Master's Theses



Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)


Chinese-American diplomatic relations for the period 1937-1949 developed into a very controversial subject. In considering this fact the questions arose as to what the American policy toward Chiang Kai-shek and the Nationalist government was and how that policy was implemented. Through a study of available material it has been determined that the consistent American policy was to fully support Chiang Kai-shek and the Nationalist government. Chiang was the leader of the most stable faction within China and consequently gave promise of being able to serve American interests. For this reason he was selected as the agent with whom the United States would treat with in China. During the years 1937-1949 the United States furnished Chiang Kai-shek's government a considerable amount of material and financial aid. Financial assistance was the dominant form of aid furnished because American neutrality laws precluded most other forms of assistance. In furnishing financial aid to China during this period President Franklin D. Roosevelt was forced to find ways to maneuver around the neutrality laws. After 1941, the United States was unable to furnish any large amounts of material assistance to China for the war in Europe consumed the larger portion of American production and during the war years, 1942-1945, aid given China was small compared to that sent to other Allied nations. Because of the comparatively small quantity of aid the United States could send to China, President Roosevelt developed the policy of bestowing "great power” status upon China despite British and Russian objections. In following the policy of supporting Chiang Kai-shek, President Roosevelt made concessions to Chiang in order to placate the Chinese leader, promote more cordial relations, and keep China in the war. Opposition developed, during the l ate war years, among American officials to unqualified support of Chiang Kai-shek. Some American officials thought that Chiang was merely taking all of the American aid he could get, then conserving his forces for a future struggle with the Chinese Communists f or control of China. There is evidence to support this viewpoint. Going into the postwar years, 1945-1949, American policy was still inclined to support Chiang Kai-shek in his position of leadership. During this period American policy changed as the United States government came to favor a unified coalition Chinese government although retention of Chiang Kai-shek as head of that government was still favored despite the fact that some American officials advocated dropping Chiang. In an attempt to bring order into the chaotic internal conditions of China due to the civil war, the mission to China of General George C. Marshall was arranged. The Marshall Mission ultimately failed to bring about an agreement between the Nationalists and the Communists and the civil war continued. A final effort on the part of the United States to find some effective means of supporting Chiang Kai-shek and keeping him in power came in July, 1947 when the fact finding mission to China of General Albert C. Wedemeyer was arranged. His mission also failed to bring about any concrete results in regard to assisting Chiang Kai-shek. Recommendations in Wedemeyer's report, if followed, would have required a commitment of American troops far larger than the United States was willing to make. The American government was caught in a dilemma: a decision was necessary but the American people would not support sending large numbers of troops, Chiang would not follow American suggestions and Russia was a constant threat. Once again, America was "too late with too little" and the mainland was lost to Chiang and Chiang's value as America’s agent in China was destroyed.


Eugene R. Craine

Date of Award

Summer 1962

Document Type

Thesis - campus only access


© 1962 Francis Eugene Jones


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