2. Telegram From the Embassy in the Republic of China to the Department of State1

245. Subject: Possible Italian and Canadian Recognition of ChiComs: Conversation with President Chiang. Reference: Taipei 00243.2

I saw President Chiang privately for one hour at my request on January 25 to discuss prospective Italian and Canadian recognition of Chinese Communists.3 This meeting followed immediately after [Page 4] Congressman Buchanan and I were entertained at tea by the President.4 I told him I was in close touch with Foreign Office on all phases of situation but implications of the impending diplomatic moves in Rome and Ottawa were so serious that I felt direct consultation with him was desirable. Generalissimo said matter was a major preoccupation with him and he had planned to ask me to call if I had not taken the initiative.
I set forth as persuasively as I could the case for GRC to stand fast in Rome and Ottawa through any period of GOI or GOC exploratory negotiations with Peking. I pointed out seriously prejudicial repercussions which could be anticipated if ChiComs won recognition and diplomatic foothold in these capitals; mentioned the fanatical unwillingness of Peking to even consider establishment of diplomatic relations anywhere if GRC representation remained on scene; pointed out how Peking rigidity on this issue could be exploited by GRC refusing to budge during period of unilateral announcement of recognition or statement of intent to negotiate for establishment of relations. I said GRC could perhaps play a spoiling role in efforts of these two Western nations to establish relations with Chinese Communists, provided GRC was willing to “sweat out” a period of some awkwardness and mild embarrassment, in the interests of any important objective. It was just possible that GRC could at least delay the consummation of any agreement to establish diplomatic relations.5 A delaying action could buy time for both our governments to consider the problem more thoroughly and to conduct any conversations with Rome or Ottawa which might be called for. I said we of course appreciated that GRC could not accept unbearable affronts to its national prestige and the self-respect of its representatives, but we felt that such a situation might not develop, at least during the time needed for taking stock. I noted there was a distinction between a mere statement of recognition by one side, and actual bilateral establishment of diplomatic relations and exchange of representatives. I urged him to make the latter step rather than the former the touchstone for his decision on whether to break relations.
Generalissimo said matter had been thoroughly considered in high councils of his government, and all factors carefully weighed. It was considered judgment of entire group that GRC could not afford to undergo the humiliation of staying on after recognition extended to Chinese Communists. He did say that he would not take the initiative to break relations on basis of mere preliminary, unofficial or equivocal statements of intent, but once a formal, unqualified statement of recognition was issued, he was convinced that his government had no choice but to terminate relations and withdraw its representatives immediately.
Generalissimo reviewed history of unpleasant event leading up to French recognition of Chinese Communists and severance of relations with GRC in early 1964.6 He recalled that GRC had stuck it out in Paris for several painful weeks at behest of USG. During this period GRC representative in Paris had suffered well nigh unendurable slights and insults which were hurtful to national pride and it had all been for nothing since DeGaulle easily put the GRC in a completely impossible situation. He felt that any country which formally and publicly accorded recognition to ChiComs had already crossed the bridge, and nothing that GRC could do at that stage would alter the situation. Host government could always make situation of unwanted Embassy staff completely untenable without directly ordering them to leave. So he could not accept my advice beyond what he had said about holding on until recognition announcement was official and clear.
Generalissimo said he had held on so long in French case because France was still a great power, a permanent member of Security Council, a wielder of great influence in many African countries important to GRC and because Gaullist group had long record of close and sometimes beneficial relationships with GRC going back to Chungking days in World War II. Also Generalissimo believed at the time that DeGaulle was still essentially anti- ChiCom. He recalled DeGaulle had written him that his only reason for recognizing ChiComs was to take an action contrary to US policy.
Generalissimo said that none of the reasons which had prompted him to stage holding action in Paris applied in the case of Italy. He felt there would be no reason for trying to hold out for a single day after the leftist government now in power in Italy recognized Peking.
Generalissimo recognized that Canadian Government did not have any leftist coloration, and he thought Ottawa situation not analogous to that in Rome. He seemed perhaps too relaxed about Canadian situation, apparently assuming that any Canadian move toward Peking would only come by slow stages and that Canadians would [Page 6] show more consideration than Italians for position of GRC. I told him that we feared adverse action might be taken by Canadian Cabinet as early as next week.
