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112. Draft Paper Prepared in the Department of State0


  • Food Grains for Mainland China

The Problem:

To determine what action the US should take in view of the current chronic food shortage on mainland China.


It is not in the US interest to bail Peiping’s present leaders out of their current difficulties. Making large quantities of grain available to them on longer-term easy credit terms would tend to do so.
It is, however, against our interests to establish an historical record of having stood between hungry people and foodstuffs which we have in abundant surplus: This is not our traditional attitude and might well be held against us in future relations with China.
There are bound to be among Chinese Communist leaders some who are basically more, and others who are less, antagonistic towards the US, or some who may believe in a tough policy towards the US and others who may see advantages to China in a more conciliatory policy. By inaction we would strengthen the hand of those advocating a line of maximum antagonism; by suitable action we might encourage those who are at the less hostile end of the spectrum—however narrow the spectrum.
It is not possible to identify individual leaders among the Chinese Communists as being dissident elements to whom a separate channel of communication should be sought.
The Chinese Communist regime would find it repugnant to accept gift shipments of Free World grain. Repugnance would be greatest if the gift were from the US Government.
Preliminary information from the Department of Agriculture suggests Communist China probably will within the months immediately ahead exhaust all substantial non-US sources of Free World grain. The principal Free World grain suppliers are states which would welcome a less rigid US policy towards China. While they might have mixed feelings about our supplying grain to Communist China, regret at such development would be tempered if their own stocks were low.
GRC objections might give us difficulties, but the GRC should not be permitted to veto action on our part taken in our own interest.
The refugee influx into Hong Kong which has occurred this month has dramatized hunger on the mainland.1


We should instruct Ambassador Cabot at Warsaw to inform Wang Ping-nan, at the earliest opportunity, that:

Reports of widespread hunger on the Chinese mainland have led to concern among Americans, who retain feelings of human friendliness towards the Chinese people.
We are aware that food grains appear to be entering a period of tight supply. Should the Chinese Communists decide to advise us that [Page 233]they wished to procure US food grains, we would be prepared to reconsider present US policies and discuss the matter.2

  1. Source: Department of State, Central Files, 893.03/5-1362. Secret. No drafting information is indicated on the source text. Filed with a May 31 memorandum from Brubeck to Harriman, which refers to it as “the third draft, May 28, which was used by the Secretary as a basis for his discussion with the President on this subject.” According to Brubeck’s memorandum, the first two drafts, May 24 and 25, were discussed at a May 24 meeting and a May 25 Standing Group meeting. Neither the drafts nor any record of the Standing Group meeting has been found. Handwritten notes of the May 24 meeting, chaired by McGhee, are ibid., S/S-NSC Files: Lot 70 D 265, NSC Standing Group, May 25, 1962. Rusk met with Kennedy on May 29 to discuss grain for China. (Kennedy Library, President’s Appointment Book; Johnson Library, Rusk Appointment Book) No record of the meeting has been found.
  2. In early May the number of mainland Chinese apprehended crossing the land frontier into Hong Kong had suddenly increased from the usual 100-200 per month to more than 2,000 in one 24-hour period. Telegraphic reports from Hong Kong on this subject are in Department of State, Central File 793.00. Telegram 1294 from Hong Kong, May 21, attributed the sudden influx of refugees to hunger and dissatisfaction, combined with the failure of demoralized local officials to enforce the usual rigid discipline. (Ibid., 793.00/5-2162)
  3. Telegram 1655 to Warsaw, May 30, reported that Cabot would probably be instructed to raise a new item of business at his next meeting with Wang. It stated that the item should be raised as soon as it was possible to do so in a normal and low-key manner and asked whether a U.S. request for a meeting about the middle of June rather than on July 12 as scheduled would seem unusual. (Ibid., 611.93/5-3062) The Embassy replied that since the meeting had been scheduled after July 1 at U.S. request, changing the date would indicate something unusual. (Telegrams 1947 and 1962 from Warsaw, May 31 and June 2; ibid., 611.93/5-3162 and 611.93/6-262, respectively) Telegram 1680 to Warsaw, June 4, agreed that the date should not be changed. (Ibid.)