108. Editorial Note

On February 29, 1972, President Nixon met with the bipartisan Congressional leadership in the Cabinet Room of the White House to discuss his trip to China. During the course of his comments, which were summarized in a memorandum for the President’s file prepared by Tom C. Korologos of the White House Staff, Nixon considered the possible long-term results of the unprecedented visit:

“He then turned to long-term results which he classed as most important. He said that he hopes that we will conduct our policy in Asia without threat or use of force, and he hoped the Chinese would do the same. He said neither the United States or China seek to dominate Asia, and both oppose the other nation’s domination in the future. He said that we shall speak of a common interest and normalization of relations.

“He touched upon a ‘naive’ reporter’s analysis that what finally got us together was that both the PRC and the United States had found that their philosophies were not that far apart. The President said that this was not at all true. All we are trying to do is get to know each other better, and now I know them and they know us. We wanted to help eliminate the inevitable road of suspicion over the past 25 years. He said this road is the one which may lead to war.

“The President pointed out that had this meeting occurred 25 years ago, Korea might have been avoided. He said neither side changed its beliefs. ‘They are dedicated Communists and I am a dedicated American.’

“The simple thing that brought us together was a common interest, the President said. We want to maintain our integrity and independence as they do, and we both want to build a structure of peace in the Pacific and in the World. If we do not find a way, we will be on a collision course.

“The President pointed to two more or less guidelines for the future. First, they are the first to say that they are not a super power. Inevitably, however, the President pointed out 750 million Chinese Communists are something to be reckoned with. Consequently, they are destined to become a major force.

“Second, the President said the relationship between the United States and China is a very delicate one. The President then quoted Ayub Khan, who said that relationships between nations are based on trust, no matter what their beliefs are. He said that Khan said trust is a very thin thread. If it is broken, it is important to put it back together. We have started to put it back together. We are reliable, we are strong and we will continue to build for the future.

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“Our part is much greater than theirs. They read everything said in the Senate and House and they read the newspaper editorials and columns. They think that whenever a columnist speaks that that is the United States speaking, the President said.

“While we have made a beginning in certain areas, we are far apart in other areas, such as in Africa, the Middle East, etc., the President said.

“The President said that in the future, we must expect the Chinese at the United Nations to express their views vociferously, but not to worry about it. It would not mean our relationship is ended when they blast us.

“We must assume they are still as dedicated to their philosophies as we are to ours. The President said, ‘I am glad I went. I am impressed with what I saw and I am glad to be home. I have a new realization for us not to become one of them, and to realize that when you get people as dedicated as they are, that a soft and flabby or weak United States will not long survive in the world. We need certain dedication and belief in our country. So, we must continue our debates, but we must recognize that we must not lose dedication, determination or our love of country.’

“He said that if the United States would withdraw and live as an island, then others who may want to dominate the world would have a free hand to do so. Consequently, we need to keep America strong with strong commitments around the world. The most important thing to remember is that they constantly are reinvigorating their people and we must reinspire our people.” (Memorandum for the President’s File, February 29, 1972; National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, White House Special Files, President’s Office Files, Memos for the President, Box 88, February 27-May 28, 1972)

The meeting took place between 10:07 and 11:45 a.m. (Ibid., White House Central Files, Staff Members and Office Files, Office of Presidential Papers and Archives, Daily Diary)