11. Memorandum of Conversation1


  • Chou En-lai, Premier, State Council
  • Chi P’eng-fei, Minister of Foreign Affairs
  • Ch’iao Kuan-hua, Vice Minister of Foreign Affairs
  • Chang Wen-chin, Assistant Foreign Minister, Acting Director of American Pacific Affairs Department
  • Ting Yuan-hung
  • T’ang Wen-sheng, Interpreter
  • Shen Jo-yen, Interpreter
  • Ma Chieh-hsien, Notetaker
  • Lien Cheng-pao, Notetaker
  • Dr. Henry A. Kissinger, Assistant to the President for National Security Affairs
  • Alfred Le S. Jenkins, Department of State
  • Richard T. Kennedy, NSC Staff
  • Winston Lord, NSC Staff
  • Mrs. Bonnie Andrews, Notetaker

Dr. Kissinger: We enjoyed the concert very much. [Light discussion about the concert.] It is much more tender when you play the music.

PM Chou: Well, Madame Bhutto has arrived here this afternoon. So we have told her that you would be ready to meet her tomorrow morning. You will go to her place. As for the others they might go to the Summer Palace. Only the Ambassador will remain there [for the Mrs. Bhutto meeting].

Dr. Kissinger: Yes, his brother was there when we visited. And his sister was a student of mine. She arrived in America in 1950 or ’51, and she believed strongly in the independence of women, which she couldn’t always realize in Pakistan. So we picked her up at the ship and took her to an amusement park called Coney Island and she went on something, I don’t know if this exists here, a roller coaster, ten times in a row. Then she was sick for two days. After that we became good friends.

PM Chou: So she would have some courage.

Dr. Kissinger: Great courage.

PM Chou: So we have had a talk for three times already, including the day before yesterday, yesterday and today. We have touched upon some strategic issues. Why was it that we mentioned to the Doctor that the Europeans want to push the evil waters of the Soviet Union eastward?2

Because there have been historical examples. That was what happened during the two World Wars. During World War I King William fought in the West and was also in the East. The Czar at the beginning didn’t intend to get into the fight. And as a result of the battle the main force and the thrust went East.

Dr. Kissinger: In World War I or II?

PM Chou: In World War I. As a result of that the revolution of 1917 occurred. Hindenburg put his forces in the East and then someone said that if he wouldn’t put his main force in the East but in the West instead he would be successful. But this might not be true since later the U.S. entered the war.

And during World War II the Western world also wanted to push Hitler toward the Soviet Union and this also was a failure because he [Page 118] put his forces in the West. This was also dangerous. But as a result the Soviet Union had an easier time. And since Hitler advanced Eastward the war had provided you an opportunity.

So the idea of going Eastward is a traditional one and now it is time for the Soviet Union to do so. Just as you said the other day, that if there was a feeling of peace in the West then the Soviet Union could use more forces in the South and in the East. But as a matter of fact the main forces are still in the East. Do you think so?

Dr. Kissinger: No. According to our calculations … in Europe now they have twice as many divisions in Europe as they have on your border, if you count Western Russia. If you count the divisions west of the Urals and east of the Urals it is 50–50. But there are more air forces in the West.

PM Chou: But in the West there are also the satellite countries.

Dr. Kissinger: Yes. We are only counting Soviet divisions. But satellite divisions need Soviet divisions to watch them. [Laughter]

PM Chou: That is quite another matter. If the force of the satellite countries are included then it is quite a bit more.

Dr. Kissinger: Yes. If you count them, then they are larger.

PM Chou: But for the forces in Western Europe, if your forces are not included then the forces are very small. So the increasing illusion of peace is something very deceptive and also very dangerous. So on this point perhaps we have shared the same view.

Dr. Kissinger: Exactly.

PM Chou: But there is a difference. We have made this point publicly. It was made at Comrade Ch’iao’s speech in the UN last year.

Dr. Kissinger: Yes.

PM Chou: Although the two superpowers are contending for hegemony in the world, their deception is greater and the danger is greater.

Dr. Kissinger: But do you really think we are contending for hegemony right now?

PM Chou: Because it was brought out by the objective situation, and your country which has deployed in such a situation after World War II.

