105. Draft Response to National Security Study Memorandum 1061

[Omitted here is the Table of Contents.]

NSSM 106—China Policy


A. The Present Problem

It is obviously undesirable, as well as potentially dangerous, for the world’s most powerful country and the world’s most populous [Page 259] country (itself growing in power) to remain as hostile toward each other as they have been for two decades, with virtually no peaceful international intercourse—diplomatic, economic, scientific or cultural. The historical reasons for this are well known. The question is whether this circumstance is now alterable, and if so, whether it is in the US interest to attempt to alter it.

This problem has been given added urgency in the light of recent developments in China, in Asia, and in the world’s attitudes towards China. Much has been said concerning the drawing to a close of the “post-war era” in Europe. We may have reached a similar watershed in Asia, with the Nixon Doctrine both a harbinger of it and an accommodation to it.

For two decades the Government of the People’s Republic of China (PRC) has been in control of nearly a quarter of mankind, yet has been outside the mainstream of international affairs. Its isolation has been partly self-imposed, a result of both its conscious policy and its abusive behavior, and partly imposed on it by the efforts of non-Communist countries under US leadership. Denied a seat in the United Nations and faced with Taipei’s participation in international conferences, it has been loath to take part in any multilateral consideration of problems of global concern, such as arms control, law of the sea, offshore oil and seabed rights, airline hijacking, control of narcotics traffic, etc.—and it has generally not been invited to do so. It has also been generally unwilling to associate itself after the fact with international agreements reached without its participation.

In the mid-sixties the PRC had begun to improve its international standing—epitomized by French diplomatic recognition and a tie vote in the UN on Chinese representation—but the confused and extravagant conduct of the Cultural Revolution halted the trend toward increased international support. With the violent phase of the Cultural [Page 260] Revolution now over, the PRC is attempting to end its isolation. While there is reluctance in the world community to impair the standing of the Government of the Republic of China on Taiwan (GRC), given the seemingly irreconcilable confrontation between the two Chinese regimes a growing number of governments elect to support the PRC at the expense of the GRC whenever the issue is forced in the UN or elsewhere.

As a result, the US is finding fewer allies in its support of the GRC’s international position. If present indications materalize, within the next two or three years most of our European allies will have recognized Peking; and Japan, under heavy domestic pressure, is seriously examining its options, though a move toward recognition is not imminent. In the China context, diplomatic recognition and support in the United Nations tend to be mutually supportive acts. Accordingly, given the present trend in recognition, we can also expect increasing support for Peking in the UN which is likely to lead to PRC seating and GRC expulsion this year or in 1972. Our policy is being regarded more and more as unrealistic and out of date, both internationally and within the American body politic.

However, it is one thing for Canada, France, the UK or a host of other nations to recognize the PRC and support it in the UN; it is quite another thing for the US to do so. We are largely responsible for the very existence of the GRC; we have a defense treaty commitment to it (though we would not stand in the way of a peaceful resolution of the “Taiwan problem”), and we have a degree of responsibility for the people of Taiwan. We therefore have a moral obligation as well as political, economic and military interests arising from our long association with the GRC.

Thus important and valid but mutually incompatible interests of the United States in the China tangle have long presented us with dilemmas in our China policy. For most of the past two decades these dilemmas could be, and were, fairly successfully submerged, but developments of the past year have brought them into stark focus.

As a result, a number of insistent questions arise: Why does USPRC hostility persist? Can anything be done about it? What future course would be most promising? Is any change in US policy likely to prompt a desired change in PRC policy? If improvement in USPRC relations is to be further sought, how can our obligations to the GRC best be honored? What are the confines of US policy maneuverability? What are the likely costs and benefits from moves within those limits? This paper examines the issues raised by these questions and presents policy alternatives relative to them.

Before addressing these questions, however, certain strategic factors in the situation facing us should be noted.

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B. Strategic Factors

1. The Nixon Doctrine and the Asian reaction.

For years the US has deployed strategic and conventional forces in forward positions throughout East Asia. These have been directed against the military potential of the USSR and China and the specific military threats from North Korea and North Viet-Nam.

