Statement by Secretary of State Dean Acheson, August 5, 1949
The reasons for the failures of the Chinese National Government . . . do not stem
from any inadequacy of American aid. Our military observers on the spot have reported that
the Nationalist armies did not lose a single battle during the crucial year of 1948
through lack of arms or ammunition. The fact was that the decay which our observers had
detected in Chungking early in the war had fatally sapped the powers of resistance of the
Kuomintang. Its leaders had proved incapable of meeting the crisis confronting them, its
troops bad lost the will to fight, and its Government bad lost popular support. The
Communists, on the other hand, through a ruthless discipline and fanatical zeal, attempted
to sell themselves as guardians and liberators of the people. The Nationalist armies did
not have to be defeated; they disintegrated. History has proved again and again that a
regime without faith in itself and an army without morale cannot survive the test of
battle. . . .
The historic policy of the United States of friendship and aid toward the people of
China was, however, maintained in both peace and war. Since V-J Day, the United States
Government has authorized aid to Nationalist China in the form of grants and credits
totaling approximately 2 billion dollars, an amount equivalent in value to more than 50
percent of the monetary expenditures of the Chinese Government and of proportionately
greater magnitude in relation to the budget of that Government than the United States has
provided to any nation of Western Europe since the end of the war. In addition to these
grants and credits, the United States Government has sold the Chinese Government large
quantities of military and civilian war surplus property with a total procurement cost of
over I billion dollars, for which the agreed realization to the United States was 232
million dollars. A large proportion of the military supplies furnished the Chinese armies
by the United States since V-J Day has, however, fallen into the hands of the Chinese
Communists through the military ineptitude of the Nationalist leaders, their defections
and surrenders, and the absence among their forces of the will to fight.
It has been urged that relatively small amounts of additional aid-military and
economic-to the National Government would have enabled it to destroy communism in China.
The most trustworthy military, economic, and politic al information available to our
Government does not bear out this view.
A realistic appraisal of conditions in China, past and present, leads to the conclusion
that the only alternative open to the United States was full-scale intervention in behalf
of a Government which bad lost the confidence of its own troops and its own people. Such
intervention would have required the expenditure of even greater sums than have been
fruitlessly spent thus far, the command of Nationalist armies by American officers, and
the probable participation of American armed forces-land, sea, and air-in the resulting
war. Intervention of such a scope and magnitude would have been resented by the mass of
the Chinese people, would have diametrically reversed our historic policy, and would have
been condemned by the American people. . . .
The unfortunate but inescapable fact is that the ominous result of the civil war in
China was beyond the control of the government of the United States. Nothing that this
country did or could have done within the reasonable limits of its capabilities could have
changed that result; nothing that was left undone by this country has contributed to it.
It was the product of internal Chinese forces, forces which this country tried to
influence but could not. A decision was arrived at within China, if only a decision by
And now it is abundantly clear that we must face the situation as it exists in fact. We
will not help the Chinese or ourselves by basing our policy on wishful thinking. We
continue to believe that, however tragic may be the immediate future of China and however
ruthlessly a major portion of this great people may be exploited by a party in the
interest of a foreign imperialism, ultimately the profound civilization and the democratic
individualism of China will reassert themselves and she will throw off the foreign yoke. I
consider that we should encourage all developments in China which now and in the future
work toward this end.
In the immediate future, however, the implementation of our historic policy of
friendship for China must be profoundly affected by current developments. It will
necessarily be influenced by the degree to which the Chinese people come to recognize that
the Communist regime serves not their interests but those of Soviet Russia and the manner
in which, having become aware of the facts, they react to this foreign domination. One
point, however, is clear. Should the Communist regime lend itself to the aims of Soviet
Russian imperialism and attempt to engage in aggression against China's neighbors, we and
the other members of the United Nations would be confronted by a situation violative of
the principles of the United Nations Charter and threatening international peace and
Meanwhile our policy will continue to be based upon our own respect for the Charter,
our friendship for China, and our traditional support for the Open Door and for China's
independence and administrative and territorial integrity.