25. President Nixon’s Notes on a National Security Council Meeting1

Helms San Clemente—N.S.C.


Cultural Revolution

Mao believed enthusiasm for revolution was ebbing
Technicians in ascendancy
Too much like U.S.S.R.—“Fat, non revolutionary”
1965—purged elite

Red Guard from youth mobilized

Some of top leaders were skeptical.
Army called in in February of 67—and at later times—to bring calm.
  • —1. Military carried out orders with gusto.
  • —2. Some of students sent to countryside and state farms.
Revolution showed army loyal—but unable to cope with civilian tasks.
Public discipline deteriorated
  • —a. Once proud of it.
Enemy got a set back.

Party Congress = to rebuild unity.

But much factionalism in all institutions

But Peking calls shots

a. No war lordism.

Radical Social program. Education and health have been put on back burner

Theme of preparing for war—played heavily.

But to unify country.
Not to wage war.


U.S.S.R. =# [one] enemy (over U.S.)

China sent delegation to Moscow for trade talks.

a. Doesn’t want a Soviet confrontation.

Last event below previous levels, but both sides play them up.
China does not expect Soviet attack, but are nervous now—try to settle.
Condemn Brezhnev’s Asian collective security pact vigorously.

Decline in productivity and trade until 1968.

1. Grain supply is reasonably good.

Nuclear weapons tests proceed.

Chinese have done better job than French have.
Could have 1972 initial capability of I.C.B.M. but 1975 more likely, when they could have 25.

Aircraft production.

Kept at modest levels.
A few SAMs (from Soviets).

Largest land army in world.

162 divisions.
Below U.S.

30 Russian—full strength.

  1. Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, White House Special Files, President’s Personal Files, Box 51, Speech File, NSC Meeting, September 1969. No classification marking. The meeting was held on August 14. Nixon’s handwritten notes were transcribed by the editor for this volume. An August 9 memorandum from Kissinger to Agnew, Rogers, Laird, and the Director of the Office of Emergency Preparedness, George A. Lincoln, indicated that Helms would give a 25-minute “assessment of present Chinese Communist situation, including development of their nuclear capability and political trends.” (Ibid., NSC Files, NSC Institutional Files (H-Files), Box H–023, NSC Meeting (San Clemente), 8/14/69, Briefings: Korea; China) The President’s notes suggest that he was listening to Helms’ briefing. Although typed minutes from the portion of the meeting devoted to South Korea are in the National Security Council files, no record of discussion of NSSM 14 or China policy was found. (Ibid.) Nor have the materials used in the Helms briefing been located in the CIA files. The President’s Daily Diary indicates that the President, Kissinger, Agnew, Rogers, Laird, Mitchell, Lincoln, Wheeler, Richardson, Helms, Halperin, Haig, Lynn, Holdridge, and Green attended the meeting, which lasted from 9:39 a.m. to 12:25 p.m. (Ibid., White House Central Files) Kissinger’s personal account of this meeting states that “the President startled his Cabinet colleagues by his revolutionary thesis (which I strongly shared) that the Soviet Union was the more aggressive party and that it was against our interests to let China be ‘smashed’ in a Sino-Soviet war. It was a major event in American foreign policy when a President declared that we had a strategic interest in the survival of a major Communist country, long an enemy, and with which we had no contact.” (Henry Kissinger, White House Years (Boston: Little, Brown, and Company, 1979), p. 182). Laird’s files contain talking points on Sino-American relations that concluded: “It is assumed that United States policy toward Communist China remains unchanged, with the exceptions of the decisions concerning mainland travel of US citizens and limited purchases of goods of mainland Chinese origins.” (Talking Paper for the Assistant Secretary of Defense (ISA) and the Chairman, Joint Chiefs of Staff, NSC Meeting of 14 August 1969; Washington National Records Center, RG 330, OSD Files: FRC 330 75 0103, 335 NSC)