455. Report Prepared in the Department of State1



On August 2, 1971, Secretary of State William P. Rogers announced that the United States would support a dual representation solution to the Chinese representation problem at the upcoming 26th session of the United Nations General Assembly. The Secretary’s announcement marked a departure from a policy which had endured for more than twenty years. For the first time since the Chinese representation question had become an annual fixture in the General Assembly, American officials dropped their opposition to the seating of the People’s Republic of China and concentrated upon preserving a place in the United Nations for the Republic of China. In part, the revision of American policy was prompted by the climate of opinion which had developed in the General Assembly in favor of seating the People’s Republic of China. In a larger sense, the adoption by the United States of a dual representation policy was part of the Nixon administration’s continuing effort to adjust to the reality of mainland China without severing American ties with the Government on Taiwan. On July 15, President Nixon dramatically underscored his desire to achieve a détente with the People’s Republic of China by announcing his intention to visit Peking. In making his announcement, the President offered the assurance that the United States did not intend to improve its relations with the People’s Republic of China at the expense of old friends. Secretary Rogers’ subsequent announcement of a policy favoring membership in the United Nations for both Chinese Governments was in the spirit of the President’s assurance.

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The change in policy which the Secretary announced on August 2 had been under active consideration in Washington for more than eight months. On November 19, 1970, the National Security Council had requested interdepartmental studies treating China policy in general and the Chinese representation question in particular. The studies had to take into account Premier Chou En-lai’s vigorous campaign to break the diplomatic isolation which the People’s Republic of China had known during the period of the “Cultural Revolution”, a campaign which bore important fruit on November 20, 1970 when a majority of the members of the General Assembly voted for the first time to seat the representatives of the Peking Government in the United Nations (the Republic of China retained its place because of the General Assembly’s determination that any change in the representation of China constituted an “Important Question” and required a two-thirds majority to effect). Also, American officials were inclined to encourage the People’s Republic of China to play a larger, more normal diplomatic role. Specialists throughout the United States Government agreed that it would be very difficult and unwise to continue to exclude Peking’s representatives from the United Nations. At the same time, those participating in the policy review agreed that the United States should continue to support the international position of the Republic of China. A dual representation approach to the problem of China’s seat in the United Nations offered an obvious answer. Dual representation was an idea which had enjoyed some support in the General Assembly in years past as an equitable solution which would contribute to a more universal organization. The arguments for and against a change to a dual representation policy were laid out for President Nixon by his advisers at a meeting of the National Security Council on March 25, 1971.2

Similar policy reviews were taking place in other capitals. American officials were most interested in the conclusions being reached in Japan, Australia, and New Zealand, which had been the closest associates of the United States in the previous strategy of defining Chinese representation as an “Important Question”. They were also concerned about Belgium, which was the country most prominently identified with the concept of dual representation, and about Great Britain, which was hinting that it intended to throw its considerable weight behind the “Albanian” resolution to give the Chinese seat to Peking. Conversations on Chinese representation with these countries could not be postponed until the policy review had been completed in Washington. As early as December, 1970, cautious and non-committal discussions had begun. By the middle of March, there was general agreement [Page 915]among the specialists in Washington, Wellington, Canberra, and Tokyo that a dual representation approach offered the best hope of preserving a place in the United Nations for the Republic of China. The Belgian Government indicated that it was anxious to play a part in promoting a dual representation resolution. Only the British, among the allies initially sounded, expressed no sympathy for what they saw as a “two-China” solution.

Before a dual representation policy could be adopted, the Republic of China had to lend at least tacit approval to the idea. Less than two weeks after the vote on the Albanian resolution at the 25th General Assembly, Secretary Rogers began the task of persuading the Taipei Government that a new approach to Chinese representation was necessary. At first, the line taken by officials in Taipei was that, with a redoubled effort, the usual Important Question strategy could be made to prevail again. Gradually, however, indications grew that the Government of the Republic of China recognized the situation and would make a realistic effort to preserve its place in the United Nations. In April, Robert D. Murphy, former Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs, traveled to Taipei as the personal representative of President Nixon to discuss Chinese representation with President Chiang Kai-shek. Ambassador Murphy told Chiang that the United States intended to continue to honor its treaty commitments and to provide military assistance to the Republic of China. Thus reassured, Chiang implied that he could accept a dual representation resolution which did not affect the Republic of China’s seat on the Security Council. Murphy assured Chiang that the United States would oppose any effort to deprive the Republic of China of its Security Council seat. Chiang’s conversation with Murphy set a standard for the remarkable flexibility which the Republic of China demonstrated throughout the dual representation effort. American officials recognized, however, that the flexibility of the Republic of China was never more than tactical, being based on the calculation that Peking might reject any dual representation resolution and would certainly refuse an offer which did not include the Security Council seat.

