CFM Files: Lot M–88: Box 152: SFM Documents

Paper Prepared in the Bureau of United Nations Affairs 1


SFM D–2/3b

Chinese Representation in the United Nations 2

1. background

The essential elements of this problem are covered in some detail in a paper on the subject which was prepared for the Foreign Ministers’ meeting of May 1950. (Document FM D F–1/13) No change is required in the basic approach of that paper, in which the conclusion was reached that the United States policy of opposition to the replacement of Chinese National Government representatives by Chinese Communists should be continued in United Nations organs.

Developments since May 1950 have on the whole probably tended to delay a change in Chinese representation in the United Nations. No other United Nations Members have joined the 16 who at that time could be said to have recognized the Peiping regime. Aside from India, the non-communist states recognizing the Chinese Communists have made virtually no headway in the establishment of normal relations with them. The open encouragement given by Peiping to the North Koreans, and Peiping’s complete acceptance of the Soviet position with respect to Korea, have furnished a new and compelling reason for postponing a change-over. Finally, the Soviet return to the Security Council on August 1 despite the continued presence of the Chinese Nationalists has deprived the Soviets of one opportunity for blackmail on the seating problem.

Important though they are, these factors have not eliminated the persistent pressures from some sources for admitting Chinese Communist representatives to the United Nations. The fact that the Peiping regime still exercises predominant control on the Chinese mainland remains a potent argument in favor of Communist representation; the President’s statement of June 27 may be construed as leaning toward implicit recognition of that control.4 As Soviet [Page 1122] American tension increases and communist imperialism moves forward in Asia, India, the United Kingdom, and some other friendly states are increasingly tempted to seat Peiping representatives in the United Nations for one or another of the following reasons: in order to encourage Chinese Titoism, pave the way for an East–West settlement, or advance particular national interests relating to China.

Thus, Jacob Malik’s5 efforts to place the Chinese representation question on the agenda of the Security Council was supported on August 3 by five affirmative votes. The United Kingdom has informed us that if the Security Council or the Assembly is asked to consider whether the Chinese Communists should or should not occupy the seat now occupied by National Government representatives, the United Kingdom when the time comes will feel obliged to vote for the Chinese Communists even if the United Kingdom vote does not secure the necessary majority. At the Assembly, it will be necessary to contend with the view of some important delegations that the seating of Chinese Nationalists will in effect leave China unrepresented, because it is the Communists alone who have the power to fulfill China’s obligations as a Member of the United Nations. Any disagreement with our Formosa policy may tend, in some quarters, to increase sympathy for the Peiping regime.

2. the problem

The problem at the moment is to determine the position to be adopted in the conversations with the British and French with regard to:

developments in the Security Council;
developments in the General Assembly.

3. recommendations

The British and French should be informed that, assuming there are no substantial changes in the situation, United States policy in these organs will take the following form. They should be urged for the sake of Western unity to adapt their policies to ours to the greatest possible extent.

a. Security Council

The United States should continue its present policy of opposing any proposals which would have the effect of unseating representatives of the Chinese National Government or seating the Chinese Communists.
The United States should use its influence to persuade other members of the Security Council that that body should not be diverted from its primary task of coping with the aggression upon the Republic [Page 1123] of Korea by a series of obstructive and repetitious attempts to exclude the Nationalists and admit the Communist representatives. The United States should also make the point that the Security Council should not seat the representatives of a regime which openly encourages aggression at this critical juncture.
In pressing for deferral of renewed consideration of the subject in the Security Council, the United States should make clear its willingness to have the matter considered on its merits at a later date, after the critical phase of the Korean conflict is past. At that time, the United States should revert to its policy of refraining from efforts to influence the decisions of other governments on this question.
There should be no change in our repeatedly expressed position that we will accept the decision of a parliamentary majority on this question in the Security Council and in all other United Nations organs, and that we do not believe the veto applies in this matter.

