11. Memorandum From the President’s Assistant for National Security Affairs (Kissinger) to President Nixon1


  • Evaluation of Chinese Communist Ninth Party Congress

I attach evaluations of the recently-concluded Ninth Party Congress prepared by CIA and the Department of State (Tabs B and C)2 covered by a brief summary analysis prepared by my staff (Tab A.)

The analysis suggests a continuing stalemate, with Mao Tse-tung unable to push through his visionary economic and social programs in the face of opposition within the Party, but with that opposition unable to force its policies upon Mao. The real power of the Army, and particularly of the Army leadership at provincial levels, continues to grow. The attention of the leadership remains focused upon domestic issues and probably upon the contest for power, but because of divided councils there is not even a clear mandate as to the direction of future domestic policies.

Tab A

The Chinese Communist Ninth Party Congress

The Ninth Party Congress closed on April 24, after an unusually long meeting lasting more than three weeks. Documentation as to what happened at the Congress is unusually sparse, consisting only of the speech given by Lin Piao to open the Congress, a brief and unilluminating new Constitution, and the Communiqué issued at the Congress’ close. The editorials which normally give an indication of policy decisions in such a Chinese conclave were missing this time, or gave confused signals as to policy direction.

The most dramatic features of the Congress were the evidence of continued policy differences, the failure to resolve the existing power [Page 28] stalemate between Mao and the leaders who resist his revolutionary programs, the focus upon domestic issues, the failure to resolve those issues in any clear fashion, and the lack of foreign policy initiatives.

The continuation of deep differences was documented by the following evidence:
  • —the unusual length of the meeting, and the paucity of press coverage.
  • —the failure to evolve a coherent program or to endorse Mao’s specific programs.
  • —the pleas for unity in the Communiqué.
  • —the failure to condemn specific opponents of the cultural revolution (aside from Liu Shao-ch’i), or to call for further specific steps of “purification”.
The power stalemate was evidenced by the lists of Party officials which came out of the meeting. While Mao has succeeded in excluding from power a number of leaders who oppose him, he has not been able to dictate a new leadership to the Party.
  • —The top leadership of twenty-four remains unchanged from the pre-Congress list. It consists only in part of Mao’s close adherents and continues to contain a number of administrators and senior Army officials who probably resist his programs.
  • —Normally, the Central Committee is listed in order of rank; this time, the new Central Committee is listed in the Chinese equivalent in alphabetical order. It has been expanded, apparently packed with both low-level Maoist representatives and military men.
  • —The increased power of provincial leaders is demonstrated. Provincial leaders (most of whom are military and most of whom are probably conservative) have consolidated and probably expanded their power. The Army probably remains in effective control of China outside the center.
  • —However, the standing committee of the new Politburo has been reduced to five persons, and Mao can probably count on a regular majority. This suggests a continuing gap between orders from the center and execution at provincial levels.
The continued absorption with domestic issues is clear. Doctrinal issues and ritual justification for Mao’s class-oriented view of society dominated the documents, and it is safe to assume that competition for positions in the new hierarchy was the key issue at the meeting. Foreign policy was nearly ignored.
This is not to say that any consensus emerged as to what domestic policy should be. The direction of policy was not determined. The failure either to endorse Mao’s program or to set up any workable alternative makes it almost certain that China will flounder for the next year or two without clear policy direction.
  • —There was no real endorsement of a new “great leap forward”, nor was there any specific endorsement of policies, Maoist or otherwise.
  • —From other reports, we believe that actual current planning recognizes that there will be very limited capital investment, and instead emphasizes development of agricultural production and economic stabilization measures.
  • —This emphasis conflicts with Mao’s wish to move 40 million city dwellers to the countryside, to revamp educational policy and to place it under the control of peasants and workers, and to expand the socialist institutions in the countryside. Newspaper editorials suggest a continuing argument concerning all these policies.3
Foreign policy will continue to be subject to the general Maoist position, which emphasizes revolutionary struggles and thereby generates suspicion of Communist China in third countries. At the same time there is no indication that the Chinese leaders intend to become less cautious in avoiding foreign commitments.
  • —Support for class struggles in Southeast Asia, India and Israel was reaffirmed by Lin Piao, but given little emphasis.
  • —Denigration of the US was pro forma.
  • Lin Piao mentioned that the Chinese had refused an urgent Soviet request to discuss the border issue, but he indicated that China was considering whether to engage in border discussions. A momentary damping down of Soviet polemics against China suggests that in early April the Soviets indeed expected there might be some hope for negotiation. The polemics resumed as the Congress closed, suggesting that this hope has evaporated.
  • —The public statements did not manifest any Chinese concern that war with the US or the USSR is imminent.
  • —Treatment of Vietnam was perfunctory, and the Chinese have not endorsed the North Korean position during the recent tension.
  • —The ineffectiveness of the Maoist line in foreign policy is suggested by China’s isolation. The Congress had kind words for no governments and for only one Party, the Albanian. A combination of moralistic rigidity towards other Communists, together with a professed desire to see the overthrow of non-Communist neighbors, would appear likely to earn the hostility of both.
  1. Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Box 518, Country Files, Far East, China, Vol. I. Confidential with Top Secret Attachment. Sent for information. Notations on the memorandum indicate the President saw it, and that it was returned from the President on May 1.
  2. Tab B is an undated CIA report and Tab C is INR Intelligence Note 316, April 25. Both are attached but not printed.
  3. Nixon’s handwritten comment above this paragraph reads: “H.K. note Mao fights the educated establishment!”