Memorandum by the United Nations Adviser, Bureau of Far Eastern Affairs (Bacon), to the Director of the Office of Chinese Affairs (McConaughy)

  • Subject:
  • UN Aspects of the Chinese Representation Problem in the Event of an Armistice

Attached is a copy of a memorandum which has been prepared for possible background use in view of the close tie between Chinese representation in the UN and major United States Far Eastern policies.

The memorandum reviews the development of the Chinese representation question in the United Nations and the working out of the “moratorium” arrangement between the United States and the United Kingdom. The memorandum then investigates certain topics including (1) the consequences for the United States if the Chinese Communists should be seated in the UN; (2) the probable attitudes of UN members on the question, including the voting situation in major UN organs; and (3) the need for advance planning on strategy for handling the situation which may develop, and the courses of action open to us.



  • Subject:
  • UN Aspects of the Problem of Chinese Representation in the Event of an Armistice.

Indications have been piling up of late that if a truce in Korea is concluded the United States may expect a renewed effort on the part of many of its friends and associates toward seating the Chinese Communists in the UN. Nehru has been reiterating his position; Soviet leaders, both in Moscow and in the UN, have given more than usual prominence to the question; UN Secretary General Lie, in resigning, emphasized this issue and his successor declined to comment; the British Labor Party has been vociferous and Churchill’s answer has been “not while the actual fighting is going on.” There have been suggestions from New York that the French might be contemplating a more receptive attitude and the interest of both the United Kingdom and French delegations in the possibility of a “political settlement” of the membership question has overtones for the Chinese representation problem as well.

The question of what we can and should do in this situation is tied in closely with our whole Far Eastern policy. As of possible assistance to FE and CA in advance planning on this question there are given [Page 642] below comments and background information on the specifically UN aspects of the problem.

I. Background

The Chinese representation question first became a major issue in the United Nations in January, 1950. Previously, a Chinese Communist regime had been proclaimed in Peiping in October, 1949, and had been recognized almost immediately by the Soviet bloc, Burma and India. The National Government established itself on Formosa.

On January 6, 1950 the United Kingdom announced its decision to recognize the Communist regime in China. During that same period, ten other states also accorded recognition.

Immediately following the British announcement, the USSR at a meeting of the Security Council on January 10, 1950 proposed to unseat the Chinese National Representative. Three days later, the Chinese Communist regime informed the Secretary General of the UN of the appointment of a Chinese Communist delegate to the UN. On January 13, also, the Security Council rejected the Soviet resolution to unseat the Chinese National Representative by a vote of 3–6 (U.S.)–2(UK, Norway). The Soviet Representative thereupon left the Security Council. He did not return until August, 1950, when his turn came to be chairman of the Security Council which was discussing the Korean aggression.

In order to avoid public differences in UN organs over the question of Chinese representation, the United States and the United Kingdom agreed in June 1951 upon the so-called “moratorium arrangement” through an informal exchange of communications between Secretary Acheson and British Foreign Minister Morrison. Under this arrangement it was agreed that the United States and the United Kingdom delegations would consult in advance of UN meetings in order to concert on procedures which both delegations could support and which would avoid a vote on the substance of the issue. In practice, the moratorium arrangement has usually been applied through resolutions calling for the postponement of consideration of the question of a change in Chinese representation, or through a motion that a Soviet proposal to unseat the Chinese National representatives or to seat the Chinese Communists was out of order for reasons which vary according to circumstances.

To date, the issue has arisen in UN organs or bodies over 135 times. The Chinese Communists have been seated in only one minor body of a Specialized Agency (the Executive and Liaison Committee of the Universal Postal Union) and that body reversed its decision the following year.

The success with which this policy has been applied has been in part a consequence of the outbreak of the Korean hostilities. There has been [Page 643] wide-spread agreement that it would be out of the question even to consider seating the Chinese Communists while they were engaged in aggression against the UN. The United States Representative, in supporting moratorium-type resolutions in UN bodies, has been instructed not to tie U.S. objection to the seating of the Chinese Communists to the aggression in Korea alone, but to refer also to other acts which illustrate Chinese Communist unwillingness to accept the principles of the United Nations.

