206. Memorandum From President Nixon to Secretary of State Rogers, Secretary of Defense Laird, and the President’s Assistant for National Security Affairs (Kissinger)1

Over the weekend, I have had an opportunity to evaluate the results of the China summit and the reactions at home and abroad. On the plus side it is encouraging to note that some initial expressions of concern have now been successfully allayed and the positive accomplishments are, for the most part, being generally recognized.

As I am sure all of you will agree, it will require skillful leadership on all fronts if we are to avoid erosion of our present position.

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It is particularly essential for our delicate and complex relationship with the People’s Republic of China that not only those of us who may make public statements but that everyone throughout the bureaucracy— at the White House, the State Department, and the Defense Department, adopt a very restrained and disciplined approach in our on-or-off-the-record comments.

For your guidance and the guidance of your staffs, there should be no further public commentary or elaboration on the substantive talks or the communiqué of the China visit. Any answers to questions on those subjects should be set strictly within the framework of my arrival remarks at Andrews Air Force Base on February 28, 1972.2

These guidelines are particularly important in the following areas:

  • —There should be no “inside” information given out on the meetings with the Chinese officials.
  • —There should be no characterization of how the two sides fared at the summit, neither trumpeting of successes nor defensiveness.
  • —There should be no further reiteration of the maintenance of our defense commitments. Our public statements have now made it sufficiently clear that they have not been affected. Any further repetition is unnecessary and would only risk provoking counterargument from the PRC and jeopardizing what we have achieved. If it is necessary to answer a question on this subject, simply refer back to my statement of February 28 and without restating the comment in such a way that it makes a new story.
  • —There should be no further elaboration of the communiqué statement that the U.S. “does not challenge” the position that “all Chinese on either side of the Taiwan Strait maintain there is but one China and that Taiwan is a part of China.” The “does not challenge” should not be interpreted in the direction of either endorsement or rejection; we leave this question to the Chinese themselves.
  • —There should be no further elaboration of the communiqué language on U.S. forces on Taiwan.
  • —Discussion of overall China policy should be limited to the most general observations along the lines of my February 9, 1972 Foreign Policy Report.3

  1. Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Box 1036, Files for the President—China Material, China—General—February 27–March 31, 1972. Secret; Eyes Only.
  2. See Public Papers: Nixon, 1972, pp. 381–384.
  3. Ibid., pp. 194–346.