Learn about the beta

59. Memorandum From the President’s Assistant for National Security Affairs (Kissinger) to President Nixon 1


  • The Warsaw Talks

You are aware of the success of the meeting with the Chinese Chargé on January 8.2 Both sides carefully avoided polemics, and the Chinese accepted the administrative arrangements for future meetings with alacrity. The next meeting (and the first formal discussion of substance in two years) will occur in the Chinese Embassy on January 20. We will revert to the use of Chinese and English, which minimizes the possibility of translation error. Secretary Rogers has a proposed guidance telegram, which should be coming over very shortly.3

The Chinese tone of reasonableness is underlined by the ease which they accepted the principle of meeting alternately in the two Embassies. (Chinese usually like others to come to them, a remnant of the old imperial attitude.) Meeting inside the Embassies has the advantage, as they well know, of making it much harder for the Poles and the Russians to eavesdrop.

Three different elements of the Chinese attitude came out very clearly:

  • —They now want publicity. The Chargé arrived flamboyantly in his limousine. It was he who proposed the announcement of the meeting.
  • —They want to sound reasonable. The Chargé referred to the “five principles of peaceful co-existence,” a Chinese theme of the 50’s which was anathema during the Cultural Revolution.
  • —They want to maintain their ideological “purity” despite these talks. The Chinese press has continued to tell the Chinese public of the “iniquities” of your Administration.

The immediate Chinese purpose is to show the appearance of the ability to deal with us—primarily for Soviet consumption. They are probably unready to talk much substance. This phase is necessary, however.

Having convinced themselves of the desirability of appearing to be able to make deals with us, they may find it easier to justify seeking the substance of understandings. Already, they are showing some interest in trade with us, and considerable curiosity as to your new policy lines.

The more pragmatic style of diplomacy which the Chinese are showing around the world can pose some immediate problems for us (e.g. the Chinese representation issue in the UN), but it is a danger which we must run if they are to move into a more responsible and normal member of the world society.

There is a continuing trend within Communist China away from militancy, and a weakening of the radicals. (Recent evidence on this point is being separately briefed.)4 There is a good chance that the leadership may hold to its present pragmatic course, and that we shall have a chance to explore our relations with it at some leisure.

  1. Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Box 700, Country Files, Europe, Poland Vol. I Warsaw Talks up to 1/31/70. Secret. Sent for information. Kissinger initialed the memorandum. According to a handwritten notation, it was returned from the President on January 14. An attached covering memorandum indicates that Holdridge forwarded it to Kissinger at the latter’s request on January 9.
  2. See footnote 2, Document 53 for background on restarting the Warsaw talks. On January 7, 1970, the Chinese telephoned to suggest that Chargé Lei Yang and others come to the U.S. Embassy the next day. (Telegram 31 from Warsaw, January 7; National Archives, RG 59, Central Files 1970–73, POL CHICOMUS) At this meeting Lei Yang, accompanied by two aides, asked for a formal meeting on January 20. (Telegram 52 from Warsaw, January 8; ibid.)
  3. Document 61.
  4. See Documents 58 and 64.