Marshall in China (1945 - 1947)

George Marshall in China
George Marshall in China

George Marshall (1880–1959) was one of the architects of the Allied World War II victory in Europe. In an attempt to prevent civil war in China after victory over Japan, U.S. president Harry S. Truman appointed Marshall special ambassador to China in November 1945.

He was charged with helping the Nationalist, or Kuomintang (KMT), government reestablish its authority in areas that had been controlled by Japan during the war, including Manchuria, but without involving the United States in direct military intervention. He was also to urge Nationalist leader Chiang Kai-shek to convene a national conference to establish a united democratic government, making U.S. aid to his government contingent on achieving that goal.

Marshall arrived in China's wartime capital, Chongqing (Chungking), in December 1945 and obtained agreement by both the KMT and the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) to appoint a representative each to a committee under his chairmanship that would work out the terms of cooperation.

On January 10, 1946, both sides agreed to commence an immediate cease-fire, to convene a Political Consultative Conference that would work on the terms for forming a coalition government, and to work toward the integration of KMT and CCP military units into a national army. Happy with his success, Marshall returned to the United States in March, and President Truman announced the establishment of a U.S. military mission to China to help it train a national army.

Because of a history of bitter relations, the KMT and the CCP mistrusted each other, nor did either party trust Marshall, but they paid him lip service because he represented the powerful United States. Civil war resumed in April 1946 and initially went well for the Nationalists, who announced the convening of a national assembly in November 1946 to write a constitution for the nation.

The CCP immediately announced that it would boycott the national assembly. Realizing that the United States had totally failed to mediate an end to the Chinese Civil War, Truman recalled Marshall in January 1947 and stopped most aid to China. Marshall issued a farewell message before leaving China in which he blamed both Chinese parties for the failure of his mediation.

On the other hand, each Chinese party accused Marshall of partiality toward the other. The Nationalist government felt abandoned by the United States. Marshall was appointed secretary of state upon his return.

He ignored the report of a fact-finding mission led by General Albert Wedemeyer concerning a continued U.S. role in China and decided on a hands-off policy in Chinese affairs. The CCP won the civil war in 1949.