So far as the United Kingdom is concerned, British representatives have on occasion said that UK opposition to the seating of the Chinese Communists would not be removed automatically with the conclusion of a truce but would continue for some time thereafter. In March 1953, British Foreign Minister Eden stated in the House of Commons that so long as he was Foreign Secretary he would not be prepared to advocate that the UN admit “a government that is in full aggression against the UN and shooting down our troops.”

In a despatch of April 10, 1953 (4840)1 our Embassy in London gives its estimate of the probable British attitude toward the Chinese representation question in the event of an armistice. This despatch concluded in part:

“In the Embassy’s opinion, the extent to which the British Government might be prepared to go to accommodate the Chinese Communists is uncertain, but Her Majesty’s Government will at least re-examine such issues as seating Chinese Communists in the UN. Once an armistice is achieved, the opposition in Parliament is sure to make a great play to establish Peiping as the legitimate Chinese Government. Responsible leaders, such as Attlee, Morrison and Younger, have already exerted some pressure to this end. There may be demands for the Government to proceed directly to the discussion of an over-all Far Eastern settlement and to ignore the UN resolution calling for the prior political settlement of the Korean question. In view of these pressures and for other reasons, the Government may feel required to give some ground. However, the Foreign Office states that the Government would not yield to any agitation for placing Formosa under Chinese Communist jurisdiction. Apart from its awareness of strong United States public opinion in support of the National Government, the British Government fully realizes the value of keeping Formosa from falling into the hands of a potential aggressor. The view held by the Foreign Office is that the only permanently workable solution for the Far East would be the neutralization of both Korea and Formosa.”

More recently, British Embassy officials here have been suggesting that the Labor Party might force the pace of the present UK Government on this question if a truce is concluded. On May 12, 1953, when Attlee said in the House of Commons that Communist China “is entitled [Page 644] to be one of the Big Five on the Security Council”, Churchill answered “not while the actual fighting is going on.”

II. Effects for U.S. if Chinese Communists Should be Seated in UN.

The seating of the Chinese Communists in the UN might have the following consequences from the United States point of view:

1) It would be regarded as a major political defeat for the United States and a corresponding political victory for the Soviet bloc and Communism generally;

2) It would raise the prestige of the Chinese Communists throughout Southeast Asia, stimulate the spread of Communist influence in that region and weaken resistance to Communism on the part of Asian states;

3) Continued U.S. military assistance to the National Government might be challenged in the UN as action unfriendly to a UN member.

At present, we are technically aiding a government seated in the UN in dealing with a dissident element seeking to overthrow it. When the Soviet bloc in the past has sought to condemn our aid to China, there have been National Government representatives at hand to deny the charges on our behalf, to assert that a charge of aggression is ridiculous and that U.S. assistance is not merely desired but desperately needed. When a Chinese Communist was heard in 1950, he did not have standing as a representative of a member of the Security Council. If the Chinese Communists are seated in the UN, we shall then technically be in the position of aiding a dissident element seeking to overthrow a government seated in the UN, and Chinese Communist representatives will be at hand to charge us with aggression and to denounce U.S. policies. While we would, in all probability, be able to prevent the passage of a condemnatory resolution, we would be acting under a serious handicap and we might have difficulty in convincing even some normally friendly members of the justice of our position, although they still might vote with us.

4) A vote normally friendly to the United States would be replaced in UN organs by a vote consistently hostile.

The consequences might be especially serious in the Security Council if the General Assembly again accords a seat on the Council to Eastern Europe, a practice which many UN members believe to be required by a Gentleman’s Agreement of long standing. In that case, we would start with three hostile Communist votes in a body in which five negative votes or abstentions can halt any action.