The presence of these forces has brought important gains in exchange for certain costs. They have helped deter overt conventional military aggression by Asian Communist countries. They have added significantly to the confidence of allied governments in their ability to resist Communist domination and influence. At the same time the presence of foreign troops to some extent has engendered frictions with local populations within the host countries, as well as with governments sensitive about what the presence of those troops implies for their sovereignty. The presence of US troops, particularly in mainland Asia, has also projected a threatening image of the US in the eyes of the Chinese and other Asian Communists, constituting one of the barriers in the way of improvement in our relations with them.

In accordance with the Nixon Doctrine the US is now reducing its close-in military presence (which Peking has long cited as proof of US hostility and presumption) and is increasing military assistance to selected allies so that they can assume primary responsibility for their own non-nuclear defense. It should not be assumed that Peking will interpret these reductions as an effort toward détente on the part of the US. Indeed, reduction of US forces in other parts of East Asia without concomitant reductions on Taiwan could well be regarded by Peking as an indication of US interest in keeping Taiwan permanently separate from the mainland, as a US base directed against the PRC.

The reduction of US force levels thus presents the US with political, military and psychological problems as well as opportunities. It has raised questions among our allies as to US determination to maintain its commitments, led them to start thinking more actively about how they might shape future arrangements with Peking, and may provide the PRC with opportunities to expand its political influence in the area.

So far as we can determine, the reduction of US force levels as such has not produced any change in Chinese deployments directed against Korea, Taiwan or Southeast Asia, although the PRC apparently has begun to alter traditional deployment patterns in South China in order to strengthen conventional capabilities vis-à-vis the Soviet Union. The Chinese are and will continue to be deterred from overt massive aggression across their borders by US and Soviet nuclear and conventional power.

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The PRC probably views the Nixon Doctrine with mixed feelings. While it welcomes the first significant US troop reductions in East Asia since the end of the Korean War, it is probably concerned that strengthened indigenous non-Communist governments left behind may be harder for “liberation” movements to handle. Furthermore, Peking has seen benefits in what it regards as the over-extension of American resources and in the US domestic political disruption connected with the Viet-Nam War, and would like to see these continued—though not at the expense of an enlarged threat to China.

Peking’s considerations related to the American presence are greatly magnified where Taiwan is concerned. Any favorable PRC reaction toward the over-all reduction of US military presence in East Asia would be more than offset if the net effect should be strengthening the US presence on Taiwan.

As for reactions elsewhere, while some Asian leaders appear to have been reassured about US intentions and agree with the Nixon Doctrine as a practical approach if it is carefully implemented, many opinion makers are skeptical. The media in Asia continue to reflect doubt and concern. Asian non-Communist nations in general continue to look upon the Chinese colossus with suspicion and fear. While they regard the threat of overt invasion as much less likely than was once believed, Chinese-abetted “people’s wars” are looked upon as a constant threat, and one difficult to counter. They fear the potential of Maoist-oriented Communist indigenous elements, particularly in view of the large Chinese minorities found in most Asian countries.

Conservative Japanese leaders are disturbed by the pace of US military force reductions and have hinted that we should slow down. Those who have questioned Japan’s alignment with the US see the reductions as evidence of the unreliability of our commitment and are more than ever inclined to urge that Japan should consider alternative options.

Korea, Taiwan, Thailand, the Philippines, Cambodia, Indonesia and to a lesser extent South Viet-Nam often express the hope for even greater American material assistance in strengthening their defense capabilities.

In the Philippines, Malaysia, Singapore and Thailand there is growing interest in contact with Communist states as a means of reducing tensions and protecting the peace and security of Southeast Asia, whereas Korea and Taiwan continue to oppose such contacts, preferring to rely on some kind of regional military arrangement as effective deterrence. The latter may also be true in Cambodia and South Viet-Nam.

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2. Great power interrelationship in Asia.

Although changes have been gradual, the interaction of the US, China, Japan and the USSR in East Asia has made each country more conscious of the complex balance of power and potential for manipulation inherent in an increasingly—but by no means fully—quadrangular power interrelationship. The shift from alliance to confrontation in Sino-Soviet relations and the rapid emergence of Japan have altered the nature of the game.

Sino-Soviet tensions, which in late 1969 built to the point where open hostilities seemed possible, have eased somewhat; but the Soviet threat is a more real and immediate worry for Peking than any danger from the US. Although some normalization in state relations has taken place between the two, re-establishment to any significant degree of the Sino-Soviet relationship of the 1950’s is highly improbable for the foreseeable future. Most likely Sino-Soviet relations will remain in a state of controlled tension with both sides avoiding armed conflict but neither side willing to make major concessions. Nevertheless, given recent history the possibility of a significant deterioration of relations cannot be discounted.

