198. Memorandum of Conversation1


  • Counterpart Meetings Between the Secretary of State and the Foreign Minister of the People’s Republic of China—II


  • Chi P’eng-fei—Foreign Minister
  • Hsiung Hsiang-hui—Secretary to the Premier (Foreign Affairs)
  • Wang Chen—Deputy Director, Information Department
  • Ch’ien Ta-yung-Deputy Director, West European, American and Australian Affairs
  • Li Tsung-ying—Leading Member, Research Group
  • Ting Yuan-hung—Member, Delegation to the UNGA
  • Shen Jo-yun—Interpreter
  • Hu Chuan-chung—Interpreter
  • Hu Fang Hsien—Steongrapher
  • William P. Rogers—Secretary of State
  • Marshall Green—Assistant Secretary of State—EA
  • Ron Ziegler—Press Secretary to the President
  • John Scali—Special Consultant to the President
  • Alfred le S. Jenkins—Director for Asian Communist Affairs—EA
  • Nicholas Platt—Assistant to the Secretary
  • Commander John Howe—National Security Council Staff
  • Charles W. Freeman, Jr.—Interpreter

MFN Impact on Trade

The Secretary opened the meeting by speaking to the point on MFN Treatment raised by the Foreign Minister the day before. He said that in order to answer the question fully, the US would need to know the particular exports involved. For some exports, for example, like tea, rice, tung oil and turpentine, no tariff is imposed at all and MFN status makes no difference. For other items, like hog bristles, a differential exists, but it is very small. As matters now stand, MFN Treatment has little effect on the limited number of items the PRC may be interested in exporting to the US. As trade broadens and the list expands, [Page 754] however, the impact of non-MFN status would widen. The Secretary concluded by reiterating the US position on trade.


The Foreign Minister thanked the Secretary for the information, and suggested that the discussions proceed to cover general questions. As the problem most central to the relationship between the PRC and the US was Taiwan, he would like to begin by discussing that. Ten years of talks on the subject at Warsaw had proved fruitless, but the President had taken the initiative to come to China, and the topic was an important one to discuss.

The Secretary agreed and asked the Foreign Minister to present his views first.

The Foreign Minister began by reiterating the sentiments expressed in the President’s and the Prime Minister’s toasts at the welcoming banquet and the Secretary’s statement the day before; that the Americans and Chinese were great peoples, that establishment of normal relations under the five principles would be in the interests of the world; and that the history of the past two decades had been an aberration.


Reading from a prepared text, the Foreign Minister then proceeded to review the history of Sino–American relations. The Chinese and American peoples had been close in the past, he began. Large numbers of Chinese workers had come to America and participated in her construction and development. The US for its part had introduced modern techniques to China. Americans appreciate Chinese culture and the Chinese admire the American pioneering spirit, both knowing and respecting the names of Washington and Lincoln.

However, relations between the governments of the two countries have not been good, the Foreign Minister continued. He proceeded to cite US participation in the Opium War (1840), the Cushing Treaty (1844), the Boxer Rebellion (1901), US support for Chiang Kai-shek after World War II, US intrusion into Chinese territorial waters and airspace (against which 497 serious warnings had been issued since 1958), the trade blockade, deprivation of the PRC’s legitimate rights in the UN, and travel restrictions.

Most of the problems between the two governments, the Foreign Minister continued, stemmed from the policies of Secretary Rogers’ predecessors. Nevertheless, he felt the need to cite the record in order to prove that it was the United States which was responsible for the abnormal relationship of recent years. For its part, the PRC had expressed upon its founding willingness to negotiate its differences and establish a normal relationship with the United States. In 1955, Premier

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The attempts of American policy makers to isolate and contain the Chinese people were foolish, the Foreign Minister went on. China was neither isolated nor contained. On the contrary, the Chinese people were aroused to high resolve and determination to rely on themselves. As Chairman Mao has put it, the United States has played the role of teacher by negative example, and the Chinese are grateful for this.

The PRC has noted, the Foreign Minister continued, that President Nixon has expressed the desire several times for a new start. The Chinese government would like to regard such expressions as being earnest and has made its response. There is an old saying that it is difficult to turn around when weighed down by burdens. Nevertheless, we cannot stand still, still less move backward. The policies of the past were not formulated by President Nixon or the Secretary of State, so why keep these heavy burdens? The key to normalization is the Taiwan question.

