248. Memorandum From John H. Holdridge of the National Security Council Staff to the President’s Assistant for National Security Affairs (Kissinger)1


  • Some Areas of Concern Regarding the Trend of PRC–U.S. Exchanges

A number of recent developments impel us to raise with you the matter of the current direction in which “people-to-people” exchanges with the Chinese are developing. The key issue is whether we should leave all initiative to Peking to control the participants and channels as exchange programs develop, or whether we should take certain low-key initiatives which will encourage the PRC to rely at least to some degree on facilitating organizations that we already have recommended to them and to urge them to give greater “balance” to the Americans involved in contacts with China. The present situation indicates several trends in the development of exchanges which we do not feel are favorable to our interests of having responsible, mainstream groups and individuals involved, and in the Chinese interest of developing a public image in the U.S. of being hands-off involvement in our domestic politics.

The Current Situation Regarding Exchanges

It is clear that at present the Chinese exercise almost complete control over the pattern of exchanges. This is done by their picking and [Page 1053] choosing among various American individuals and groups to invite to visit the PRC, and then—once a “friendly relationship” has been established by a visit—they suggest to preferred individuals or groups that they “reciprocate” by inviting a Chinese group to the U.S.

We have recently reviewed the list of American individuals and groups that have visited the PRC since the “ping pong” visit of April 1971. The Chinese appear to be keying in on three groups, at least as far as numbers and frequency of visits are concerned: Chinese-Americans, Black groups, and the “left” in the intellectual community—both students and established academics. At the same time the PRC has hosted representatives of the “establishment” in the form of the Presidential party and Congressional leaderships, certain representatives of the major media, and some science and business groups. Their objectives appear to be to undercut support for the Chinese Nationalists among Chinese-Americans, maintain their credibility (to “revolutionaries” in the PRC and abroad) as an anti-imperialist power by hosting such groups as the Black Panthers and Committee of Concerned Asian Scholars, and at the same time gain access to the mass media and to advanced American technology.

At an official level, as you know, we have suggested to Peking two non-governmental and non-exclusive channels for promoting exchanges which we have confidence in and which will avoid political problems. One is the Committee on Scholarly Communication with the PRC; the other is the National Committee on U.S.-China Relations. The Chinese have on several occasions “acknowledged” these two groups.

Most recently, in the Paris exchanges, the Chinese told Ambassador Watson’s staff that they would give favorable consideration to these two groups—even as in fact they are working to promote a press exchange and a scientific visit through other organizations (see the most recent report from Ambassador Watson at Tab A).2 The media group is being handled by Thomas Manton’s America-China Relations Society, and Manton is definitely not one in whom we could have confidence. The scientific delegation is likely to be hosted by an organization formed recently by the Federation of American Scientists at the initiative of Jeremy Stone. While this latter group is more acceptable than the Manton organization, the Chinese, by encouraging Stone, are [Page 1054] effectively undercutting the Committee on Scholarly Communication with the PRC, a group we have recommended to Peking. As well, Stone is lacking in staff, funds, and experience in handling visits.

We suspect that there may be divergencies of opinion with the Chinese leadership over how to promote exchanges with the U.S. While the present pattern of contacts may only reflect a desire by Peking to push as far as official U.S. sentiment will allow in dealing with “antiestablishment” groups, we do get indications of changes of mind by Chinese officials over decisions about who to deal with, and these may be a result of pressures from “leftist” elements in the leadership, or at least of the desire of Chou En-lai’s Foreign Ministry staff to avoid criticism at home that they are too “establishment oriented.”

A recent example of Chinese behavior regarding exchanges quite at variance with the Chou line is a letter received by Frederick Burkhardt, Chairman of the American Council of Learned Societies. Burkhardt had invited Kuo Mo-jo to send a Chinese delegation to an international conference on Taoism to be held in Japan this fall. Burkhardt recently received a reply to his invitation (at Tab B)3 from a Red Guard group in the Chinese Academy of Sciences which threatened to “smash his dog head” if he persisted in an alleged scheme of trying to poison the minds of the Chinese people with feudal Taoist thought. Such a letter would be laughable if it did not work against the spirit of the Shanghai communiqué in this country, and perhaps reflect the continuing influence of groups in China who are hostile to the Sino–American rapprochement.

