111. Backchannel Message From the Chief of the Liaison Office in China (Bush) to President Ford1

91. Brent, please pass the following to the President. I hope it will be shared only with SecState and not be passed to NSC Staff or Department. It is pure politics, but I feel strongly about it.

“Dear Mr. President:

After talking to Rog Morton when he was out here about domestic politics, I have a better feel for what is happening at home. It is his impression and mine that there is little focus in the U.S. on the political aspects of your trip to China.

The Taiwan issue is on the back burner right now as it relates to domestic politics. I am very concerned that as your trip to China approaches this will change dramatically. Your own personal interests dictate that serious thought be given to what is possible from a purely political standpoint.

Answers to the Taiwan question that may have been possible before the collapse in Cambodia and Viet Nam may no longer be any answers at all. I would strongly suggest the following:

An in-depth poll be taken to measure public opinion on various solutions to the Taiwan question (the last poll, I believe, was by Gallup late last year). The poll should probe into opinion of conservatives and liberals and should sound out attitudes towards various solutions. Obviously this polling should be done in great confidence and commissioned by outside sources.
An in-depth research job be done on what the conservatives in the U.S. have said and are likely to say on this issue. A similar study [Page 674] should be undertaken on what the leading Democrats have been saying. N.B.: It seems to me that your political problems arising from this issue are quite different pre-GOP convention compared to post-GOP convention.
Thought be given as to how to keep this issue from building into a major weapon for your opponents be they Republican or Democrat. Some will try to paint a China visit without a final solution to Taiwan as a diplomatic failure, an inability to solve the tough problems. Others, particularly the right wing, will soon start criticizing the visit itself and will be on guard to immediately criticize any concessions as a sell-out of Taiwan.

In this communication I am not attempting to go into the foreign policy merits of China options. I firmly believe, however, that your coming to Peking this year, whatever the concrete results, is the right thing to do. What is done at this stage to assess the politics of the visit should be separate from the foreign policy machinery and not in any way inhibit the thinking and planning which undoubtedly is going forward at the State Department and NSC. I an suggesting that a trusted confidant who would not be involved with this planning be encouraged to think out the domestic political implications of your China visit.

I have already discussed with the State Department my concern that work need be done fairly soon to minimize expectations. Many journalists are saying, ‘the President can’t possibly go to China without solving the Taiwan problem.’ It is to your advantage to have this talk dampened, so that expectations be realistic not euphoric and that a visit that does not solve the big Taiwan problem will not, post facto, be considered a diplomatic failure.

Pardon my intrusion on your busy schedule, but, based on my own political past, I worry that this issue can build into a political nightmare unless a lot of pure political thought gets into it soon.

Barbara and I are happy out here. We feel we are most fortunate to be in this fascinating job in this fascinating land.

Warmest regards to Betty.

Sincerely, George”

  1. Source: Ford Library, National Security Adviser, KissingerScowcroft West Wing Office Files, 1969–1977, Box 5, China, unnumbered items (13), 5/11–5/30/75. Secret; Via Voyager Channel. Sent through Scowcroft.