5) U.S. confidence in the United Nations, already shaken, would be undermined to an extent likely to prejudice continuing U.S. popular and financial support.

As this Government has characterized support for the United Nations an essential feature of our foreign policy, the consequences would be felt by the United States as well as by the United Nations. Considering the seriousness for the United States of these consequences, it would seem to be desirable to estimate the prospects of our being able to persuade the United Kingdom not to terminate the “moratorium” arrangement and to weigh the courses of action open to us in various possible circumstances.

[Page 645]

III. Considerations Which Might Affect the Attitudes of UN Members.

A. The United Kingdom: The present UK Government would clearly be under strong pressure to terminate the “moratorium” arrangement within a brief period if a truce is concluded and there is no incontrovertible evidence of Chinese Communist aggression in other areas. Factors weighing heavily on UK opinion would be:

criticism from the opposition party in Parliament;
hope that this step might ease tensions in Europe and contribute to security there, at least for a brief period;
concern for the situation in Hong Kong in event of increased Chinese Communist gestures toward the colony;
different basic approach to the problem of the future of China;
desire to build up a counter-weight to Japan among Asian states in the area;
hope, despite recent rebuffs, of regaining some measure of UK’s trade with mainland China;
hope of retrieving the embarrassing situation created by failure of the Chinese Communists to recognize the United Kingdom.

If the Chinese Communists should recognize the United Kingdom—an inexpensive gesture—the effect might well be decisive in changing UK policy toward immediate seating.

B. France: The French might be motivated by the following factors:

hope of easing Chinese Communist pressure on the Associated States—unless Chinese Communist complicity in the existing warfare there is so well established as to prohibit such a step;
hope that seating the Chinese Communists might contribute to the easing of tensions in Europe, even if only briefly.

Early in 1950 the French were on the point of voting to unseat the National Government Representative in the Security Council when the Chinese Communists recognized Ho Chi Minh. There have recently been indications from New York that the French might now be working with the idea of possibly seating the Chinese Communists. The French might, however, be disposed to take only a part-way step—to unseat the National Representative and to abstain or continue to vote against the seating of the Chinese Communists.

C. Latin America: Factors influencing the Latin American states might include:

a desire to support U.S. policies in matters of this sort;
deep-rooted opposition to the recognition or seating of the Chinese Communists;
personal ties of friendship between Latin American representatives and Chinese National Government representatives.

D. Arab-Asian States: The Philippines would continue to oppose any change in Chinese representation out of desire to support U.S. [Page 646] policies and to oppose extension of Communist influence in Asia. The position of the Thais would naturally be influenced to a considerable extent by current developments among their neighbors in Indochina and by the degree of apparent danger of Chinese Communist penetration into Thailand. While basically sympathetic with our position the Thais might abstain if they believe that the Chinese Communists were likely to be seated in any case. Indonesia. Burma and India would vote to seat the Chinese Communists. Pakistan has recognized the Chinese Communists. While more sympathetic than India with our approach to the Chinese representation question, Pakistan at best might abstain.

The Arab states in general have not recognized the Chinese Communists and most of them would normally be reluctant to vote to seat them. The state of political relations between the United States and individual Arab members might, however, lead to some abstentions in place of negative votes.

E. The Old Commonwealth: Canada would undoubtedly vote to seat the Chinese Communists as soon as there was any change in the UK position. Australia, New Zealand and South Africa would be likely to continue to oppose the seating of the Chinese Communists.

F. General Considerations Advanced in Favor of Seating the Chinese Communists.

An argument in favor of seating the Chinese Communists which has weight with some UN members is based on the proposition that the National Government is not in position to make commitments which will actually be carried out on the mainland. This argument has particular relation to the Specialized Agencies such as the Postal Union, Telecommunications Union and the like. Experience with the Chinese Communists in connection with the Postal Union, however, has not been such as to inspire confidence in their willingness to carry out the obligations of a member of the Specialized Agencies. Participation by the Soviet bloc in these agencies also has in many cases been confined substantially to propaganda efforts rather than to substantive contributions to the actual work of the organization.