The virulence of the hostility between the PRC and the Soviet Union has contributed to China’s interest in maintaining some contact with the US—while other factors dictate that such contact be sporadic and tenuous. It is unlikely that the Chinese expect these contacts to lead to early and substantial results, but they apparently calculate that they not only serve to disturb the USSR but also may aggravate uncertainty about US intentions among the population and leaders of Taiwan.

The USSR and the PRC are highly sensitive to shifts in the US-Sino-Soviet relationship. In 1969 during the period of greatest Sino-Soviet tension, both were especially suspicious about US contact with the other. Although the Chinese remain nervous over possible US- Soviet collusion, the Soviets, noting Peking’s cool response to US overtures, have for the time being relegated collusion by the other two to the realm of potential rather than imminent danger. Nevertheless, should there be a marked improvement in USPRC relations, the Soviets would carefully assess the potential effect of such changes on their own interests. They are particularly concerned that the US might provide, or permit third countries to provide, the PRC with scientific information and technology which would directly or indirectly help PRC military potential vis-à-vis the USSR. Should the Soviet leaders judge that changes in our trade policies might facilitate the strengthening of PRC military potential to their detriment, US-Soviet relations in other areas could, as a result, noticeably chill.

China’s power position has been challenged by the emergence of Japan. Although the latter’s economic capacity has not been matched [Page 264] by a commensurate political role, the Chinese as well as other Asians sense Japan’s tremendous potential for influence in the region. Aside from jealousy over Japan’s economic success as such, the Chinese are bothered by the prospect of a Japanese economic influence in Asia which will carry prestige and political weight as well. They fear a resurgence of Japanese military power and are disturbed about the protective role they suspect the Japanese have in mind for Korea and particularly Taiwan. They are acutely aware that some influential elements in Japan believe Japan’s large and growing investments in Taiwan and its strategic interest in the Island should determine Japanese China policy, even at the expense of a permanent breach with the PRC.

At the same time certain countervailing factors inhibit the Chinese from indulging in all-out hostility toward Japan: China depends heavily on Sino-Japanese trade; it desires to weaken US-Japanese security relations; it does not wish to antagonize unnecessarily those already significant Japanese elements who favor a more accommodating policy toward Peking; and it wishes to avoid providing a concrete threat which Japanese rightists could seize as a rationale for rearmament.

So far, Japan’s emergence has had a lesser impact on the positions of the US and the USSR. The relative weight of the US in the area will, nevertheless, diminish with the lower profile envisaged under the Nixon Doctrine. The importance of close coordination with Japan on our China policy is obvious.


The President said in 1970 that it is “certainly in our interest, and in the interest of peace and stability in Asia and the world, that we take what steps we can toward improved practical relations with Peking.”2 Given the inherent conflicts in US interests relating to the China question, we must decide how strongly we desire improved relations with the PRC, since presumably they must come—if they can come at all—at some cost in our relations with the GRC and perhaps in other interests as well.

In formulating long (4–8 year) and short (1–3 year) term goals, we have taken into account (1) the advanced ages of the two key leaders. Mao Tse-tung and Chiang Kai-shek, (2) the fact that the GRC is approaching a crossroads in its international position and may later face the problem of greater Taiwanese political participation, and (3) the state of flux in PRC policy issues in the post-Cultural Revolution era.

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Toward the PRC

Long Range (4–8 year) goals
Avoid a direct USPRC armed confrontation or conflict; work toward a relaxation of tensions in the area facilitating an acceptable settlement in Southeast Asia.
Deter PRC aggression against non-Communist neighbors.
Secure PRC recognition (albeit tacit) that the US has a legitimate role in Asia.
Encourage Peking to play a constructive, responsible role in the international community.
Achieve more normal political and economic relations with the PRC, including participation in the growing trade with it.
Encourage a peaceful resolution of the Taiwan issue.
Prevent an offensive alliance between Peking and Moscow directed against the US or its Asian friends and allies.
Short Range (1–3 years) goals
Discourage the use of force by either side in the Strait area.
Achieve a relaxation of Sino-US tension through expansion of contacts including a resumption of the dialogue at Warsaw or elsewhere.
Allay Peking’s fears of US-Soviet collusion against and encirclement of China.
Do what we can to make possible Peking’s constructive participation in international conferences on world-wide problems, including measures for arms control and disarmament.3
Initiate controlled, direct economic relations.4

Toward the GRC and Taiwan

(The assumption is made that during the next eight years the PRC will be unable to bring Taiwan under its control.)