The Republic of China’s cooperation was essential to the process of developing a dual representation policy. American officials recognized that the commitment to defend the Republic of China’s seat in the Security Council might not be possible to sustain, but they were willing to make an effort. A full-scale canvass of opinion among the members of the General Assembly was required to determine the type of dual representation formula which would command the support necessary to succeed. Until July, however, the White House restrained the State Department from discussing the Chinese representation question with more than a handful of close allies. The President’s announcement on July 15 of his intention to visit Peking made it evident [Page 916]that the decision on Chinese representation had to be timed to coordinate with a larger reordering of U.S. policy on China. The President’s announcement freed the Department to move forward with the dual representation initiative.

The lobbying effort in support of the dual representation approach began immediately after the Secretary’s announcement of policy on August 2. Department specialists were aware that time was short by then. Nonetheless, they had to struggle with the difficult cosponsorship problem before they could formulate a definite dual representation resolution and lobby in support of an established position. The key to unraveling the co-sponsorship problem lay in the matter of China’s Security Council seat. Many of the countries important to the dual representation effort indicated that they would not co-sponsor unless the dual representation resolution contained a recommendation that the People’s Republic of China be given the seat in the Security Council. Although the Republic of China remained opposed, United States officials finally decided that they would have to support a “complex” dual representation resolution. On September 10, telegrams announcing the American decision went to potential co-sponsors, and the co-sponsorship problem fell into place. The most encouraging development occurred on the day on which the dual representation resolution was submitted to the United Nations Secretariat, along with a revised Important Question resolution. On that day, September 22, the Government of Japan put aside the serious domestic problems occasioned by the controversy over Chinese representation and agreed to join the list of co-sponsors.

Once the resolutions were formulated, and the co-sponsors established, the State Department could turn its full attention to the business of building support for the dual representation initiative. An intense, world-wide campaign was mounted in conjunction with the other principal co-sponsors, and it was maintained until the votes were taken on October 25. The effort was mounted in the face of daunting odds and narrowly failed.

The sponsors of the Albanian resolution were able to build upon a base which had been established over the years and upon momentum carrying over from the majority support they had enjoyed at the 25th General Assembly. They profited from Peking’s continuing campaign to improve its bilateral relations and from the reiterated insistence that the People’s Republic of China would never enter the United Nations under the terms of a dual representation resolution. The adamant stance taken by the People’s Republic of China did much to offset the appeal which dual representation had for those countries concerned with equity and a universal world organization. A number of conservative countries, on the other hand, had no interest in pursuing [Page 917]the ideal of universality at the expense of welcoming representatives from Peking into the United Nations. Those supporting dual representation had little time to alter preconceptions and establish the credibility of an untested proposition. Throughout the lobbying campaign, United States officials had to work against the widespread suspicion that President Nixon’s forthcoming trip to Peking had been paved by a secret understanding with regard to Chinese representation. In the circumstances, the remarkable thing about the effort to preserve a place for the Republic of China in the 26th General Assembly was not that it failed, but that it failed so narrowly.

[Omitted here are the body of the paper, pages 6–133, and Annexes I–V.]

  1. Source: Department of State, Bureau of Public Affairs, Office of the Historian. Top Secret; Nodis. This is Research Project No. 1034, prepared in the Historical Studies Division of the Historian’s Office. As noted in the Foreword to the 172-page report (not printed): “This study was undertaken in response to a request from the Bureau of International Organization Affairs. The research and writing were done by Louis J. Smith under the immediate direction of Homer L. Calkin, Chief of the Special Studies Branch, Historical Studies Division.” The study focuses on Department of State efforts and relied on materials now in the National Archives, RG 59, Central Files, but does not take into account documentation from the White House or National Security Council.
  2. See Document 342.