Many UN members have also been increasingly concerned with the continuance of this problem and some might favor seating the Chinese Communists in the belief that the Chinese Communist regime has come to stay and that the sooner its representatives are seated the sooner the issue will be settled. If a belief should become current that the Chinese Communists were likely to be seated, some UN members would be reluctant to cast a negative vote and thus, in their view, needlessly incur the hostility of the Chinese Communists.

It is also sometimes argued that the best way to win the Chinese Communists away from the USSR and into greater contact with the western world is to bring them into the United Nations. Some UN members feel that UN membership was an important contributing [Page 647] factor in Yugoslavia’s decision to take an independent course. Other UN members point out that UN contact has had little, if any, appreciable effect on other Soviet satellites such as Poland and Czechoslovakia.

IV. Do the USSR and the Chinese Communists Actually Desire that the Latter be Seated?

There has long been a suspicion that the USSR did not, in fact, wish to have the Chinese Communists seated in the UN. Certainly, on several occasions the Soviet Union has not chosen the tactics best suited to seating the Chinese Communists although Soviet delegates are not lacking in knowledge of the technicalities of UN procedures. There has been reason to believe that the Soviet objectives in exploiting the issue have been (a) to create friction between the United States and many of its friends, and (b) to weaken the United Nations. It has been a ready-made propaganda issue.

Similarly, the Chinese Communists have appeared only half-hearted in their efforts to obtain a seat. They have gone through the motions of naming a delegation and demanding a seat on several occasions. Early in 1950, however, when France’s position was known to be wavering and it was anticipated that the Chinese Nationalists might be unseated by the middle of February, the Chinese Communists proceeded to recognize Ho Chi Minh. This step made a change in vote in the Security Council on the part of France impossible. The Chinese Communists likewise showed coldness toward the British, Indian and Burmese recognition at a time when those votes in the United Nations were of importance on the seating question. When General Wu was permitted to appear before the Security Council in November 1950, he merely repeated the Soviet propaganda line and made no apparent effort to create a favorable impression to win friends or to give evidence of a cooperative attitude toward the United Nations. By that time, of course, entrance of Chinese Communist forces into the Korean conflict had closed the door for the time being to serious consideration of Chinese Communist admission on the part of most UN members.

It is now possible that under present political conditions the USSR or the Chinese Communists may believe that their interests would be best served by a seat for the Chinese Communists. The USSR may feel less apprehensive concerning the effect of western influence on Chinese Communists representatives. It may believe that the time has now come when admission of the Chinese Communists would weaken the United Nations and embarrass the United States with maximum advantage to the USSR.

The Chinese Communists may also be more interested now than formerly in improving their international status and increasing its influence by taking a place in the United Nations.

[Page 648]

It is too early to conclude, however, whether there has been a change in attitude on the part of either or both of the parties chiefly concerned on this question. If there has, in fact, been a change, it may have political implications of considerable interest.

V. How the Situation Might Develop in the United Nations.

Assuming (a) no incontrovertible evidence of open Chinese Communist aggression elsewhere and (b) continuation of the Soviet peace offensive, an immediate ground swell toward seating the Chinese Communists on the conclusion of an armistice is to be expected on the part of most states which have recognized the Chinese Communists. India, Indonesia, Burma, some of the Arab states and probably the Scandinavians fall in this group. Only 17 UN members now recognize the Chinese Communists. Unless there are new recognitions, the movement would not accordingly be sufficient to seat the Chinese Communists so long as the United States and the United Kingdom remain united on the “moratorium” arrangement.

If, however, the United Kingdom should terminate the “moratorium” arrangement and openly champion the seating of the Chinese Communists, both in the UN bodies and in contact work with UN members generally, the United Kingdom would undoubtedly carry with it Belgium, the Netherlands, Luxembourg, Canada and France (unless the situation in Indochina absolutely precluded such action). A shift in the UK position might also inspire some new recognitions or a change in vote on the part of some states which have long been unstable on the Chinese representation question.

