China Political Reports

ISBN: 978-1-85207-930-7   Published: 2001
Extent: 11 volumes, 6,970 pages  Editor: R.L. Jarman
Paper: Printed on acid free paper
Binding: Library bindings
See sample pages: not available


China Political Reports 1911-1960 is a collection of reports, brought together from scattered sources, which has been established as an integrated series by Robert L. Jarman, F.R.G.S. The documents are listed in detail at the front of each volume and source references given for the benefit of scholars.
The collection begins with the 1911 annual report and ends with the annual report for 1960. Many different kinds of report come and go but the annuals are the backbone of the collection. This period covers the history of the rise of Communism in China and its effects over more than half a century. Although the period covers the First and Second World Wars the impact of these world events is almost matched for the Chinese by their internal struggles. After the declaration of the People’s Republic of China, Chinese diplomacy took a more international turn but by then the international arena had become paralysed by the effects of the cold war and the prevailing beliefs of the Great Powers were anti-Communist in nature thereby continuing the isolation of China.


This collection of political reports begins with the 1911 annual report. To summarise this report would be to say it describes the fall of the Manchu Dynasty, but any attempt to do so reveals the nature of all these reports on China. The vastness of the land area of China, the many different peoples and the different political character of the many provinces mean a level of detail that defies any attempt at simplification. Furthermore, China shares external boundaries with 14 countries to the north, west and south and has 14000 kilometres of coastline to the east.
The reports follow the dynastic ambitions of Yuan Shikai, former Commander-in-Chief of the imperial army; the rise of republicanism in China and the revolution itself; the developing struggle between Kuo Min-tang and Communists; the leadership of Dr Sun Yat Sen and later Chiang Kai-Shek, their ideological and physical battles with the Communists and the emergence of Zhou Enlai and Mao Tse Tung.
They describe the effects of the 'Long March' and the support of, and finally severance from, the Soviet Communist Party; the Japanese invasion and retaliation towards Chinese guerrilla resistance and its galvanising effect upon a previously apolitical peasantry; the Chinese civil war which saw the Kuo Min-tang, backed by the USA, retreat to Taiwan but continue to claim to be the legitimate government of China; and the installation of the new government of China, declared on 1 October 1949, under 'Chairman' Mao Tse Tung, head of the Communist Party since 1935. After the declaration of the People's Republic of China, internal politics have a less dramatic feel to them but foreign policy issues increase in importance. The war with Korea and the wider implications it had for relations with the Soviet Union and the United States of America; and relations with the bordering states of India and Tibet, in particular, feature largely in the correspondence. This collection of reports ends in 1960 with the effects of the 'Great Leap' forward of 1958 just beginning to be felt; the first suggestions of dissent within the leadership of the Communist Party; and the process of the elevation of Chairman Mao to cult status well under way.


This collection draws together the periodic political reports sent by British Officials based in China back to the British Foreign Office. Some of these reports were destined for official publication and are now located either in the Official Publications rooms of the British Museum or Cambridge University Library. Other reports were intended to be confidential and were seen only by the Foreign Secretary and permanent officials in the British Foreign Office. Such reports are generally released, after 30 years, into the public domain via the Public Record Office. Still further reports are retained by the Government indefinitely due to their perceived sensitivity.
The most important series of reports is the Annual Reports series, initiated by Sir Edward Grey in a memorandum of 6 April 1906 sent to British representatives in 46 countries. He suggested that the report should ´deal fully with events and matters of interest concerning that country which have occurred during the preceding twelve months, and should explain their bearing on its position and policy´; he also suggested topics that should be covered such as foreign relations, naval policy, the machinery of government, finance, education, and the press and its influence on public opinion.
Although the standard series of annual reports begins in 1906 we have chosen to begin this collection in 1911 as a particularly important year for China with the fall of the Manchu Dynasty. Therefore the annual reports run for 1911, 1912 and 1913 and then the Foreign Office decided to cease publication for the duration of the First World War. There are no reports for 1914 to 1918 and the series begins again in 1919. The annual reports run through to 1960 with only two exceptions: no reports can be found for either 1945 or 1949. The decision was made to carry on reporting during the Second World War, but to limit the report to a review of the year and to expand it again in peacetime. The reviews indeed continued throughout the war but remained thereafter as a review.
More frequent summaries of events were often produced in addition to annual reports and the first of these other series for China is the Quarterly Consular Summaries beginning in 1919. These were produced by the British Legation, Peking and were a summary of the intelligence reports received in Peking from all the British Consular Officers in China for each quarter. They continue more or less regularly until 30 June 1929. A memorandum dated 20 September 1929 from Sir M. Lampson at the Foreign Office notes that there is no need to continue with quarterly summaries when the actual reports are also being received in the Foreign Office.
From 1920 onwards a series of periodic despatches was forwarded to the Foreign Office to support the annual reports and quarterly summaries. These periodic reports were produced on a monthly basis until 1937 when a series called Monthly Reviews took over. The monthly reviews ran until the end of February 1949 and were themselves supported by a series of weekly news summaries from 1946 to September 1949.
By 1950 all these different periodic reports had ceased except the annual review. A new series called Peking Summaries of Events took over, produced on a tri-weekly basis, and was run in conjunction with a series of press and propaganda summaries until 1964 when they were replaced by the Weekly Peking Press Themes. In parallel, the Peking Monthly Observations start in 1961 and continue until August 1964. In 1954 the British Legation, Shanghai began a series of [Shanghai] summaries of events, press and propaganda. With its position in such a large port and its distance from Beijing, the reports arising from Shanghai have quite a different perspective from those centred in Beijing. These Shanghai Summaries continue through until the end of 1963 to be replaced by Shanghai Observations in April 1964. In January 1966 Peking Press Summaries appear and run to February 1967. Correspondingly, Shanghai Press Summaries begin in February 1966 but come to and end in July 1966.
There are two further types of report: personality reports and occasional despatches. The personality reports run from 1933 to 1949. They are a catalogue of the leading personalities in China during those years and are an extraordinary record of the political leaders, main party activists, diplomats, and industrialists of the time. The occasional despatches are not properly a series at all but are included because of the value of the information or political comment contained in them. Such reports as: ´Political Survey of Republican China, 1911-1926´ provide an invaluable background to the main reports series.
At the beginning of each volume there is a detailed contents listing and it is hoped that combined with this brief introduction to the documents the reader may easily find a route into the information contained within the collection.
[Drawn from the Editor’s Introduction]


