NANKING, Jan. 21, 1949 (UP) - Generalissimo Chiang Kai-shek headed for exile today, taking a leave of absence as president of Nationalist China to clear the way for negotiations with the Chinese Communists to end China's three-year civil war.
Vice President Li Tsung-jen, an ardent peace advocate, took over as head of the Nationalist government, and the cabinet immediately named four leaders to proceed to Communist headquarters at Yenan to plead for an immediate cease-fire and opening of peace negotiations.
The Communist radio, two hours after Chiang's departure, rejected in a broadcast the cease-fire appeal. But this broadcast apparently was prepared before it was known that Chiang would step down.
Li received the resignations of Premier Sun Fo and his entire cabinet, but it was not expected they would be accepted.
Chiang, long China's strong-arm man, bade farewell to his people in a 300-word statement expressing hope for peace, and then left Nanking aboard his private plane for Hangchow, 150 miles to the south, from where he motored to his home town of Fenghua, in Chekiang Province.
It was expected to be only the first step along a road that would lead to his eventual exile in Formosa, where much of his personal property already had been sent. His next stop was expected to be Foochow, on the China coast opposite Formosa.
But the 61-year-old generalissimo did not close the door to his possible return in the event no peace agreement can be reached with the Communists.
He did not in his farewell statement announce his definite resignation as president. He used instead a Chinese phrase meaning "leave of absence."
Meanwhile T.V. Soong, Chiang's brother-in-law, resigned as governor of Kwantung Province. Soong, who is well known in the United States, has arrived in Nanking and there were reports he may succeed Wellington Koo as ambassador to the U.S.
An official source said that Madame Chiang, now in New York on a visit to the United States, would return to China soon to join her husband in exile.
Reports from Peiping indicated separate peace discussions in that northern nationalist bastion were well advanced. All restrictions on the movement of residents in and out of the city gates were ended today. Demolition of buildings within the Nationalist defense zone outside the wall also was ended.