451. Airgram From the Mission to the United Nations to the Department of State 1



  • PRC in the UN: Settling In


  • USUN A–111, January 18, 19722

Summary and Conclusions

This airgram reviews PRC activity at the UN since the end of the 26th UNGA. During this period the Chinese attended all Security Council meetings but have not fully participated in all of the various committees set up by the GA to which they have access. They have been slow to commit themselves on a number of UN issues such as peacekeeping and Law of the Sea and have adopted the tactic of “not participating” in a vote (as opposed to abstaining) when faced with a decision that pits their own “principles” against bi-lateral or Third World considerations. The one exception is on the demand for [Page 904]complete cessation of UN ties with the ROC, a policy the PRC pursues apparently even at the risk of damaging its image with the Third World. We expect the Chinese to continue cautiously to expand their activities in the UN and to continue to use the tactic of “not participating”. Committee participation, restricted in part because of limited and inexperienced personnel, should widen now that the Chinese have permanent quarters, are able to assess their needs, and to house and support additional personnel. We have seen little active Chinese lobbying for a substantive item, although in two instances they made unsuccessful attempts to block Indian candidacy for seats on UN committees. The Chinese will of course continue to study and prepare for a maximum input into the UN, but we doubt that they will be able to mount a major campaign before 1973 because they need more UN experience in the art of lobbying, more established and wider bi-lateral channels, more experienced personnel in their Mission and better developed relations with the Secretariat. This inability to capitalize fully on UN membership in the present and immediate future, does not preclude the possibility that friends of the PRC will either on their own initiative and/or at Chinese behest work and achieve PRC objectives.

In assessing the performance of the Chinese over the past few months we believe that they have viewed and will continue to view US positions on substantive matters before the UN with skepticism and suspicion. While we expect social relationships between individual officers of the US and PRC Missions will improve and expand, we do not expect working/personal relationships soon to reach the point of easy informality now characterizing the contacts we have with certain key members of the Soviet Mission.3

PRC Participation in UN Committees

The frenetic activity and constant pressure for decisions was lifted from the Chinese with the end of the 26th UNGA on December 22. Since that time the PRC has continued selectively to limit its UN activity in New York. From January to April, twenty-nine General Assembly-created committees met in New York. The Chinese are members of only some of these but had they desired they could have attended as observers or otherwise indicated interest in virtually all of the committees. They chose, however, not to attend even all of those meetings of committees of which they are members. In January, for example, six committees of which the Chinese are members met; they [Page 905]chose to attend two (ECOSOC and the Committee of 24). In February they attended only the Seabeds meeting. Restricted participation apparently was dictated, at least in part, by limited personnel. The Chinese have attended all meetings of the Security Council and its sub-committees—Sanctions Committee and the Ad Hoc Sub-Committee on Namibia—and in March an observer attended all the meetings of the Preparatory Committee for the UN (Stockholm) Conference on the Human Environment. In April a military contingent arrived from Peking to represent the PRC on the Military Staff Committee, which meets biweekly. Hsing Sung-yi, in an expert’s capacity, attended the Advisory Committee on Administrative and Budgetary Questions (ACABQ) in May. The PRC has continued to absent itself from the Committee on Relations with the Host Country and the Special Committee on the Financial Situation in the UN, although it is a member of both.

In public and private statements the Chinese continue to profess lack of UN experience and unfamiliarity with many UN issues. They are in fact still behaving as newcomers and show the awkwardness of dealing with an institution that has its own customs and idiom. Even an experienced diplomat like Huang Hua seemed uncertain of himself during the SC consultations on Lebanon and in one meeting indicated an unfamiliarity with procedure. The Chinese have stated that Peking has not decided on a number of questions concerning PRC participation and positions. Following UN day-to-day activity in detail obviously was not a priority in Peking before October 25, 1971. The Chinese continue to consult with various friendly missions, e.g., Romania, Yugoslavia and African and Latin American representatives. We understand from the Indians that the PRC’s staunch ally, Albania, has its nose out of joint because they are not being consulted. (However, the Albanians recently were taking the initiative on the PRC’s behalf to assure newsmen informally that Peking would not relax its support for Hanoi.)

[Omitted here are sections entitled “Issues,” “Cutting ROC Ties With the UN,” “Chinese Mission: Administration and Personnel,” “PRC and the Secretariat,” “Social/Official Contacts Between PRC and USUN Officers,” and “Personal Diplomacy.”]

  1. Source: National Archives, RG 59, Central Files 1970–73, UN 3 GA. Secret. Drafted May 19 by Sally Werner; cleared by Harry E. T. Thayer, A. Reynolds Smith, Robert B. Rosenstock, James C. Irwin, Richard E. Combs, David L. Stottlemyer, and Albert F. Bender; and approved by Michael H. Newlin. Repeated to London, Moscow, Ottawa, Paris, Taipei, Tokyo, USNATO, and Hong Kong.
  2. Document 450.
  3. Telegram 38831 to USUN (and repeated to all posts), March 7, transmitted guidelines for use in both working and social contacts with PRC delegations at the United Nations or international conferences. (National Archives, RG 59, Central Files 1970–73, UN 22–2 CHICOM)