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231 Eggleston to Dixon

Letter CHUNGKING, 29 June 1943

Thank you for your letter of 5th March [1] which reached me when I was on a trip to Chengtu. I hope you benefited by your trip [2] and I should be glad to hear from you when you return. It is profitless to discuss Australian politics from this distance. I see that Fadden's 'no confidence' motion was lost in spite of the fact that they got the Speaker to resign. [3] It is, of course, useless to expect perfection in politics but, on the whole, I fancy Curtin can secure the co-operation of the Labour masses better than the others could. I am rather afraid, however, that the effect of party factions will mean that the most constructive figures on each side will suffer. I am told that the opposition intend to go to the polls on the cry of 'No Socialism' which, in a world drunk with the statistical Beveridge [4], is about as promising as 'No Popery'.

We have of course been inundated with reports of Madame Chiang's outstanding successes. [5] The only thing we can say is that there are certain people who attract flattery as a magnet attracts iron filings and who are clever enough to carry it off though they do little to deserve it. Anyway, I wish she would come home and keep her old man in order. He is in a queer mood-appears to be very anti-foreign. They dare not translate his latest book for this reason. There are several signs, and this may be one of them, that the Chinese are getting desperate. Inflation is becoming uncontrollable and there is a great deal of unrest in the country.

The new foreign legations who are trying to get house room are met by demands for the most fantastic rents from the Banks and Trust Companies to whom they belong, generally with a demand for two years in advance. The result is that Canadians, Poles, Norwegians, Mexicans are practically homeless, for the most part living in filthy hotels. When Dill was here [6], he asked the Press Attache [7] how long could China last. The Press Attache said twelve months. Well that was as good or bad a guess as-next month-or next week. The fact is that if you want to insure against the breakdown of an important front, steps have to be taken at once. In May I saw no signs of this being recognised, but I see signs of a drastic change of policy in the last week or two.

I am not at all complacent about the Pacific situation mainly because I am sure that the complexity of the strategic requirements there [is] not recognised. The logistics of the Dills and Marshalls are too simple. You may think it impertinent for me to say this but I have some means of knowing what information is going or is not going to Headquarters and I say most emphatically that it is not adequate for them to make up their decisions. This is the opinion of those who are collecting it. They seem to retain the same psychology that entertained the view that Malaya and the Philippines could be defended by a couple of divisions. Ergo it can be retaken with somewhat similar forces. We treated the local inhabitants and the local organisations as if they did not exist.

This view has been found to be a profound fallacy but have we adjusted ourselves to it? Do we expect to be met by native princes throwing flowers at our feet? Are we prepared for the political and economic problems which will be involved in the reconquest? I accept the Hitler first formula. We are condemned to it not by the logic of strategy but by the fact that the many resources which are needed come from peoples who are more interested in Hitler than the Pacific but it does not do to conceal from ourselves that this can mean loss of the war for Australia, which can be avoided mainly by a much keener and more intelligent interest in the specific problems of the Pacific War than has been shown up to the present.

This is, of course, the case against complacency which I feel bound to preach. I think we shall win. I have no doubt Japan has her troubles but I see no sign of complacency on her part, only the greatest assiduity in digging in and preparing for all eventualities.

By the way did you see a statement by A.D. Rothman to the Sydney Morning Herald about the 20th May, in which there is an elaborate argument derived, he says, from sources of the most authoritative kind, against the invasion of Burma, on account of the difficulties of the terrain and the superb fighting qualities of the Japanese. [8] This defeatist attitude, which came I am sure from the Indian General Staff, is what frightens me. There is an echo of this from London by Lieutenant-General Martin of the London Daily Telegraph. Without the reconquest of Burma, the value of China as a base is small and without the full use of China, I do not see the technique of defeating Japan.

I am beginning to look forward to my furlough which I should get in eight months time. The work one needs to do here is small.

Despatches are not obligatory but I like doing them. I have spent a good deal of time lately lecturing to universities. But though the work is light there is no possibility of any relief-a change of scene or real holiday. There is only one thing to think about.

1 On file AA:A4144, 608.

2 i.e. Dixon's visit to Australia.

3 On 21 June the Speaker of the House of Representatives (W. M.

Nairn, United Australia Party M.H.R. for Perth) resigned and was replaced by J. S. Rosevear (Australian Labor Party M.H.R. for Dalley). The following day the Leader of the Opposition (A. W.

Fadden) introduced a motion of no confidence in the Curtin Govt.

This was supported by Nairn, but the Govt retained the support of the two Independent members of the House of Representatives and defeated the motion on 24 June by one vote.

4 This is probably a reference to Sir William Beveridge's report on British social and economic welfare policy.

5 On her visit to the United States.

6 Field Marshal Sir John Dill and Gen Henry H. Arnold visited Chungking in February 1943 to report to Chiang Kai-shek on the Casablanca Conference.

7 Stanley Smith, Press Attache at the British Embassy in Chungking.

8 See Sydney Morning Herald 14 May 1943, p. 5; 22 May 1943, p. 9;

28 May 1943,p. 5. Rothman was the paper's Staff Correspondent in Washington.

[AA:A4144, 609]
Last Updated: 11 September 2013

Category: International relations

Topic: History