Long Range (4–8 years) goals
Encourage movement toward a peaceful resolution of the Taiwan issue between the governments in Peking and Taipei.
Insure the security of Taiwan from external attack, including achievement of a local defense force capable of contributing to the defense of Taiwan and the Pescadores and supportable by local resources with decreasing US assistance.5
Encourage other governments to maintain relations with the Government on Taiwan consistent with its de facto status.
Encourage the evolution of more representative political institutions which would provide the Taiwanese community a greater voice [Page 266] in central government decisions.
Short Range (1–3 years) goals
Discourage the use of force by either side in the Taiwan Strait area.
Encourage restructuring and modernization of GRC forces to achieve adequate defense capabilities supportable by GRC resources without impeding continued economic growth.
Maintain access to Taiwan to the extent necessary to meet our commitment to the defense of Taiwan and the Pescadores and our strategic requirements in East Asia.
Encourage the GRC to adopt more flexible policies concerning the Chirep issue and third country recognition so that we can more effectively support it internationally.
Encourage Taiwan’s continued growth and its increasing contribution to regional development.

[Omitted here are 48 pages divided into sections: III. PRC Strategy; IV. US Strategy; V. Difficulties in Improving Relations; and VI. Policy Options—Room for Maneuver. Also omitted are a 6-page Top Secret annex written by the Department of Defense entitled “US Military Presence on Taiwan” and a 3-page document, “Extracts from Terms of Reference for CHMAAG, China.”]

  1. Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, NSC Insitutional Files (H-Files), Box H–177, NSSM 106. Secret. Green was responsible for coordinating the Department of State’s response to NSSM 106. (Memorandum from Cargo t. Green, November 28, 1970; ibid., RG 59, S/S Files; Lot 80 D 212, NSSM 106) Representatives from the Departments of State, Defense, Commerce, and Treasury, and ACDA, USIA, and the CIA met on December 23 to discuss the draft response. Green noted: “With the exception of some differences on specific points, the other participating Agencies appeared to support the general thrust of State’s draft.” (Memorandum from Green t. Rogers, January 8, 1971; ibid.) In an undated memorandum, Green wrote to the Under Secretary of State that the Interdepartmental Group had reviewed the response to NSSM 106 on February 11. According to Green, “However, some differences between DOD and State remain on specific points, notably in the sections dealing with the strategic importance of Taiwan and our military presence there and in the final section on possible arms control discussions with Peking.” (Ibid., S/S Files: Lot 82 D 126, NSC Files, SRG Meeting on NSSM 106) A March 6 briefing memorandum from Levin, Sonnenfeldt, and Kennedy to Kissinger explained that NSSM 106 “in effect, poses the issue of how far we want to go to improve relations with the People’s Republic of China, since attempts to achieve these improvements must come, if at all, at some cost in our relations with the GRC and will raise some questions in our relations with the Soviets.” In a March 8 memorandum to Kissinger, Holdridge emphasized that NSSM 106 involved conventional, not nuclear forces, and suggested that these matters would be better discussed in the context of NSSM 69, U.S. Nuclear Policy in Asia. (Ibid.) Materials prepared for Kissinger including this response to NSSM 106, the Department of State’s Issues Paper, NSDM 17, and NSSM 106 are ibid. According to a March 25 memorandum from Helms to Kissinger, there was also an “Intelligence Annex” to the response to the NSSM, which had the concurrence of INR, DOD, and the CIA. (Central Intelligence Agency, Job 84–B00513R, DCI/Executive Registry Files: NSSMs)
  2. “First Annual Report to the Congress on United States Foreign Policy for the 1970s, February 18, 1970,” in Public Papers: Nixon, 1970: p. 182.
  3. See Document 109.
  4. Specific steps involving trade and travel were covered by the Under Secretaries Committee report (see footnote 3, Document 111).
  5. See Document 110.