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CHINA: Sliding Scale

2 minute read

General George Marshall, back in his Chungking mediation job, wanted to find out the price for which the newly rampaging Chinese Communists would settle. He asked Lo Lung-chi, head of the pinko Democratic League, to find out. Lo had a talk with Communist Negotiator Chou Enlai, then Lo spilled enough beans to make the Chinese situation clearer than it has been for many a week.

The Communists, said Lo, wanted to revise upward the 1-to-5 ratio of Red troops to Government troops in Manchuria, agreed upon last February. Marshall was furious with Lo for telling the press that Marshall had said he would guarantee an agreement in 24 hours if the Communists would clearly state their demands. Chou, who hopes to keep the situation as fluid as possible, was equally furious because loquacious Lo had revealed a specific Red demand.

Chou then said: “At the time we signed the [February] agreement we did it with the view that we had made a large concession to secure peace. This failed, and the situation in Manchuria has undergone much change.” The change had been brought about by Chou’s party, which continued to send troops into Manchuria, continued to pick up roving partisans in the area. Now Chou, having broken the February agreement, was demanding a higher price for a new agreement.

Chiang Kai-shek was on the defensive. Harbin and Tsitsihar had fallen last week to the Reds. At a Chungking tea party the Generalissimo decided to postpone calling the National Assembly because the Communists refused to participate. Some of Chiang’s advisers feared that time was now on the side of the Communists; because hungry, strife-torn China might blame the Government for failure to restore the peace the Reds had broken.

Chungking observers believed that Chiang was willing to make further concessions if he could find the solution to one all-important question: if the Government and the Reds reached a new accord, what was to prevent the Reds from violating that too, creating another “changed situation” and demanding a still higher price for the peace China needs? Said a high Government official: “[The Communists] want us to agree to an unconditional truce, because this would legalize their attempt to overthrow the [military] agreement.”

George Marshall’s present task looked at least as tough as the one he had faced last winter.

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