Learn about the beta

145. Telegram From the Department of State to the Embassy in the Republic of China0

85. Eyes only for Ambassador. Following is paraphrase of report of hour-long conversation between Malcolm MacDonald1 and Chen Yi which took place at Geneva week of July 15-21.2

Chen conceded that harvests for current as well as past three years have been bad. These bad harvests have brought ChiCom Govt and people great difficulties. While seven provinces seriously affected and large parts population have rather too little to eat, nobody is starving because China for first time in its history has a proper national organization for the distribution of food in all areas of the country. The Chinese, given time, will overcome these difficulties. Grain purchases from Canada and Australia had helped. However only the Chinese themselves, by improving their agriculture and growing much more food, could solve the national problem.

The Peking Government, Chen said, wants international peace so that it may be left free to get on with the vast tasks of improving the peoples’ standard of living and of national development. While some of their critics think ChiComs wish to be aggressive in this or that neighboring country, ChiComs do not entertain such desires. Since they must mobilize all their resources for internal development, they do not want to get involved in any wars, big or small. The Laos agreement is, therefore, welcome to them. They hope that it will lead to an improvement elsewhere in Southeast Asia, and they hope that foreign intervention in Laos can be brought to an end, the civil war there stopped, and a truly neutral government maintained by the three Laotian political forces. Peoples, such as some of those of Africa and South America, who are striving for independence have been promised help by the Chinese. Help, which the Chinese are prepared to give, will be forthcoming in ways which will be peaceful. All peoples who are not yet independent are being advised by the Chinese to strive for the achievement of their goals through peaceful means such as political or diplomatic negotiations.

[Page 297]

Success of the Laotian conference, Chen said, demonstrated that patient diplomatic negotiation can settle international questions. Signature of the agreement by both Chinese and American representatives is a step forward in relations between China and America.

Chen said that contrary to what many critics of China had asserted, the massing of troops opposite Quemoy and Matsu was not intended to divert the attention of the Chinese people from domestic difficulties or to unnecessarily excite them about foreign threats. Chiang Kai-shek’s loud announcements of his intentions of attacking the mainland caused the Chinese to feel it necessary to dispose troops on the mainland opposite Taiwan. The number of prominent American military figures visiting Taiwan recently has also caused them concern.

Chen said that American assurances that neither support nor encouragement would be given Chiang Kai-shek to attack the mainland had been conveyed to the Chinese Ambassador in Warsaw by the American Ambassador. The Peking Government appreciated this assurance. Though it was a good step forward, it was not, by itself, enough. Chiang Kai-shek’s dynasty had fallen long ago, and the Americans therefore should abandon their support for him in Taiwan. The Chinese can never accept that Taiwan is not a part of the rest of China.

The Chinese would not use force in an attempt to settle this question. They will not attack Quemoy and Matsu, though they easily could do so, nor will they take military action against Taiwan, though they could do so. Ultimately, the Americans will have to realize that they should abandon Chiang Kai-shek’s cause. The Taiwan question has remained unsettled for thirteen years and it may be necessary to wait another thirteen years, but the Chinese will be patient.

Chen criticized some aspects of American policy but not so virulently as MacDonald might have anticipated. He said, in reply MacDonald’s comments that he realized that the Administration could not ignore lobbies and other interests in Congress and elsewhere which are hostile, and that Americans feel very strongly about Communist China. But he said that here again the Chinese were ready to be understanding and patient. MacDonald said that the present US administration on a number of Asian questions such as that of Laos had modified the policies of the previous administration. It understands and accepts the neutrality of some other Asian countries as well. Chen asked whether MacDonald thought the President and Harriman are sincere in their Laotian policy and whether the other modifications MacDonald mentioned are also sincere. MacDonald’s reply was emphatically affirmative, and Chen then said he was inclined to think the same. MacDonald told him that alterations in policy could only take effect gradually in a country with a constitution like America. Chen said the American government’s policies [Page 298]and difficulties should be understood by the Chinese and that they should patiently hope for a gradual improvement in relations.

Chen nodded sagely when MacDonald observed that it was Chinese policy on some matters which had driven the west in general and the Americans in particular to strong criticism, and that the Chinese should do things which would impress the sincerity of their peaceful intentions upon the Americans and the British.

Chen said he understood from the former ChiCom Charge in London that Lord Home would be glad to meet Chen in Geneva, and Chen said he hoped there would be time for him to have a talk with Lord Home, as he wanted to discuss ways of further improving relations between China and Great Britain. He considered them quite good now, thought they could be steadily improved, and believed that China and Britain can bring about general improvement in the international atmosphere through cooperative effort. Chen said he was in a hurry to get back to Peking to help tackle urgent problems confronting the government and would be in Geneva only until the 25th. MacDonald promised to report this to Lord Home, who would have to leave Geneva a day prior to Chen’s own anticipated departure date.

  1. Source: Department of State, Central Files, 893.49/7-2862. Secret; Eyes Only. Drafted by William J. Cunningham of the Office of East Asian Affairs and approved by Rice. Also sent to New Delhi.
  2. Head of the British delegation at the International Conference on Laos.
  3. A copy of the report was given to Harriman on July 20. (Library of Congress Manuscript Division, Harriman Papers, Kennedy-Johnson Administrations, Subject Files, China) Rusk sent the text to Kennedy and Ball in Secto 3 from Geneva, July 20, noting that the conversation was “of some considerable interest.” (Department of State, Conference Files: Lot 65 D 533, CF 2134)