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81. Letter From the Under Secretary of State (Ball) to the Director, Food for Peace (McGovern)0

Dear George : Your memorandum of November 3 to Chester Bowles 1 came at a time when we were actively considering the question of foodstuffs for the people of mainland China. The Chinese Communists have admitted to Viscount Montgomery 2 and others that the 1961 harvest will be disappointing for the third successive year. Thus it would seem likely that Peiping’s prospects for feeding its expanding and already undernourished population may become very grim in the early months of next year.

At Mr. Bowles’ request, a statement of the recommended United States position was prepared in the Department’s Bureau of Far Eastern Affairs. A copy of that statement is enclosed.3 As you will see, our salient conclusions are these: first, that there is no change in the presumption [Page 175]that the Chinese Communists will not ask for United States help and would refuse it if offered; second, that the United States should not take the initiative in offering such relief; third, that the United States Government should not now prejudge its reaction in the unlikely event that a Chinese Communist request is received, but that certain important criteria as to whether to offer relief and the manner of doing so can now be set forth.4

I enclose also a copy of a telegram which we sent to Ambassador Everton in Rangoon, in response to a suggestion which he relayed from U Nu to the effect that the United States provide wheat to Communist China by means of a triangular PL 480 Title I deal through Burma.5 I believe that our telegram succinctly sets forth the Department’s thinking on the issue.

I should be much interested in learning your thinking on the problem.


George W. Ball 6
  1. Source: Department of State, Central Files, 893.03/12-661. Secret. Drafted by Lindsey Grant of the Office of Chinese Affairs. Concurred in by the Bureau of Economic Affairs, the Legal Adviser’s Office, and the Agency for International Development.
  2. This memorandum requested a statement of policy concerning “overtures of food assistance to Red China.” (Ibid., 893.03/11-361)
  3. British Field Marshal Bernard Law Montgomery.
  4. Not found attached; presumably it was the statement of policy set forth in a November 21 memorandum from McConaughy to Ball, which Ball approved on December 6.
  5. The memorandum stated that consideration should be given only to a firm, although not necessarily public, Chinese request for food, only to the direct supply of food as a humanitarian gesture rather than to a sale or quasi-commercial arrangement, and only to an arrangement in which relief foodstuffs would actually reach those in need.
  6. Telegram 296 to Rangoon, November 27, approved by Rusk, stated that such a proposal would “be bound to create an extremely sensitive political problem for this country” and that “This consideration has added force in a period when Peiping seems to be splitting even from Moscow in pursuance of a more aggressive policy, and when our own contacts with the Chinese Communist authorities show no inclination or desire on their part to lessen the threat or reduce tensions in the area. Southeast Asia is now exposed to a particularly vigorous penetration effort by the Communist bloc.” (Department of State, Central Files, 811.0093/11-2761) Further documentation on this proposal is ibid., 811.0093 and FE/EA Files: Lot 65 D 93, Trade with Communist China, 1961.
  7. Printed from a copy that indicates Ball signed the original. Ball had assumed the position of Under Secretary of State between the drafting of the letter and its signature.