PRC Position

The Foreign Minister went on to outline the PRC position on Taiwan. Taiwan has been Chinese territory since the Sui and Tang Dynasties, long before Columbus set foot on North America. The Taiwanese are blood brothers. The Foreign Minister cited the State Department White Paper in 1949, the Cairo Declaration in 1943, the Potsdam Declaration in 1945, the Chinese government acceptance of Japanese surrender in 1945, and President Truman’s January 5, 1950 statement as evidence supporting the PRC claim to Taiwan and US recognition of it. He cited President Truman’s June 27, 1950 statement and the signing of the 1954 Mutual Defense Treaty with the Chiang government as evidence that the US had gone back on its word.

Again, the Foreign Minister apologized for telling the Secretary things he already knew, but felt he had to establish that the blame for blocking normal PRCUS relations lay with the US.

To normalize relations, he continued, the US must recognize the PRC as the sole legal government of China. The Chiang “government” is an illegal insurgent. During the American civil war were there two Americas? Was there one United States and two governments? Certainly not. The Secretary’s statement of August 2, 1971 that the US government still wants to maintain its commitments and friendship with the “Republic of China” shows that the US still clings to the errors of the past and is incompatible with the desire for better relations.2

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Taiwan is part of China, the Foreign Minister continued, and there can be no interference in Chinese domestic affairs. Any attempt to create a “one China, two governments” formula, or to continue to maintain that “the status of Taiwan is undetermined” is untenable and utterly wrong. The Chinese government is firmly against the Taiwan Independence Movement instigated behind our backs by foreign forces. The US government must withdraw all its armed forces from Taiwan and the Strait area, dismantle its military installations on Taiwan and abrogate the “defense treaty.”

Insofar as the means for liberating Taiwan are concerned, the Foreign Minister continued, that is the PRC’s affair. He could say to the Secretary, however, that the Chinese people are willing to liberate Taiwan by peaceful means as far as this is possible. In the past, the Chinese people had liberated Chinese territory by force of arms, but there was no lack of precedent for liberation by peaceful means. Furthermore, the PRC had always treated with leniency those whom they had liberated that desired to live in peace.

In closing, the Foreign Minister reiterated his belief that the Chinese and American people are friends. China had never menaced the United States or invaded it. He welcomed the visit of the President and the Secretary, hoped that they would show courage and foresight, and that the visit would prove to be a turning point.

The US Search for Peace

The Secretary thanked the Foreign Minister for his views, and said that since the President discussed the same question the day before, he would not repeat what had been said. He would, however, like to clarify the US position further. Thanks to the discussions today, the US does in part understand the PRC position as it sees it in history. China is an old culture. The United States is a young country which has been through the difficulties of two World Wars and has different perspectives. As both sides proceed to improve relations, the US will take these historical views into account.

The predominant impression in the United States, the Secretary continued, is of friendship toward the Chinese people. What his own generation remembers is that we fought on the same side in World War II, and that pilots downed inside China were treated with friendship.

President Nixon had made three points, the Secretary went on. The US has no territorial ambitions. Neither the US nor the PRC have any intention of controlling the world. Neither the US nor the PRC fear each other. US policy under the Nixon Administration is to maintain its strength so that it will never be second best and to further the cause of peace through discussions. Twice the US has become involved in world wars and twice it has been ill prepared. This will never happen again.

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The US feels it is important for the cause of peace that the world’s strongest and most populous nations have better relations. Mankind has developed the ability to destroy itself in the event of a nuclear war. The President’s visit to China and the talks today are part of an effort to reduce tensions in the world and in the long run make it possible to have a generation of peace.

The US believes, the Secretary continued, that the fundamental issue is peace, and how both sides can work together to promote it. Improvement in our relations is one way. In that spirit it is important to consider the past and keep it in mind. However, we want to concentrate on the present and the future, and not let preoccupation with the past, or even past injustices, hurt the prospects for the future. The Secretary said he would not attempt to comment on some of the PRC’s historical statements. Rather, he hoped that the US and the PRC could change their relationship on the basis of experience; the experience which Chairman Mao has valued so highly in his writings.

The Secretary said he was not clear what the Foreign Minister had in mind when he said it might be difficult for the US to turn around while carrying heavy burdens. The President’s policy is not based on burdens, but rather by his belief that we should work for peace.