Generalissimo reiterated that countries seeking to establish relations with ChiComs “would only despise” his government if he sought to continue relations when he knew GRC was not wanted. He said his government and his people could not again stand the sort of insults that had been taken from the French. He expressed the hope that the prompt and decisive action which his government will take by withdrawing at once from any capital which recognizes the Chinese Communists will have a deterrent effect on other governments which might be considering the same action. It would show such governments that they will have to choose between his government and the Chinese Communists, and cannot have it both ways.
President Chiang said he felt that current restiveness of various countries as to China policy was related to events in the US. He thought that some countries which were inclined to move toward recognition of ChiComs had decided that current US period of transition and settling in process would be an opportune time for a quick move. We thought these wavering countries were also influenced by their misinterpretation of USG’s own ambassadorial level diplomatic contacts with ChiComs at Warsaw, and by a misreading of context of President Nixon’s praiseworthy references to peace, conciliation and negotiation in his inaugural address.
President Chiang said that while his government was doing, and would continue to do, all it could to protect its diplomatic position, he felt that USG held the real key to the problem. He thought that only the US, by making its firm opposition emphatically known, could prevent damaging “snowball effect” after the Italian action.7
  1. Source: National Archives, RG 59, Central Files 1967–69, POL 16 CHICOM. Secret; Priority; Limdis. Repeated to Brussels, Hong Kong, London, Ottawa, Paris, Rome, Tokyo, and USUN.
  2. Telegram 243 from Taipei, January 24, reported McConaughy’s views on the possible ROC reaction to Italian and Canadian moves toward recognition of the PRC. He urged that “renewed efforts be made to determine lengths (if any) to which Italy and Canada prepared to go to resist Chicom pressure to force a complete break with Taipei.” (Ibid.)
  3. In addition to Italy and Canada, other Western European nations informed the United States of their intentions of holding talks with the PRC with the ultimate goal of establishing diplomatic relations. Analysis of the potential for diplomatic initiatives from Italy, Canada, Belgium, and West Germany are in Intelligence Note 6, January 6, and INR Research Memoranda REU 3.1 through 3.4, January 24–29 (ibid.) and Foreign Relations, 1964–1968, vol. XXX, Document 314.
  4. Reference is to Congressman John Hall Buchanan, Jr. (D–Alabama).
  5. Bundy suggested the same strategy to ROC Ambassador Chow Shu-kai. (Telegram 11528 to Taipei, January 24; National Archives, RG 59, Central Files 1967–69, POL 16 CHICOM) In telegram 20761 to Taipei, February 8, the Department reported that Chow Shu-kai had met with Rogers on February 7 to urge the United States to prevent the Canadian Government from making any public announcement of talks with the PRC. Otherwise, Chow offered, the ROC “might first lodge protest,” and then take other unspecified actions. Rogers suggested that if the ROC must respond: “it would be best to limit response to expressions of regret, avoiding any threats or setting conditions on future of its relations with Canada.” (Ibid.) No other record of the conversation has been found. Further documentation on Canadian recognition of the PRC is in Foreign Relations, 1969–1976, volume XLI.
  6. See ibid., 1964–1968, vol. XXX, Document 11.
  7. In a January 24 meeting with Italian Ambassador Egidio Ortona, Bundy discussed Italy’s possible recognition of the PRC. Bundy informed Ortona that U.S. concerns were threefold: a) the effect on existing Italian relations with the Nationalist Chinese; b) the effect on non-Communist countries of East Asia; and c) the “particular” effect Italian actions would have upon the PRC’s influence on the Paris Peace Talks. Bundy suggested that Italian actions might well encourage hardliners in Peking and their “friends or sympathizers” in Hanoi. He concluded: “While we are not urging that Italians refrain from this action, we hope that they will weigh its implications very seriously and inform us fully as possible concerning their intentions with respect to Taipei, timing, and other aspects of actually carrying it out.” (Telegram 12510 to Rome, January 25; National Archives, RG 59, Central Files 1967–69, POL 16 CHICOM) According to notes of a January 27 telephone conversation between Bundy and U. Alexis Johnson, Bundy stated: “We would go so far as to express concern to Italians.” Both men “agreed that we should take it easy.” (Ibid., U. Alexis Johnson Files: Lot 96 D 695, Telcons, January–March 1969) General instructions on the U.S. response to diplomatic recognition of the PRC are in telegram 19933, February 7; ibid., Central Files 1967–69, POL 16 CHICOM.