184. Message From the President’s Deputy Assistant for National Security Affairs (Haig) to the President’s Assistant for National Security Affairs (Kissinger)1

On evening of January 6 entire group was presented to Prime Minister and Marshal2 in three segments (Advance Group, Technicians and air crew). He spoke to advance party for period of nearly 30 minutes presenting guarded expressions of friendship for American people and emphasizing again PRC limitations which preclude great power status.

Following meeting with Prime Minister, we were given sumptuous duck dinner. Concurrently, I had to step into technical arrangements which were totally stalled due to contract squabble on both satellite and production center. Technicians worked until dawn and finally arrived at solutions which appeared to satisfy PRC officials. It now appears that we can wrap up these details based on the most unorthodox legal arrangements conceivable. I have pushed this to a solution, despite considerable reservations on part of Redman3 and network technicians. We departed at 3:00 PM, January 7, for Shanghai and will leave China on schedule on January 10.

At 11:00 PM Thursday night, January 6, I was informed that Prime Minister again wished to see me. Thirty minutes later, I was informed he was ready and Muriel and I were ushered into a room in the Great [Page 650] Hall where Prime Minister and a host of Chinese officials were assembled, including Fei, Chang, Hsiung, Han Hsu and Wang Hai-jung.

After a most cordial exchange of small talk, Prime Minister started to read from a paper which was presented as Chairman’s formal reply to my message of Tuesday A.M.4 The reply was tough and polemic in tone, especially on the subject of Vietnam and our assessment of that situation. The December air action was the subject of special attack. The Prime Minister stated it had, in fact, “brought an unfavorable element into the visit”. The Prime Minister’s language in this regard was guarded and most carefully chosen. He also attacked Soviets and expressed agreement with our South Asian policies. He took strong exception to our expressions of concern for PRC’s viability and independence. The Prime Minister insisted this is their problem and they need no help from us. Prime Minister also insisted that our strategic assessment of Soviet South Asian strategy is in error and that Soviet expansion into that area has always been a Soviet objective. Your trip in July merely provided pretext for concluding military pact (not friendship) with India which had been in readiness for two years. Prime Minister insisted relations between United States and PRC were not normalized and that we diverged on a number of issues in fundamental ways. He also stated our concern for Nixon image as world leader was misplaced since Nixon image will evolve from his actions—not theatrics. In any event, PRC will do nothing to embarrass President during his trip.

Inter alia, Prime Minister made following specific points:

  • —Expressed appreciation for my frankness.
  • PRC people desire normalization but hostile forces are intensifying their destruction and sabotage.
  • USSR hastily made concessions in Berlin after announcement of President’s visit and concurrently concluded military alliance with India.
  • —There has been no shift of Soviet policy of contending for hegemony in South Asia.
  • —Subcontinent will remain in turmoil.
  • —There is a fundamental difference between PRC and United States on Vietnam questions.
  • —China firmly supports struggle of Vietnamese people and U.S. should withdraw now and accept seven points.
  • —Relations between U.S. and China are not normal.
  • PRC does not object to further consultations on Taiwan and will do its best to take our difficulties into consideration in draft. At same time, this is the crucial question for PRC and yielding to forces opposed to normalization will bring no benefits.
  • PRC will consider putting references to future trade in communiqué and cultural and scientific exchanges as well. Expect our side to bring some views on these issues when party comes.
  • —Requests text PRC reply be given to Kissinger and President upon return of our party.

In view of foregoing and strong attack on Southeast Asian problem and fact that several PRC officials were in attendance, I replied in a manner designed to not accept unreasonable PRC polemics but in a way also designed to wind the exchange down rather than to launch a new round.

I therefore told Prime Minister I was responding briefly on a personal basis, believing only you and President should respond officially for our side:

  • —Language of Tuesday’s and Thursday’s messages was my own— blunt and that of a soldier.
  • —Re Southeast Asia, it does appear that we differ since from our perspective it is Hanoi and Moscow that are blocking peace. Furthermore, over the longer view it is our view that PRC and U.S. interests will converge in Southeast Asia.
  • —Re viability of PRC, my language was not designed to convey that we were presuming to assume role of PRC protector but rather that our own interests now have led us to conclude that China’s continued viability is in our own self-interest—this being a simple statement of fact.
  • —Re “President’s image”—I was speaking strictly in context of affording enemies an opportunity to place obstacles in way of our policies. Imagery has never been a factor in President’s calculus for decisions as his past performance confirms.
  • —Re Taiwan, more detailed discussions should be held in February.
  • —Re trade, scientific and cultural matters in communiqué, we will have modest proposals in February and we recognize issue of trade is long-term proposition.
  • —Re South Asia and elsewhere, experience has shown both of us that good intentions may not be enough. In that area, the U.S. was slowin recognizing the dangers, how it behooves both sides to be equally cognizant of dangers, both there and elsewhere, and to concert where indicated before the situation turns sour.
  • —Finally, I noted that our technical talks had been characterized by candor and frankness. Some of the substantive topics on the President’s agenda cover points of past disagreement which lend themselves to standard rhetoric which contributes to further misunderstanding. I therefore urge the same kind of frank exchanges which have characterized discussions during our visit. (This was indirect slap at PRC rhetoric on Vietnam which Prime Minister seemed to accept, though perhaps not too happily.)

Prime Minister then touched upon history of Korea and Vietnam, carefully pointing out that Democratic Presidents led U.S. in and Republican Presidents must lead us out. He again launched attack on air action; noted there is still room for changes on Taiwan language—referred to trade, cultural and scientific matters as “rather minor” which [Page 652] can be settled. Prime Minister concluded by pointing out that situation in Vietnam is different from that which pertained in Korea. In Korea, he was involved and agreement could be reached with U.S. Now the participants are different.

The meeting concluded at 2:15 A.M.

We depart this evening by train for Hangchow and will remain out of direct contact with the aircraft for next twenty four hours. Should you have anything urgent, please instruct aircraft crew to contact me by phone in Hangchow.

Warm regards.

  1. Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Box 1015. Alexander M. Haig Special File, Haig China Trip File [Haig Advance Party, December 29, 1971 to Jan 10, 1972] Part 1 of 2. Top Secret; Sensitive; Exclusively Eyes Only. The message is incorrectly dated January 8, 1971.
  2. The full memorandum of conversation is ibid., Box 1037, Files for the President— China Material, Haig Trip—Memcons, January 1972. See Foreign Relations, 1969–1976, vol. E–13, Document 79.
  3. Reference is to General Albert Redman, Commander of the White House Communications Agency.
  4. Apparent reference to Haig’s statement contained in the January 3–4 memorandum of conversation, Document 183.