290. Memorandum From the President’s Assistant for National Security Affairs (Kissinger) to President Nixon 1


  • The Chinese Representation Question

Secretary Rogers has transmitted to you a detailed analysis of the Chinese representation question prepared in State (Tab A).2

[Page 506]

In his covering memorandum, Secretary Rogers does not explicitly recommend a course of action, but he strongly implies that we should continue our present policy even though eventually it will fail, and China will be represented by the People’s Republic of China (PRC), or by nobody. He wishes to keep a place for the GRC in the UN, but he does not see any prospect of a solution which would permit the PRC and the Republic of China (ROC) both to be represented, so long as they reject such a solution. And he sees no sign that either will change its mind.

He argues that any change in our UN tactics would require that we consider the effects on the ROC and the PRC, the Japanese and the Soviets, the implications for other divided states, and the consequences of the presence of PRC representatives in the UN and in the U.S. Since most of these points would argue on balance against any change in U.S. position, the strong implication is that we should continue as we are.

Secretary Rogers thinks the status quo can probably be held this year.

The State study describes seven policy options, ranging from a continued strong line to acquiescence in the PRC’s taking over the Chinese seat. Most of the options are variants of the “two-China” policy, but some of them contain elements of the more sophisticated earlier proposals for a “successor state” or “contending claimants” policy. These variants were intended to permit us—and other states—to avoid the politically explosive problem of taking a position concerning the present juridical and future actual relationship between Taiwan and the mainland (an area in which one cannot take a position without angering either the PRC, the ROC, Japan or the Taiwanese majority on Taiwan—or all of them).

The study correctly points out that we could move to one of the “two-China” variants either

  • —as a tactic to disrupt a move toward acceptance of the “Albanian resolution”. (This would be particularly effective if the ROC were persuaded to sit tight, recognizing that the PRC would not come in if the ROC stayed, and that this would leave the ROC in possession of the field.)
  • or, as a means of moving toward a new policy looking toward the entry of Communist China into a more normal role in the family of nations. (For the present, this hangs up on the fact that the PRC would regard it as a sinister move to detach Taiwan from China, and therefore more hostile and dangerous even than our present policy.)

I do not think that a major shift of the US position is justified this year, if the estimate holds up that we can win with the traditional approach.

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If we anticipate an eventual defeat, and [I] do not see how we can avoid it, we should minimize that defeat by preparing now to diminish its apparent significance, in so far as we can do so without hastening the event.

There are two policy lines already in existence, which we should underscore and continue:

  • —We should emphasize that our interest is in protecting a place for the ROC in the General Assembly, rather than in excluding Communist China. This position wins friends in the US and abroad, since there is considerable sympathy for the proposition that Taiwan should not be thrown out to accommodate the Communist demand. If the ROC should voluntarily leave, faced with a hostile or “two-Chinas” vote, we would have demonstrated our loyalty to a friend, and we could convincingly argue that the subsequent entry of the PRC was not a defeat at all.
  • —The Nixon Doctrine has played down the confrontation mentality, and Administration statements concerning our desire for greater communication with the Chinese Communists have also steered us away from the automatic assumption that any PRC gain in the UN is a US loss. We should continue such statements.

This line should be coupled with strong support for a continuing place for the ROC in the UN.

Taken together, this approach permits us to honor our commitments and protect our important interests, while at the same time it serves gradually to deflate the importance of Chinese representation as a policy issue.

If a “two-Chinas” movement gains momentum in the UN without our encouragement, the posture permits us to examine that movement and see whether we should acquiesce in it. These circumstances—being faced with such a movement but not having encouraged it—would put the strongest possible pressure on the ROC to face the question of its own continued place in the UN on its own merits, without being tempted to take a tough line to force our hand. Under such circumstances, it might decide that it should stay in. This would face the PRC with the choice of coming in on terms acceptable to us, or fighting for ROC exclusion on a very poor wicket. This could stabilize the situation for years. On the other hand, we would have done our best if the ROC decided to withdraw.


That you authorize me to inform Secretary Rogers that you wish—

to continue the US position this year as heretofore on the Important Question and “Albanian” resolutions.
to avoid introducing or encouraging any “two-China” type resolutions at the forthcoming UNGA, unless a later count of prospective votes requires reconsideration of this tactic.
to emphasize that our interest is in protecting a place in the General Assembly for the ROC, rather than in excluding the Chinese Communists. As appropriate, to treat the advantages and disadvantages of a PRC presence in the UN in a generally straightforward manner, along the lines pages 17–19 of the attached paper.
to make clear that we do attach importance to the continued representation of the ROC.
in non-UN contexts, to avoid emphasizing the confrontation aspects of US/PRC relations, and to make clear that we wish to promote greater communication with the Chinese Communists and to see eventual PRC participation in worldwide cooperation on issues such as disarmament, narcotics control, exchange of weather information, outer space, seabeds, etc.3

  1. Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Box 520, Country Files, Far East, China, Vol. IV. Secret; Nodis. Sent for action. The first page of the memorandum is stamped “July 24 1970,” and “The President has seen.” A July 11 covering memorandum from Holdridge recommends that Kissinger sign the memorandum to Nixon. On this covering memorandum, Kissinger wrote “Note edit,” and “What is Albanian resolution?” An earlier draft of the memorandum to Nixon was attached. Kissinger had removed several paragraphs that claimed “this [the ROC in the UN] is a major issue because we have made it a major issue. The most important US interest involved in this decision is ‘face.’”
  2. Attached but not printed. On March 20 Under Secretary of State John Irwin requested that Assistant Secretary of State for International Organization Affairs Samuel De Palma prepare a memorandum from the Secretary of State to the President concerning both immediate and long-term positions for the United States toward Chinese representation in the United Nations. The final version of this memorandum went to the Under Secretary on May 25, and was submitted by Secretary Rogers to President Nixon on June 19. (Ibid., RG 59, Central Files 1970–73, UN 6 CHICOM)
  3. Nixon initialed the approve option.