Volume 1: 1911-1921; Volume 2: 1922-1923; Volume 3: 1924-1927; Volume 4: 1928-1932; Volume 5: 1933-1936; Volume 6: 1937-1941; Volume 7: 1942-1945; Volume 8: 1946-1948; Volume 9: 1949-1954; Volume 10: 1955-1957; Volume 11: 1958-1960; Within the volumes all the documents are arranged in strictly chronological order apart from one or two occasional reports which span a number of years. These are placed in the final year to which they refer.


Consideration of this historical material is essential for understanding contemporary political ideology and positioning. The following extract from this Peking Summary in 1951 has a familiar theme to it.
  • Extract 1: Tense US-Chinese relations, 1951
    Sir J Hutchison, Peking to Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs, London, 13 February 1951:

    "Since the passing of the United Nations resolution naming China an aggressor, the anti-American campaign has been greatly stepped up. Opposition to American ´remilitarisation´ of Japan has continued to be a prominent feature of the campaign and indeed has become part of ´oppose American´, ´helping the Koreans´ slogan. Kuo Mo Jo a vice premier has written an article to the effect that a peace treaty drawn up without the participation of China or the USSR will be a new form of American aggression and will be resolutely opposed by the Chinese and Japanese people…"
  • Extract 2: from the Personality Report for 1939, a short British Foreign Office biography of leading Chinese figures such as MaoTse-tung:
    ”Born in 1893 ... he studied principally at Changsha. In 1919 he was assistant librarian at the Peking Government University and by 1921 had become a communist attending the foundation meeting of the Chinese Communist Party in Shanghai... In 1924 he joined the Kuo Min-tang ... After the 1927 split between Kuo Min-tang and Communists Mao organised the first Red Army on the Hunan-Kiangsi border. By 1929 he was Political Commissar and Chairman of the front committee ...
    In December 1931 he was elected Chairman of the Central Soviet Government. As such he played a principal part in the famed ´Long March´ of the Red Army from Kiangsi to Shensi (1934-35). In 1937 after the Communist-Kuo Min-tang reconciliation Mao was appointed by the Central Government chairman of the 8th Route Army military council ... Mao has been appointed member of the National People´s Political Assembly is director of a "special border district" on the Kansu-Shensi line and a member of the War Senate.
    Mao is an able and attractive personality capable of arousing the enthusiasm not only of his own followers but also of many British and American publicists. One of the latter goes so far as to describe him as an accomplished scholar of classical Chinese, a deep student of history and philosophy, an able writer, a man of tireless energy, and a military and political strategist of considerable genius. He was recently reported to have married a Chinese film star.”
  • Extract 3: From the periodic despatches for October to December 1927 during the confusion and political manoeuvring within the Kuo Min-tang leadership, following Dr Sun Yat Sen´s death in 1925, especially with reference to Chiang Kai-shek, during the campaign against the southern warlords…
    “In my despatch of 22 August on the subject of the political situation in China I reported that, following on the increasing dissensions in the ranks of the Kuo Min-tang and the sudden resignation of Chiang Kai-shek, the Northern forces under Sun Chuan-fang had again taken the offensive on the Tsin-Pu Railway and had reached the northern bank of the Yang-tsze at Pukou, whence they were threatening Nanking. ... [Sun Chuan-fang] has since visited Peking and Tien-tsin to consult with and enlist the support of Chang Tso-lin and the Northern Government ...
    ... In my despatch above referred to I reported the crisis which had arisen in the relations between Governor Yen Hsi-shan of Shansi and Marshal Chang Tso-lin, and I mentioned that the Shensi and Fengtien forces had already come into armed conflict with one another near Kalgan. This skirmish turned out to be the opening engagement in a new civil war. ... a few days later heavy fighting was proceeding on two fronts, in the north along the Peking-Kalgan Railway and in the south on the Peking-Hankow line.
    ... coincident with ... developments in South China and on the middle Yang-tsze, we find Ho Ying-ch´in, now the de facto ruler of Chekiang, moving his troops up to Nanking to fill the vacuum created by the advance up river of the armies of Ch´eng Ch´ien and Li Tsung-jen, and nominally to resume the drive against the North up the Tien-tsin-Pukow line. General Ho, together with General Pai Ch´ung-hsi at Shanghai, are generally regarded as supporters of Chiang Kai-shek, and the question naturally arises whether the way is not being prepared for the return to the political scene of General Chiang, who is reported to have arrived back in Shanghai from Japan...
    As well as [the] definitive split between Canton and Nanking there were also the difference between them and the conservative ´Western hills party´ to be adjusted. Chiang Kai-shek ... now appeared as mediator between these various factions, though in reality the personal rivalry between him and Wang Ching-wei remained, as before, one of the principal factors in the situation.”