Dr. Kissinger: Yes, but now …

PM Chou: And this is the reason why we praised the speech made by President Nixon on July 6, 1972 in Kansas City.3

[Page 119]

Dr. Kissinger: I heard about the speech from the Prime Minister. I first saw the text when the Prime Minister sent it to me.

PM Chou: And during the annual convention of the Conservative Party in Britain Heath also expressed the same view in his concluding speech.

Dr. Kissinger: That was another speech to which the Prime Minister called my attention.

PM Chou: So this is the situation that was brought about by the U.S., and now it is a question of whether you drop it or not. If you drop it then the Soviet Union will come and problems will arise. And there still exist such questions but because we have differences, our views are different from yours. And we say that there is the possibility, but first one must call upon the people to awake and prevent this from happening. Otherwise how can you carry out defense? So on this issue, as you have mentioned recently, there have been two possibilities but there is only one possibility we think. As we have said in the UN, their so-called détente is false. They are talking about dé;tente but actually they are engaged in expansion. Of course, some people might say that the period of Cold War has come again. But I don’t think that will come true. Although the Soviet Union is engaged in expansion, it is afraid of fighting a nuclear war. And they are even worried that fighting with conventional weapons might lead to a nuclear war. That is why they have silly ideas like a nuclear treaty. That is why during the exchange of views the past three days here too we have the same view. So we can make some assessments on the various issues in the international arena.

That is the first point. I think that the central point is that the Soviet Union is afraid of fighting a war and it thinks it is better that you fight in some remote areas. And this has been borne out by the situation in the last few years. And in approaching the Middle East they will try their best to suppress them and not let them take action.

Dr. Kissinger: They specialize in using their armies against their allies.

PM Chou: And as you admit there do exist two blocs. As Chairman Mao says, one is firing empty guns. They introduced so many weapons and yet they can’t use them.

Dr. Kissinger: In what areas?

PM Chou: Egypt. They have always said that they give the weapons to the Egyptians but that they don’t know how to fight with them. Kosygin said that at the airport in 1969. And then they were fighting a war concerning the Suez Canal in 1956 against France and Britain.

Dr. Kissinger: Egypt?

[Page 120]

PM Chou: So how can you say they can’t fight a war? Because they … It is as if only the Vietnamese could fight a war. Of course, the Vietnamese should be respected but one can’t say that only the people in one region can fight a war while people in another region can’t.

So this is an essential point with regard to the Soviet Union. And it was principally because of this that their rhetoric about the situation will easily be accepted by others and deceives people. So I agree with your assessment about the second possibility. They seem that they are going toward that direction. And they have reaped some results to some extent. They worked out a communiqué on relaxation and you weren’t able to object to it. And again in the UN Gromyko worked out a proposal on the non-use of force and permanent non-use of nuclear weapons. We opposed it, but the U.S. only abstained. And if you rejected it then you would have shown that you resort to force. So there were a great number of countries that voted abstention and there were only four countries left. Two on the left and two on the right. Our friend was only Albania, and South Africa and Portugal were on the right. And then the Soviet Czars talked about the left faction and the right faction.

Dr. Kissinger: We always play the bull to the Prime Minister who makes us come charging predictably. He comes to every meeting with a firm intention.

PM Chou: What does this indicate? It indicates that the deceptive nature has its market. So this is a fact. So we could not but expose them. Without that what would the situation be like? Otherwise only Portugal and South Africa would oppose them. Then what would it be like in the international arena? This indicates that to expose the deceptive nature of the Soviet Union is a very complicated struggle. And possibly that resolution was adopted and more than seventy countries were for it.

So on this point it is very important to expose the true features of the Soviet Union as being engaged in false relaxation of tension and engaged in expansion. So the first point is about their deceptive nature. And this is why in Europe there have been illusions of peace. So we say that the European Security Conference is not really a security conference but really an insecurity conference. This was spoken by Ch’iao, and is the words of Chairman Mao. And now it can be proved. What is coming out of that conference?

Dr. Kissinger: Nothing.

PM Chou: It seems the same is true of the Mutual Balanced Force Reduction Conference.

Dr. Kissinger: Not exactly. We discussed this.

PM Chou: That is a strong point, that it will expose them and their advances. But the conclusion must be made very clear. Otherwise the [Page 121] world will be deceived continually. And then, as a result, they will sign a treaty with you and import some goods and you wouldn’t be able to reject it. And, as you said, in order to strengthen their arms preparation they will import arms technique. You said they were going to use technology in the U.S. to lessen the gap.

