87. Memorandum From Lindsey Grant of the National Security Council Staff to the President’s Assistant for National Security Affairs (Kissinger)1


  • Communist Chinese Foreign Policy and Strains Within the Leadership

You may find the attached brief research study of interest (Tab A).2 It pulls together recent evidence of renewed jockeying for power. It [Page 226] describes the evident slippage in power of the old guard leadership and the “administrators”, many of whom had been associated with Chou En-lai. It documents the reappearance of the more radical “cultural revolutionaries.” The study notes that there are continuing signs of the subtle, opportunistic type of foreign policy which we usually associate with Chou, and which has been resurgent for the past two years. It warns, however, that there may be erratic or contradictory behavior, some of it attributable to tensions within a delicately balanced leadership coalition.

The leader of the Air Force, who has been closely associated with the radicals, is again on the ascendant. This adds one small shred of evidence to my personal hypothesis that the apparent attempt in June to shoot down the American C–130 over the high seas may have been a deliberate effort by the radicals to sabotage Chou’s efforts to maintain a dialogue with the U.S.3

To compound the mysteries, the French Parliamentary mission reports that, during its interview with Mao, Chou En-lai appeared to be very much at ease and was in constant conversation with Mao. Lin Piao, supposedly the heir apparent, was unshaven and unkempt; seemed to be in poor health, and said not a word.4

The impression which the French Parliamentary mission got from its visit was all sweetness and light, by Chinese standards, but most of its contact was with the administrators rather than the radicals. The conversation with Mao was very general. He disclaimed a big power role for China, objected to “some powers’” efforts to interfere in the domestic affairs of others, and complained that the USSR and the U.S. are trying to impose decisions in the nuclear field. Chou En-lai was very complimentary to the French. He reiterated the theme that China would not be pushed around by the big powers but said that China would have normal relations with powers favoring peaceful coexistence. He refused to concede that the U.S. is interested in peace in Vietnam or elsewhere. He bore down heavily on Taiwan, and insisted that [Page 227] China would never accept “two Chinas.” The PRC could, however, “live with the factual situation.” He described German and Japanese militarism as “two new dangers.”

Other Chinese echoed the line on Taiwan. None of the Chinese would be drawn into substantive conversation concerning solutions for the Indochina problem.

The French felt that the Chinese are not in an aggressive mood, that they are genuinely worried about Japan, and that they may have played down the Sino-Soviet problem in order to worry the U.S. about possible improvement in Sino-Soviet relations.

  1. Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Box 520, Country Files, Far East, China, Vol. IV. Secret. Sent for information. A notation on the memorandum indicates Kissinger saw it. The memorandum was date-stamped “August 11 1970.”
  2. Attached at Tab A but not printed is “Communist China: Maneuvering Among the Top Leadership,” Research Study REAS–19 prepared by the Bureau of Intelligence and Research, July 23.
  3. Grant is presumably referring to the July 2 incident. See Document 85.
  4. French Minister for Planning and Territorial Management, André Bettencourt, led a delegation during a July 7–21 visit to the PRC. Telegram 10048 from Paris, July 28, and telegram 121713 to Hong Kong, Paris, Tokyo, Saigon, Phnom Penh, Taipei, Moscow, London, and Bonn, July 29, contain reports of the visit. (National Archives, RG 59, Central Files 1970–73, POL 7 FR) Another version of the talks between Mao and Bettencourt, obtained “on most confidential basis,” is in telegram 12787 from Paris, September 22. (Ibid., CHICOMFR)