So far as the major UN organs are concerned, it would appear that termination by the United Kingdom of the “moratorium” agreement would not in itself result automatically in the seating of a Chinese Communist, although the change of a few votes would be sufficient to do so. The votes in question, however, are relatively stable and would probably not change except in response to a major ground swell or other strong pressure.

The situation on major UN organs might be as follows:

(a) Security Council: The Council consists of eleven members which, during 1953, are: China, France, USSR, United Kingdom, United States, Chile, Greece, Pakistan, Colombia, Denmark, Lebanon.

Assuming a shift in the UK and French positions there would be five initial votes for seating the Chinese Communists: United Kingdom, France, Pakistan, Denmark and the USSR. Those trying to seat the Communists would then have to pick up two votes from the following four states: Chile, Greece, Colombia and Lebanon. Of these states Lebanon must be counted doubtful and Chile an outside possibility. Greece and Colombia should remain firm, although conceivably Greece might be subjected to heavy pressure to change.

(b) Economic and Social Council: This Council consists of 18 members which, during 1953, are: Argentina, Australia, Belgium, [Page 649] China, Cuba, Egypt, France, India, Philippines, Poland, Sweden, Turkey, USSR, United Kingdom, United States, Uruguay, Venezuela, Yugoslavia.

Of these 18, six have recognized the Chinese Communists: Poland, Sweden, USSR, UK, India, and Yugoslavia. If we are to assume the situation described above, the following votes would support the Chinese Communists also: Belgium and France. Those supporting the Chinese Communists would have to pick up two votes among the following: Argentina, Cuba, Egypt, Australia, the Philippines, Turkey, Uruguay and Venezuela. Of these, Egypt has wavered in the past and its attitude would probably be influenced by the current state of its relations with the United Kingdom. Similarly, Argentina might be influenced by various political factors.

(c) Trusteeship Council: This Council consists of 12 members, only two of which recognize the Chinese Communists (United Kingdom, USSR). Belgium and France would vote to seat the Chinese Communists under circumstances outlined above and those seeking to seat the Chinese Communists would then have to pick up three votes from among the following: Australia, El Salvador, Dominican Republic, Syria, Thailand and New Zealand. Whereas one or two of these votes is unstable, it seems unlikely that three votes could be picked up under the circumstances contemplated.

A somewhat similar situation probably exists in most other UN bodies because in recent years the Department in preparing its slate of candidates to be supported has attempted to avoid having a majority of States recognizing the Chinese Communists or wavering on the question elected to these bodies. In some case this strategem has, of course, not been successful and some UN bodies might seat a Chinese Communist. The Peace Observation Commission, for example, is evenly divided between states recognizing and not recognizing the Chinese Communists. The shift of the French vote alone would be sufficient to seat a Chinese Communist on this body. It seems probable, however, that the shift in votes in UN bodies would not occur at once. but an interval of time to permit a sounding out of a new political situation would probably be allowed by the non-zealous type of UN member. Once, however, Chinese Communists were seated on any considerable number of UN bodies or on a principal UN organ, the situation for the United Nations would become so clearly intolerable that a move toward the Chinese Communists throughout the United Nations might be accelerated.

(d) General Assembly: The General Assembly is now scheduled to convene on September 15. 17 UN members now recognize the Chinese Communists. If we add to these 17 states the European states which have not recognized the Chinese Communists or which in the past have voted for the moratorium, perhaps three Latin Americans (Guatemala, Argentina, and Bolivia or Chile), and possibly five Arabs, the voting situation would be close if not adverse. UNP’s present informal estimate is that a possibility exists of 31 votes in favor of the Chinese Communists out of 60 members. Political developments during the summer would, of course, affect this estimate.

