Conference files, lot 60 D 627, CF 185

United States Delegation Memorandum of the Restricted Session of the Fourth Tripartite Heads of Government Meeting, Bermuda Mid-Ocean Club, December 7, 1953, 11 a.m.1

top secret
strictly limited distribution
  • Participants:
  • United States—President Eisenhower
  • Secretary Dulles
  • Assistant Secretary Robertson
  • Lt. Colonel Walters
  • United Kingdom—Prime Minister Churchill
  • Foreign Secretary Eden
  • Mr. J. Colville
  • France—M. Bidault
  • M. Bougenot
  • M. Roux
  • M. Andronikov

The President opened the meeting by saying that he understood that it was desired to have additional members of delegations present when the questions of security guarantees and Indo-China were discussed, but that the meeting should be restricted for the discussion of Far Eastern and Middle Eastern problems. Sir Winston Churchill then said he would like to discuss what was to be done if the truce were to break down.

The President then said that he would ask Secretary Dulles to express our position on this. He understood that the French would want additional members of the delegation in for the discussion on Indo-China. They could discuss the Far East in the first place, then the Middle East and finally follow with a discussion on Indo-China. Sir Winston then stated that he hoped the meeting would be held particularly secret. He said he wished to bring up the question of the Suez Canal in which the French also had a historic interest as well as a financial interest. The President then said that they might begin discussion by having Secretary Dulles make a statement on the Far East.

Secretary Dulles said that the Far Eastern situation was a very confusing one for our policies were at variance with each other. This was not surprising. The Soviets were also somewhat confused and, as M. Bidault had mentioned, they had had three ambassadors to China in eighteen months. The Secretary felt the Chinese Communist rule was pretty solidly established, though less so in the South and North. There did not appear to exist in an open form resistance forces seriously [Page 711] threatening the Communist rule over the mainland. In the question of relations between Communist China and the USSR, it was difficult to come to a clear conclusion but he thought we were justified in believing that there was strain. This would seem logical. Mao Tse-tung was himself an outstanding Communist leader in his own right. His prestige, while less than that of Stalin’s was greater than Malenkov’s. It was natural, therefore, that there should be a certain unwillingness on the part of Mao to be dictated to by Moscow as had been possible with Stalin because of the latter’s enormous prestige resulting from his internal and external victories. Stalin’s presige had been such that Mao could be second to him. This was not the case with Malenkov. The very fact that the Soviet Communist leaders went to such extremes to eulogize Mao and push him forward as a major figure in the international scene was partly because of self-interest and partly because of the necessity of treating Mao as an equal partner on the world scene. The fact that this relationship exists is important and may eventually give us an opportunity for promoting division between the Soviet Union and Communist China in our own common interest.

There were major differences between the three powers in their approach to this problem, especially as between the United Kingdom and the United States. It was the view of the United States that the best hope for intensifying the strain and difficulties between Communist China and Russia would be to keep the Chinese under maximum pressure rather than by relieving such pressure. There were two theories for dealing with this problem. One was that by being nice to the Communist Chinese we could wean them away from the Soviets, and the other was that pressure and strain would compel them to make more demands on the USSR which the latter would be unable to meet and the strain would consequently increase.

The United States adhered to the latter view that pressure should be maintained on Communist China both politically and economically and to the extent possible without war, military pressure should likewise be maintained. In the view of the United States this was the course to be followed rather than to seek to divide the Chinese and the Soviets by a sort of competition with Russia as to who would treat China best. This would put China in the best of worlds. The Secretary felt that if contradictory policies were applied to China, none of them could make progress toward success and each would cancel out the other’s efforts. He felt a very serious effort should be made to try to bring policies on China into closer harmony than was the case at present. We recognize the fact that the United Kingdom had given political recognition to the Communist regime in China. The Secretary had understood from what the Prime Minister had said the other day that this did not carry moral approbation. The British had said that one must recognize even one’s enemies. This was true, but the fact that [Page 712] they were recognized did not mean that you had to give them aid of a political, moral or economic nature. The conduct of Communist China as a proclaimed aggressor in Korea, promoting aggression in Indo-China and generally attempting to arouse all Asia against the Western Powers created a situation which brought up the question as to whether they should be given de facto recognition. The Secretary did not feel that we should give them aid and comfort as was the case when some seemed to promote the admission of Communist China to the United Nations despite the standard of conduct required of members of the United Nations, i.e., to be peace-loving countries willing to undertake the obligations of the Charter. That seemed to be carrying recognition far beyond the conditions of the recognition of a de facto government. The Secretary felt that if we could align policies in the United Nations, taking the position that Communist China was an aggressor in Korea, as well as a promoter of aggression in Indo-China, and she had not proved her willingness to be peace loving and faithful to the obligations of the United Nations Charter, this would be helpful in establishing a common policy with some chance of success. As things stood now, some opposed the admission of Communist China to the United Nations while others were supporting it, despite its derelictions. This cleavage could be exploited by our enemies so that the policies of neither of us would be effective.

The Secretary said that he was mentioning the point at this time because the moratorium agreement at present in effect on preventing this issue from coming up in prolonged debate would expire at the end of December, and the whole question of future policy on this subject would force itself on our attention. It was probable that the United Nations would recess until January or February. The first thing we could expect after this recess would be the resumption of the move by Vishinsky for acceptance of the credentials of the Communist regime in China and we must have agreement on that point.

[Here follows extended discussion of other aspects of the Far Eastern situation: commercial relations with Communist China, Korea, and Formosa.]

Mr. Eden then said that they had listened with the greatest interest to every word in the masterly survey of Far Eastern problems by the Secretary of State. Mr. Eden said that it was a puzzling question to know how far we can by our actions help to foster a division of opinion between the Chinese Communists and the Russians. It probably to some extent exists and will grow. History was on our side, for these two had never worked harmoniously together for long, but it might be long for in China things take centuries which require but years elsewhere. They were trying to divide the three of us, just as we were trying to divide them, and that in itself was in a measure an excuse for argument for not thinking it wise to break off all contacts, however [Page 713] unsatisfactory our relationship with the Chinese Communists might be at present. The Foreign Secretary said that he would not go into the question of recognition at that time, all were familiar with the reasons for which it had been done and how it had been done. We should freely admit that we had a problem to face at the United Nations in February and we should immediately start talks. We would, of course, like to consult the Commonwealth Governments so that we might work out a common line to be used in February. It would be very bad if we found ourselves in disarray.

[Here follow other remarks by Eden. Bidault followed, and concluding remarks were made by President Eisenhower. Neither Eisenhower nor Bidault referred to the Chinese representation question.2]

  1. For documentation on the Bermuda Conference of the Heads of Government of the United States, United Kingdom, and France, December 4–8, 1953, see volume v.
  2. For Eisenhower’s brief reference in his memoir to the Chinese representation question at the Bermuda Conference, see Dwight D. Eisenhower, The White House Years: Mandate for change, 1953–1956 (New York, Doubleday and Co., 1963), pp. 248 and 249. A Policy Planning Staff briefing paper of Dec. 2, 1953 (Conference Document BM Special 3c) contains this entry:

    “C. Communist China

    Until the regime stops promoting aggression in Korea and Indochina and shows its willingness to conform to principles of UN Charter, the U.S. will not consider recognizing the Communist regime in China, will oppose its admission to the U.N., and will maintain a trade embargo.”

    In a private meeting with Churchill (presumably a luncheon) at the Bermuda Club on Dec. 4, 1953, Eisenhower and Churchill had a brief exchange of views about Communist China, in which “the President urged a closer alignment of UK policy with the U.S.” (Conference files, lot 60 D 627, CF 185)