Dr. Kissinger: No. I will answer this in a minute. They want to use our technology to improve their economic position, not their military position. I agree with the Prime Minister that they want to improve their military position also.

PM Chou: The inevitable result would be that by improving their economic strength it would serve also to add to their military power and this would serve as a backing for their military strength. That is all that they have thought about, but how to realize that is another matter.

And the fourth point you have said is that they want to isolate China, claiming that China is war-like, and saying that China is against relaxation. And the result will be that they will surpass you. But we think that it is not easy for them to attain that goal. If they reach out their hands to the whole world then it will be in the same position as the U.S. was in before. You will be in a passive position. But the overall situation will be depending on the larger aspect of things.

So, we have covered the issues in Europe, the Middle East, the Mediterranean, the Indian Ocean, Indochina, the Subcontinent, and also Southeast Asia and Japan. And they want to get an upper hand in all respects, but actually that is impossible for them.

So we must realize that it is important to expose them. That is, the strategic principle should be to expose them that they are for general expansion and for false relaxation. And for the past years we have never ceased in exposing the Soviet Union’s expansionism and their false relaxation. We have done this since the Chen Pao incident in 1969.4 And in the meeting at the Peking airport we agreed to have discussions with them to test them. But after these negotiations, after they got back, what they promised would not be realized because their leadership would not endorse it. And, what Kosygin said didn’t count. Actually it was he who asked me to set forward a plan, and later he was opposed to it. They even went so far as to suggest last year that we could have a mutual non-aggression treaty with them.

Dr. Kissinger: Among Allies? [Laughter]

PM Chou: But they did not agree. They would not agree that there do exist disputed areas. In the 19th century there was a treaty that was [Page 122] unequal, and yet we took that treaty for the disputed areas. There do exist disputes about the areas, both in the east and the west. But they don’t accept these to be disputed areas, because if they accepted, that would bring about a chain reaction.

They are so neurotic. Ch’iao was locked in a quarrel with Kuznetzov and then Minister Han Nien-long took his place and then Vice Minister Fu Haol (?)5 took Mr. Han’s place. And the negotiations have been going on for three years. Kuznetzov has been conducting another negotiation since. He does administrative work now. He is taking care of the administrative work. So the Soviet Union is so neurotic about everything. So there is a strategic consideration for these questions.

This is what I have to say.

I would like to let you know a new piece of news. Chairman Mao has invited you to a meeting. You can go with your colleague, Mr. Lord.

Dr. Kissinger: With Mr. Lord.

PM Chou: And I will go with you.

Dr. Kissinger: Now?

PM Chou: We are supposed to arrive there at 11:30. Would you like to take a rest?

Dr. Kissinger: I will leave that up to you.

PM Chou: So much for today. Now we can continue our talks tomorrow.

Dr. Kissinger: And I will make some comments tomorrow because you raised some very important questions.

PM Chou: Will you be able to give us a copy of the draft communiqué? Whenever you have finished it, you can give it to us.

Dr. Kissinger: We haven’t finished it. Either tonight or tomorrow.

PM Chou: Tomorrow.

Dr. Kissinger: Fine. Should I meet you here, Mr. Prime Minister?

PM Chou: I will go to your place.

Dr. Kissinger: This is a great honor.

PM Chou: Tomorrow we can talk more deeply.

  1. Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Kissinger Office Files, Box 98, Country Files, Far East, HAK China Trip, Memcons & Reports (originals), February 1973. Top Secret; Sensitive; Exclusively Eyes Only. The meeting was held in Villa 3. All brackets are in the original.
  2. On February 15, Zhou told Kissinger, “Perhaps they [Western European leaders] want to push the ill waters of the Soviet Union in another direction—eastward.” see Document 8.
  3. Nixon’s speech was actually on July 6, 1971. In it, he declared that “there are five great power centers in the world today,” and that “Mainland China” was one of these centers. (Public Papers: Nixon, 1971, pp. 802–813
  4. Chen Pao (Damansky Island) was the site of a clash during Sino-Soviet fighting at the Ussuri River in 1969.
  5. No Chinese official with the name “Fu Haol” has been identified.