Eisenhower Library, Eisenhower papers, Whitman file

No. 163
Memorandum of Discussion at the 177th Meeting of the National Security Council, Washington, December 23, 19531

top secret
eyes only


Present at this meeting were the President of the United States, presiding; the Vice President of the United States; the Secretary of [Page 346] State; the Secretary of Defense; the Director, Foreign Operations Administration; the Director, Office of Defense Mobilization. Also present were the Secretary of the Treasury; the Director, Bureau of the Budget; the Chairman, Atomic Energy Commission; the Deputy Secretary of Defense; the Executive Officer, Operations Coordinating Board (for Items 7 and 8); the Secretaries of the Army, the Navy, and the Air Force (for Items 7 and 8); the Deputy Chief of Staff, U.S. Army; the Chief of Naval Operations; the Chief of Staff, U.S. Air Force; the Commandant, U.S. Marine Corps (all for Items 7 and 8). Also present for Items 7 and 8 were the following members of the NSC Planning Board: Robert R. Bowie, State; Frank C. Nash, Defense; Gen. Porter, FOA; W.Y. Elliott, ODM; Elbert P. Tuttle, Treasury; Col. Hugh Cort, JCS; Robert Amory, Jr., CIA; George A. Morgan, OCB, and Paul L. Morrison, Budget. Philip H. Watts, Department of State; Brig. Gen. Paul W. Caraway, Department of Defense; and Christian Herter, Jr., of the Vice President’s Office, were also attending the meeting for Items 7 and 8. Also present were the Director of Central Intelligence; Robert Cutler, Special Assistant to the President; C.D. Jackson, Special Assistant to the President; Arthur Minnich, Assistant White House Staff Secretary; the Executive Secretary, NSC; the Deputy Executive Secretary, NSC; and Ina Holtzscheiter, NSC Staff (for Items 7 and 8).

There follows a summary of the discussion and the main points taken.

. . . . . . .

8. Report by the Vice President

The following is a transcript of the Vice President’s report on his observations and conclusions relating to the national security, resulting from his recent world trip:

This report will be one of general impressions, and not conclusions of an expert. I’m probably the first person back from the Far East, who has spent more than four weeks there, who isn’t writing a book. What I have to say here will be more in the nature of impressions, rather than conclusions reached without a chance of changing.

During this trip it was necessary to make public statements with regard to situations in certain areas, and American personnel. All these statements were optimistic. The reason for this was that it happened that these were people that we had our money on. It was essential, from a public standpoint, to back them to the hilt. Today’s statement will not be so optimistic. Much of it will be elementary, and old material. I want to relate the impressions gathered in my conversations with the leaders of the several countries—not for their opinions, but to indicate what kind of people [Page 347] they are. The best way to handle this, I think, is to run through the countries fast, and then perhaps make some general observations.

[Here follows the Vice President’s observations concerning several of the countries he had visited.]

So far as China is concerned, when we went to Formosa I was surprised at the excellent use of U.S. funds, economically and militarily. Apparently the Chinese in Formosa are attempting to convince everyone that they have changed. They are no longer corrupt. They are going to make sacrifices which will result in support for getting back to the mainland. This is the only place where U.S. supported governments are really living on an austerity basis. As for the troops, Admiral Carney can give you a real report, but from my own observation I would say that morale is tops, much better than I had any idea. They are being sustained at the present time by the hope of a return to the mainland in a military action.

In Hongkong the significant thing is that there has been a great and dramatic shift away from support of the Communist regime, among the overseas Chinese—in Formosa, Indonesia, etc., where there are about 22 million. In Hongkong our reception was most enthusiastic. The Chinese were tremendously friendly. This was the best run city we visited, by far the cleanest. Generally speaking, the people there are better off than in any city in China. I asked why it wasn’t possible to let the people vote, and was told that they would vote against the government, ten to one. The British are doing everything, but the people don’t like them; some of the people hate the British. They are going back to the fundamental urges. They realize the necessity of dealing with the economic problems, but more fundamental is the urge to freedom. We must realize, on our side, that there has been a real shift away from the Communist regime. There are several reasons for this. First, reports received from relatives in China; secondly, cruelty of the Chinese Communists; and thirdly, the general point, emphasized over and over, that on the mainland the Chinese Communists were gaining in the cities but that in the country, among the peasants, they had lost during the last two or three years.

There is a point on the debit side. Chinese prestige from the Korean incident has received a good boost throughout Asia, and this has had a counter-balancing effect to other items.

The question now is, what should we do? I understand that a new Chinese paper2 has been adopted since I left, and its conclusions may be the basis for the following suggestions, which indicate the thinking of the people throughout the area as to what we [Page 348] should do. First, there is a considerable minority which believes that it is essential that the United States and other nations plan now for a program which would militarily overthrow the Chinese Communist government. The Formosans believe this, and others have reluctantly reached this conclusion. The United States has rejected it. At the other extreme, the view of Grantham, which represents the thinking of the British career diplomat, is that it might be possible for the Chinese in the near future to do a Tito, but since the war there seems very little possibility of this. I found no considered opinion among the leaders, except from Nehru, that there was a possibility of a Tito development in China in the near future.

Grantham argues that Communist China is here to stay. The fact that it is here to stay means that we gradually must accept China into the family of nations. You have to do some things. China must be admitted to the UN, and trade on a gradual basis must be built up, assuming a settlement in Korea. What’s going to be the result? Formosa must go back to China; it belongs to China. What about Indochina? Indochina must come under Chinese influence. The importance of the overseas Chinese—the 22 million who live in other places—cannot be overemphasized. They are very smart, very able, and they have a tremendous impact on the economy and thinking of the country. In Indonesia it’s the same thing. What about Japan? We have to realize that the Japanese must come into the Communist sphere. It must be recognized that all these things are the eventual result of such a policy. What about Malaya? This country will also have to come under China. What happens in the end? In the end, Grantham concludes, China would be a great world power, and its relationship would be cold and correct with us, probably just as it would be with the Soviet Union.

We could follow a policy of containment and economic blockade, basing the policy on the hope of overthrowing the government from within instead of from without. In my opinion, this has very little chance.

There is one factor to be emphasized in China: Though the Communists are having great difficulty at the present time in winning the older people—who have hundreds and thousands of years of tradition and culture behind them—they are taking over among the young people very effectively, outside and within. The possibilities for overthrow of the government, in view of that development, are not as great as we would like to think. And there is another point: If we are thinking of continuing a program of economic blockade after a Korean settlement, can we afford it? Can we resist the pressures of our allies and of the neutral nations? The other alternative is to continue the policy of containment and isolation, [Page 349] but to allow trade. Such a policy has to be considered. We must recognize that trade is inevitable. Trade is a good cover, and we can I trade with China without recognizing her. The general opinion of the thinkers was that to recognize China, not to oppose the recognition of China in the UN, would be to give China respectability. There would then be no place where the 22 millions of overseas Chinese could go except to the Communist side. They have a love of country, and they want to belong some place.

What do we do about Formosa? This is difficult. We must tell them that they can’t go back to the mainland. It is important to retain Formosa as the receptacle of overseas Chinese culture and as a symbol.

[Here follow further observations by the Vice President concerning other countries he had visited. In conclusion, the National Security Council noted the Vice President’s oral report; no discussion of the report is recorded.]

S. Everett Gleason
  1. Drafted by Gleason on Dec. 24.
  2. NSC 166/1, Document 149.