What Might Be Done

We are still at a stage in the matter of exchanges where the present pattern has not fully hardened into precedent for the future. It seems likely that a number of official, low-key initiatives on our part could indicate to the Chinese that we have some concerns about the manner in which exchanges are developing, and perhaps stiffen the spines of those in the Peking leadership who are more inclined to promote relations with us in a balanced manner.

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  • —We might remain aloof from Jeremy Stone’s current efforts to gain USG backing for his new organization. (He recently went to State in an attempt to get a guarantee on paper that the government would provide security if his organization hosted a visit by the Chinese scientists. He was given a non-committal reply. You now have before you a request from the Rockefeller Brothers Fund for your judgment on whether Stone should be given financial support.)
  • —You might receive sometime during the fall a small group of leaders from the Committee on Scholarly Communications with the PRC and the National Committee on U.S.-China Relations. They have already requested an opportunity to meet with you. A “laying on of hands” would probably strengthen their ability to operate as effective intermediaries between the USG and private groups and individuals in promoting exchanges. (You now have before you proposed replies to the request from these two organizations for a meeting.)4
  • —You might, through your own channels, express to the Chinese in a low-key way our concern about the present trend of events relating to exchanges, and perhaps raise a question about the usefulness of the Burkhardt letter in promoting the spirit of the Shanghai Communiqué. You could also note that the Chinese, via the Paris channel, recently indicated that they are planning exchanges in the areas of science, medicine, and journalism, and also that they may send an acrobatic team to the U.S. this coming winter. You might then express the hope that at least some of these programs will be facilitated through organizations in which we have already expressed our confidence.5
  1. Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Box 850, President’s File—China Trip, China Exchanges. Secret; Sensitive. Sent for information. Initialed by Holdridge and Solomon. Kissinger wrote on the top of the first page: “Let me take letter of Academy to Burkhardt. See note.” No note was attached. Frederick Burkhardt was Chairman of the American Council of Learned Societies.
  2. Attached at Tab A is telegram 15834 from Paris, August 21, describing a meeting between the PRC’s First Secretary to the Embassy in France, Ts’ao, and Watson, at which the PRC responded to a series of suggestions made by Watson on August 3 (telegram 14856 from Paris), based on instructions he received on August 2 (telegram 140058 to Paris). These messages described general approaches to exchanges between the U.S. and PRC, as well as the activities of specific delegations. (Both ibid., Box 1037, Files for the President—China Material, China—Paris Channel, March 10, 1972–April 1973)
  3. Tab B was attached to another copy of Holdridge’s memorandum. The July 25 1-page letter to “Burkheart” begins “We have received the two letters you sent us on behalf of the American Council of Learned Societies. We the Chinese people are very dubious about your purpose and intention of you sending the two letters to us.” The letter concludes, “The aggressive ambitions and schemes of the United States can never be concealed before the devil-finding mirror of Mao Tse-tung thought. Here we would solemnly warn you that if you dare to play any schemes or tricks, we will certainly smash your dog head. Long live down with U.S. imperialism! Long live Mao Tse-tung Thought!” (National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Box 1317, Richard H. Solomon Chronological Files, February 1972)
  4. Kissinger wrote “OK” beside this paragraph.
  5. In a September 8 memorandum to Kissinger, Holdridge noted: “We have just learned that PRC authorities, after much waffling, have agreed to have the Committee on Scholarly Communication, the American Medical Association, and the Institute of Health of the National Academy of Science, host the visit to the U.S. later this year of a group of Chinese doctors.” He added that Huang Hua had written recently to Burkhardt, stating that the letter to him was a “fake.” He concluded, “these two recent developments suggest a Chinese effort to develop ‘people-to-people’ contacts more along the lines we have been hoping than earlier indications implied.” (National Archives. Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Box 850, President’s File—China Trip, China Exchanges)