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102. Memorandum From the Deputy Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs (Johnson) to Secretary of State Rusk 0


  • United States Policy on Shipments of Medicines and Food Grains to Communist China

As Governor Harriman’s memorandum of April 31 to you on the foregoing subject notes, I am not able to concur in the third recommendation in the draft Memorandum for the President, that is, the proposal that Ambassador Cabot, in his talks with Wang Ping-nan in Warsaw should take the initiative in indicating a willingness to reconsider our policy on the sale of grain to Communist China at such time as it may become evident that Mainland China’s needs cannot be met elsewhere. Among my reasons are the following:

Basically, I feel that our posture toward Communist China should be one of receptivity toward any initiatives they may take for improvement of relations with us, but, at least for the time being, not to make further overtures of our own. Our previous and most recent overtures have been most rudely rejected.
Chinese Communist hostility toward us is based on our policy with respect to Taiwan. All other issues, including trade, are very peripheral. There is little hope of any useful dialogue between ourselves and the Chinese Communists until there is some change in their attitudes in this regard. There is as yet no sign of any such change.
The Chinese Communists have consistently taken the position that they could afford to wait and that, without their making any concessions, the pressure of events would require unilateral adjustments of U.S. policy, viz. outside pressures with respect to the UN and Taiwan, and our own commercial pressures with respect to trade. Now to make such an even tentative approach to them with respect to grain will tend to convince them that their policy is paying off and that we are being forced to react to the pressures of our commercial grain interests. All they have to do is to continue to wait and we will continue to move in their direction.
Our expressed willingness to permit gift shipments of food, as suggested in the second recommendation, and which will in all probability again be blocked by Chinese Communist unwillingness to permit such shipments, will do all that is necessary at this time to remove any onus on the United States for hunger in China and place the onus where it properly belongs, on the Chinese Communist Government.
I am satisfied that, if and when the Chinese Communists have a genuine interest in the purchase of American grain, we will unmistakably know it—not directly, for they will never mention it in Warsaw, but rather indirectly.

  1. Source: Department of State, Central Files, 611.93/4-662. Secret. Drafted by Johnson. Copies were sent to Ball, McGhee, and Harriman. Ball forwarded the memorandum to Rusk along with Documents 100 and 104, with a covering memorandum of April 9 stating that he shared Johnson’s reservations and thought “it would be a mistake to interject the possibility of grain sales into the Warsaw talks.” (Ibid., 411.9341/4-962)
  2. See the source note, Document 100.