b. General Assembly

The United States should, as in other United Nations organs, oppose any proposals which would have the effect of seating Chinese Communist representatives rather than Chinese Nationalists. In the voting on credentials, the United States should of course vote to sustain those of the Nationalists.
The United States should use its influence to persuade other Members that, at this critical juncture in the United Nations’ struggle against aggression, the General Assembly should not seat the representatives of a regime which openly encourages the North Koreans in their defiance of the Organization.
Admitting that there is no legal linkage between the question of representation in the United Nations and the question of recognition by Member governments, the United States might point out, although this argument should not be stressed, the illogicality of seating the Chinese Communists when only 16 Members, including the Byelorussian SSR and the Ukrainian SSR, have recognized Peiping. Further, the Chinese Communists have not established normal relations with any non-communist state which recognizes them, with the exception of India.
The United States should agree that the question may be reconsidered on its merits at a later date, after the critical phase of the Korean conflict is past. The United States would not object to having the General Assembly make a comprehensive study of all aspects of the problem of how the Organization should deal with rival claimants for the seat of a Member state, including the criteria which should be used in reaching a decision, with a view to applying the results of such a study to the Chinese situation at that time.
The United States should adopt the positions indicated with respect to the three following parliamentary contingencies:
Decision at outset to continue the representation of the Chinese Nationalists pending a new decision. The United States would regard this course as the most satisfactory.
Decision at outset to continue seating Nationalists but with express stipulation that such seating is provisional only, pending the outcome of a General Assembly study. If the first course presented above is not possible of achievement, the United States would agree.
Decision at outset not to seat the representatives of either the Nationalists or the Communists. The principal objection to this course is that it would affect the standing in the Security Council of the Nationalists.
In any event, the United States would prefer a quick decision on the Chinese representation question as soon as it is raised, so that the Assembly may proceed expeditiously to the election of its officers, its general debate, and its committee discussions without being hampered by a series of Soviet propaganda speeches and diversionary maneuvers on the subject. If the issue is raised by a Soviet motion to exclude the Chinese Nationalists, this would be most likely to lead to a decision favorable to United States interests.
The United States believes that the decision by the Assembly as to whether the Chinese Nationalists or the Chinese Communists shall represent China in the General Assembly shall be decided by a straight majority vote.
If the Soviet bloc should walk out of the General Assembly in consequence of the decision taken on the representation question, the United States should act on the assumption that business will proceed as usual, as has been the case in the Security Council and almost all other United Nations organs. No concession should be made to bring about a Soviet return.
In the unlikely event of a definitive Soviet withdrawal from the United Nations, the “business as usual” policy should be followed until it has been decided what additional measures are desirable.

4. discussion

The recommendations relating to the Security Council follow the pattern of existing United States policy in this organ and require no particular comment here.
The recommendations regarding the General Assembly are intended to fall within the general framework of our existing policy on Chinese representation, with such modification as is necessary to meet the special circumstances in that body. The following points may be specially noted:
Unless the Chinese Communists fail to present credentials to the Assembly, the representation issue must arise at the beginning [Page 1125] of the session, when the Assembly considers the credentials of its members. Even if no Chinese Communist credentials are presented, the Soviets might be expected to demand the exclusion of Chinese Nationalist representatives at the very outset, as they have done in other United Nations organs.
If the issue arises through the presentation of two sets of credentials, the situation will differ from the situation in the Security Council in that the General Assembly will not be considering a move to displace an already seated Nationalist representative, but will be making a decision between two rival claimants for the Chinese seats.
It is believed that the status of the Chinese Communists as coconspirators in the North Korean aggression offers us our strongest political argument on this matter in the Assembly.
Recommendation 4, regarding a study of the general representation problem, might appropriately be undertaken in connection with an item placed on the provisional agenda of the General Assembly by Cuba, under the title “Recognition by the United Nations of representation of a Member State.”
From the standpoint of satisfactory procedure in the Assembly, and to ensure the effective presentation of our policies there, it is important that, as recommended in Paragraph 6 above, a decision on representation be taken at the very outset.
Any action in the General Assembly which resulted in failure to seat the Chinese Nationalists, either temporarily or permanently, would necessarily reflect upon their standing in the Security Council. The Chinese Nationalist vote in the Security Council is important to us, since it may at times be necessary for attainment of the parliamentary majority of seven.
The position of the United States that a simple majority vote in the Assembly should decide the Chinese representation question is based on the following reasons:
Although this question is obviously important, it is not one of the important questions listed in Article 18 of the Charter.6 As a matter of sound organizational procedure, it is necessary to facilitate decisions of the Assembly on questions which are essentially organizational in nature and it would be an unfortunate practice to permit a minority group of ⅓ of the Assembly to prevent its proper functioning. This position is analogous to the United States position that a decision on this question in the Security Council is not subject to the veto. Furthermore, unlike the situation in the Security Council, the Assembly may be faced with the problem not of excluding a delegate already seated, but of making a decision between two claimants who, as a matter of procedure, stand on equal footing until a decision is made. As indicated above it would be unfortunate if because of the failure to obtain a ⅔ majority neither claimant government could be seated. An additional consideration is the general position of the United States in respect to Assembly decisions that the categories of questions which require a ⅔ majority for decision should be [Page 1126] kept to a minimum. The maintenance of this policy is obviously in the best interests of the organization and the development of international community.

  1. Attached to the source text was a cover sheet, dated August 25, not printed, which indicated that this paper had been approved within the Department of State for use in the Foreign Ministers meetings. The first draft, SFM D–2/3, was prepared on August 18 and revised by the Working Group on August 19. The new draft, SFM D–2/3a, dated August 21, not printed, is the same as SFM D–2/3b) except for minor textual differences and sections 3b(7) and 4, Discussion, parts 2f and g, which were not present in SFM D–2/3a. (CFM Files: Lot M–88: Box 152; SFM Documents)
  2. For further documentation on Chinese representation in the United Nations, see vol ii, pp. 186 ff.
  3. Not printed, but see footnote 4, p. 864.
  4. For the text of President Truman’s statement on June 27 regarding Formosa, see Department of State Bulletin, July 3, 1950, p. 5.
  5. Yakov A. Malik, Soviet Representative to the Security Council.
  6. Article 18 provided that important questions, including those dealing with the maintenance of peace and security and the admission and expulsion of members, should be decided by two-thirds majority vote of the General Assembly, while other questions should be decided by majority vote.