The Secretary said that he could think of no time since he had first become involved in government in 1941 when the US was stronger or more prosperous than now under the leadership of President Nixon. People can get the wrong idea from reading the news, and the idea that the US was changing its policy through weakness or any burdens it carried was a fallacy.

Assistant Secretary Green had commented, the Secretary continued, that the US had welcomed contacts with the PRC rather than restricting them. The US favors contacts and wants as many Chinese to visit the US as possible, and vice versa.

The Secretary welcomed the Foreign Minister’s statement that President Nixon’s initiatives had been treated in earnest by the PRC. At the same time, the US has been very careful to avoid hostile comments toward China. Those of us in this room understand why the US is called names in the PRC press, but the American people don’t understand. The Secretary hoped that one result of the visit would be an end to name calling on both sides.

Before discussing Taiwan, the Secretary wished to point out that an improvement in relations between the PRC and the US was in the interest of all mankind. Both of us recognize that there are predatory forces in the world which could bring us to the brink of a world war. These are the fundamentals.

As far as Taiwan is concerned, the Foreign Minister was correct in pointing out that the US has no predatory designs, the Secretary [Page 758] continued. No useful purpose would be served by going into the statements made by Truman and Acheson except to say that their positions had been affected by the events of the Korean War.

The Secretary outlined the US position on the Taiwan question as follows:

Chinese on both sides of the Taiwan Straits agree that Taiwan is a part of China and that there is only one China. We take note of that position on the part of both parties.

The US will accept and abide by any solution the parties can arrive at as long as it is peaceful. We are prepared to take note of the PRC position that Taiwan is an inalienable part of China.

The United States is not trying to promote “two Chinas and one Taiwan,” or “one China, two governments.” We want to proceed from where we are to see how we can improve our relations.

The US is not providing encouragement or assistance to any Taiwan independence movement or group.

The Secretary noted in the Foreign Minister’s comments that the PRC would be willing to pursue a peaceful resolution of the Taiwan question, and underscored the US hope that it would occur.

Because of the history of the problem, the US presumes it will take some time to solve, both socially and economically.

Insofar as US troops on Taiwan are concerned, as tensions in the area lessen, and we think they will, the US is prepared to reduce its military forces there. A reduction is already in train and further reductions are contemplated. Any expression by the PRC of a determination to follow a peaceful solution would facilitate further reductions.

The Foreign Minister has referred to US efforts to contain and isolate China, the Secretary continued. Surely, the PRC had taken note that President Nixon’s policy was quite the contrary. We have reduced troop levels in the Pacific by 450,000 men during the past two years. This is not containment. We have no desire to isolate China. On the contrary, the US welcomes the PRC’s new policy of diplomacy, welcomes increase in contacts, and welcomes its membership in the UN.

Clarifications and Arguments

The Foreign Minister said that he had a few points to clarify. As far as his statements on heavy burdens were concerned, he was referring to the great differences between the two countries in the past and not to US domestic difficulties or weakness. When citing the policy of containment and isolation, the Foreign Minister had been referring to the actions of the previous administrations and not the Nixon Administration.

The PRC would try to liberate Taiwan peacefully insofar as this was possible but this should not be taken as a precondition. The Secretary [Page 759] had mentioned that as long as a statement of intention to solve the problem peacefully was made, the US would reduce its troop levels. The PRC does not share this view and cannot make such a statement.

The Secretary said that he understood that the PRC could not make such a statement as a precondition, and did not have a precondition in mind. We do not have to make one statement in exchange for the other. These are parallel policies. The United States has no predatory interest in Taiwan and we have already reduced our troop levels. The PRC is prepared to attempt to solve the problem by peaceful means separately from that.

The Foreign Minister responded that Taiwan is China’s internal affair.

The Secretary said that he was not sure that he had made our position clear. No precondition is involved. The PRC’s position is that Taiwan is an internal problem which the PRC will try to solve peacefully. The PRC need not say anything that will show that actions it takes will be affected by anything the US does. The PRC policy is to try to solve this internal problem by peaceful means. At the same time, the US has no predatory aims toward Taiwan and will reduce its forces there as tensions lessen. These are parallel policies; or policies which coincide and on which no agreement is necessary. There must be some formulation that we can make, the Secretary continued, to avoid any appearance of a precondition or a bargain.

The Foreign Minister responded that it was quite clear that there could be no precondition or bargain, that the liberation of Taiwan is an internal question and that the American withdrawal is separate.

The Secretary agreed that the two policies should be stated separately. The Foreign Minister said that the United States must first make up its mind to withdraw the troops. The US had put them there in the first place.

