divergent forces for military purposes, then every expert on logistics would, I think, say that we should use our ships to reach the Pacific shorelines of China, there create a force of our own, and continue the war against Japan as an amphibious operation, thus putting to fullest use our present naval supremacy.
Also it is an open secret that we hope that with victory in Europe the Soviet Union might join us against Japan and there are compelling reasons why the Soviets might do so, But certainly they will not join us, in order to consolidate in China, the country with which they have the longest land frontier, a regime bitterly hostile to them. There, as in Europe, the Soviets will consider their future security. If Chiang can compromise Chinese differences on a democratic basis, he would be acceptable to the Soviets. If he wants to force a one-sided solution, he will be unacceptable.