The Cairo Conference November 1943

The Cairo Conference represented a significant shift in Allied strategy against Japan, but also in their relationship with China. Held between 22nd and 26th November 1943, it was attended by British Prime Minister Winston Churchill, US President Franklin D. Roosevelt and Chairman of the Chinese National Government Chiang Kai-shek, and aimed to formulate a strategy to counterattack the Empire of Japan. The Cairo Declaration, issued as a result of the conference, demanded Japan’s unconditional surrender and return of occupied lands, issued support for Korean independence after the war, and reaffirmed China’s status as one of the four world powers. The conference was also used to formulate a strategy for Allied co-operation in the counter-attack on Burma, to offer China military aid, and to return Taiwan and Manchuria to the Republic of China.

In this telegram, Chiang Kai-shek thanks Churchill for his ‘courtesy and hospitality’ shown to him and his wife during their stay in Cairo, and speaks to the ‘close relationship’ between Britain and China being ‘further strengthened as a result of our personal contact’. While Churchill had initially sought to discuss military matters with President Roosevelt alone, feeling that Chinese affairs, which he saw as less important, would simply interrupt matters, the result of the conference was more amicable than expected. Chiang described Churchill as ‘far-sighted and sophisticated’, while Churchill felt that Chiang was ‘calm, poised and agile’. Chiang’s wife Soong Mei-ling, also mentioned in this telegram, played a crucial part of negotiations, acting as Chiang’s interpreter and succeeded in winning support for the Chinese cause.

While many of the promises made at the conference were not implemented, this conference, and this telegram, represented a symbolic change in the Sino-British relationship during WWII. After the outbreak of the Pacific war a joint allied declaration declared all ‘Unequal Treaties’ of the past century were voided, and the territorial integrity of China recognised. By November 1943, Chinese forces advanced to Northern Burma against the Japanese and inflicted significant casualties against the Japanese at Changde. China under Chiang Kai-Shek was beginning to stand up, to modernise and unify and to be recognised in the post-war settlement as a power who deserved a seat at the table.

CHAR 20/125/26

View documents at Churchill Archive