The Secretary said he understood that time was necessary to solve the problem. However, the US and the PRC were working on parallel courses, each seeking a peaceful solution by the Chinese themselves.

The Foreign Minister replied that when he had referred to heavy burdens, he had meant that the Taiwan problem would take time to solve. The PRC does not expect the US to withdraw its troops tomorrow. However, it should at least promise that they will be withdrawn. Unless US troops are withdrawn, it will be difficult to liberate Taiwan peacefully.

The Secretary then quoted Assistant Secretary Green as saying that time is a cure for muddy waters. The Secretary said that time was indeed a very important factor in the solution of the problem. He thought that the two sides could formulate a statement at the end of the meeting which would outline both positions. Because President Nixon has [Page 760] already reduced troops, the Secretary felt sure that the Foreign Minister was reassured about US policy.

The Foreign Minister replied that President Nixon and Premier Chou at the plenary session had appointed Dr. Kissinger and Chiao Kuan-hua to work out a communiqué. He suggested that he and the Secretary leave it to them.

The Secretary replied that the point had been made at the plenary that the communiqué would be worked out under the supervision of the Foreign Ministers and that, therefore, both should be clear in stating our position.

The Secretary then asked the Foreign Minister to contrast US troop withdrawal policy with Asia and Europe. The US had started to withdraw troops in the Pacific but by contrast NATO forces would remain in place because the US felt them necessary for the stability of Europe. He repeated that the PRC should be reassured by the trend in US policy.

The Foreign Minister replied that the US should remove its troops in the Asian area as soon as possible.

As tensions are reduced, the Secretary responded.

The Foreign Minister said that the PRC understood the US was reducing its troop levels.

The United Nations

The Foreign Minister stated that the legitimate rights of the PRC in the UN had been restored. The Secretary’s use of the word “admission” or “entry” into the UN implied that the US still clings to the idea of “one China, two governments.”

The Secretary replied that it was an academic question. The US had avoided the legalities and taken the position that the United Nations’ function and the trend toward universality made it important to have as many people represented as possible. The US voted for representation for the Taiwanese people as a practical matter. The vote went against us.

The United Nations General Assembly rejected your position, the Foreign Minister replied.

The Secretary asked whether the Foreign Minister was trying to win all over again. The PRC was successful, the Secretary continued; we don’t have to debate this question again.

The Foreign Minister said the Chinese people felt strongly about this question. We are trying to have exchanges between our peoples; however, this is impossible if you are trying to create two Chinas.

We don’t accept the idea that we are trying to create two Chinas, the Secretary replied. We have acknowledged publicly that Chinese on [Page 761] the mainland and in Taiwan believe that there is one China. We recognize that fact, but there are two entities no matter what you call them. The Secretary then asked the Foreign Minister what it was about the UN situation that troubled him now. In view of the General Assembly vote, he should be satisfied.

Not necessarily, the Foreign Minister replied, but that is a long story and we can discuss it later. The US has its stand and its views. That is why it is difficult for you to turn around.

The Secretary replied that the discussions were helpful. It had been particularly useful for the Foreign Minister to point out that time was required to solve the problems between the two countries.

The Foreign Minister said he was grateful to the Secretary for the frank exchange they had had. The opportunity to make each other’s positions known would promote mutual understanding. He knew that there was considerable disagreement between them, but that both sides should try their best to find those points on which they could agree.

The Secretary closed the meeting by paying tribute to his colleagues on both sides of the table for having listened so long and patiently. He hoped that it would be the beginning of many such exchanges.

  1. Source: National Archives, RG 59, Central Files 1970–73, POL 7 US/NIXON. Secret; Nodis; Homer. The meeting was held in Villa 5 of the Guest House Complex. Drafted by Platt and approved by Rogers on February 28. A complete set of the RogersChi P’eng-fei memoranda of conversation is also ibid., Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Kissinger Office Files, Box 91, Country Files–Near East, Memoranda of Conversation between Secretary Rogers and PRC Officials, February 1972. Rogers met with Chi February 22–25 and 28. He had a brief meeting with Chou on February 27. He also attended the February 26 meeting with Nixon and Chou; see Document 201. See also Foreign Relations, 1969–1976, vol. E–13, Documents 91, 94, 101, 105, 107.
  2. See Department of State Bulletin, August 23, 1971, pp. 193–196.