Although termination by the United Kingdom of the “moratorium” agreement alone would probably not result in an immediate change in the Chinese representation for the United Nations as a whole, it would [Page 650] make the maintenance over any considerable period of time of Chinese National Government representation far more difficult, if not problematical. By the opening of the General Assembly next September the situation might become acute. Termination of the “moratorium” would also result in the disclosure, at the opening of every UN committee, body or organ, of an open difference of views between the United States and the United Kingdom on a major matter of Far Eastern policy.

VI. Need for Advance Planning on Strategy.

If there is an armistice and the Soviet peace offensive continues with emphasis being placed on Chinese representation, the following courses of action would be open to the United States to meet rising pressures to seat the Chinese Communists:

We could attempt to hold the United Kingdom and France to support of the Chinese National Representative by exerting strong political pressures, probably in connection with the national security interests of the two states in Europe. Direct political pressures could also be applied to other “doubtful” states. This program would clearly engage our national prestige and if undertaken would have to be a vigorous, all-out program.
We could use normal diplomatic pressures in an attempt to prevent the unseating of the Chinese National Representative and the seating of the Chinese Communists. This program, while making clear our opposition to the seating of the Chinese Communists, would not engage our national prestige to the same extent as course (1) but would not be as likely to be effective.

In support of retaining Chinese National representation, the following arguments might be used:

Seating of the Chinese Communists in the United Nations would contribute politically to the growth of Communist influence in Asia at the very time when we are striving to curb the spread of Communist influence in Asia and in Europe. There is a basic inconsistency between building up strength to resist Communism in Indochina and in Europe on the one hand and seating the Chinese Communists in the United Nations on the other. Unless we are agreed in our objectives, the United States would have to reconsider its current programs for Europe.
Seating the Chinese Communists in the United Nations would undermine U.S. confidence in the Organization and seriously affect prospects for continued U.S. political and financial support. A drastic weakening of the United Nations to this extent would not be in the interests of the United Kingdom and France or of the free world generally.

This program would also involve the working out of a framework as persuasive as possible to other UN members for our position, including an answer to the question whether we intend to oppose the seating [Page 651] of the Chinese Communist indefinitely and irrespective of their conduct.

Our friends and associates may urge us to follow other courses of action such as:

a) support for the seating of two Chinas in the United Nations—the National Government and the Chinese Communists.

Such a solution has already been proposed informally by a member of the Japanese Foreign Ministry. Aside from the political objections to this proposal there are also certain technical difficulties involved. If two Chinas are to be represented, the admission of one of them would have to be as a new member and new members are subject to Great Power veto. Thus, the new China to be added would be subject to a veto by the China already seated on the Security Council.

b) support for the unseating of the National Government and the non-seating of the Chinese Communists. Under this proposal there would be no China seated in the United Nations.

This course has been discussed in the past by some UN members including France. The result would be only a temporary expedient probably satisfactory to no one. It would be generally regarded as a first step toward seating the Chinese Communists and open, consequently, to many of the same objections.

c) use of the Chinese representation question as a bargaining item in any proposed political conference for the Far East or other multilateral discussions.

This course assumes that we are prepared to seat the Chinese Communists and would again be open to the objections attached to that assumption as well as certain added ones related to the bargaining procedure.

VII. Conclusions

The Chinese representation question, while relating specifically to China’s seat in the UN, has a direct bearing on our policies with respect to China and to the Far East generally.
If the US is to meet successfully the pressures to seat the Chinese Communists in the UN which present indications suggest will develop in the event of an armistice and no incontrovertible evidence of fresh Chinese Communist aggression, the US should:
work out its policy in a framework which will be as persuasive as possible to other UN members, and
study the means available to the US of influencing the UK, France and other “doubtful” members to continue to support proposals which would retain Chinese National representation in the UN, estimate the probable effectiveness of these means, and map out in advance the most effective strategy to be followed in the circumstances.
  1. Not printed.