117. Briefing Memorandum From the Assistant Secretary of State for East Asian and Pacific Affairs (Habib), the Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for East Asian and Pacific Affairs (Gleysteen), the Director of the Policy Planning Staff (Lord), and Richard H. Solomon of the National Security Council Staff to Secretary of State Kissinger1

Partial Steps Toward Normalization of U.S./PRC Relations in Conjunction with the President’s Trip to Peking

As you asked in our meeting of July 7,2 we have examined whether there are further steps short of full normalization which we might take in conjunction with the President’s trip this fall to sustain the momentum in U.S./PRC relations. Bearing in mind the need not to stir up excessively those who are opposed to a changeover in relations, we have looked at moves which would:
  • — indicate to people in the United States, PRC, and elsewhere that we are continuing to move toward full normalization of relations.
  • — signal the Soviets that our relationship with the PRC remains sound.
  • — ease doubts among PRC elements who may question wisdom of Peking’s acquiescing in normalization delays.
  • — discourage Taiwan from assuming there had been a setback or that it could exploit the lack of dramatic movement in our relations with Peking.
We find that the concept of an interim step has some merit as an alternative for reaching full normalization this year (or as a fallback in the event such an attempt were authorized and proved unsuccessful). There is, we think, some possibility of devising adequately balanced U.S. and PRC measures which would not involve major concessions on our part or invite serious domestic criticism. Even though the Chinese might be hard to budge, they might see the advantage of small, matched concessions to provide an aura of success at the summit.
Nevertheless, the boundaries for an interim step are quite narrow. Peking continues to set three political preconditions to full normalization: breaking diplomatic relations with Taipei and recognition of Peking “as the sole legal government of China;” full withdrawal of the American military presence from Taiwan and abrogation of our defense treaty with the ROC; and U.S. recognition of Taiwan as part of China.
For the purpose of this paper, we assume that domestic and international constraints will prevent us from fully and explicitly accepting any of these conditions at this time. However, we could touch on these various conditions by unilateral statements going beyond those we made in the Shanghai Communiqué. We would not, of course, wish to go so far as to make a major unilateral concession in the absence of agreement on other elements of a final normalization package. Without the elements of reassurance that would hopefully be included in full normalization arrangements, we would also have to be especially careful not to panic Taiwan and its supporters in this country.
A second category of steps—which hopefully might be combined with any political statements—would involve agreement with the Chinese on practical issues such as claims, exchanges, trade, or governmental relations (branch liaison offices, etc.). Agreement along these lines, which would require some shift in PRC positions, would convey a sense of strengthened ties and continuing momentum toward normalization.

Political Half Steps

One China Formulations. As a sign of political movement we could make a unilateral statement in the communiqué taking us beyond our Shanghai Communiqué position of not challenging the view that “all Chinese on either side of the Taiwan Strait maintain there is but one China and that Taiwan is part of China.” Short of a direct affirmation, which would seem premature in this context, the most far-reaching formulation would be a fairly clear though indirect acknowledgment that “Taiwan is part of China.” (See Tab 1).3 Such an important concession on our part, even if accompanied by progress on practical issues, would entail rather serious risks. In the absence of some offsetting statement about our concern for Taiwan’s security, it would intensify anxieties on Taiwan, possibly to the danger point, and it would almost surely come under attack in this country from both self-determinationists and more conservative supporters of the ROC. We [Page 717] would face political criticism, and conceivably legal problems, from the contradiction of continued diplomatic recognition of the ROC, while having acknowledged in an official communiqué with the PRC that Taiwan was part of China.
A considerably more attractive possibility would play on the PRC’s November 1973 Communiqué statement that “the normalization of relations between China and the United States can be realized only on the basis of confirming the principle of one China.”4 Given Chou’s initiative on this point, it should have some appeal for Peking. This variant could, moreover, be phrased to maintain linkage to the “peaceful settlement of the Taiwan question by the Chinese themselves.” (See Tab 2).5 The impact on Taiwan should be constructive because the formulation would constitute a useful conditioning step toward the future without setting up shock waves. Proponents of normalization might criticize it as a rather empty, teasing step, but such complaints could be countered by coupling it with some other measures of a practical nature in a package suggesting distinct, if not dramatic, progress.
Full Normalization. In the summit communiqué, we could either unilaterally or jointly speak in terms of further progress toward full normalization of relations, a phrase which we have not so far used in formal declarations. The nuance would raise the communiqué’s temperature several degrees, especially if coupled with the “one China” formulation discussed above. It would not be welcome in Taiwan but would hardly come as a great surprise. In this country it might stimulate unhelpful counter moves trying to box us in regarding the unstated but inevitable corollary prospect of a break in U.S./ROC diplomatic relations. However, we believe these risks are manageable.
Military Withdrawals. An interim step could also include further unilateral reference to U.S. military withdrawals from Taiwan. There is a range of statements we could make short of announcing a complete withdrawal. The most extreme would be a statement that, assuming continued reductions in tensions in the area, we intended substantially to complete withdrawals of our military forces from Taiwan by some specific date. This would attenuate the basic linkage in the Shanghai Communiqué between complete withdrawals and the prospect of a peaceful settlement of the Taiwan problem. A more immediate disadvantage would be great anxiety in Taiwan and unhelpful questioning here. If the reaction in Taiwan appeared to threaten the [Page 718] island’s “stable” adjustment to our evolving relations with Peking, the statement might even misfire with the PRC which, in any event, does not seem to doubt our good faith on troop withdrawals. Thus we question whether this card should be played without some compensating PRC movement on the issue of peaceful settlement.
Most of the difficulties—and, to be sure, some of the drama— would be eliminated if the communiqué merely referred approvingly to the substantial withdrawals that have taken place on Taiwan and noted the prospect for additional cuts if tensions continued to ease.
Given our present schedule we should be in position by November/December to justify an additional withdrawal statement which would of course be unilateral, even though you might wish to inform the Chinese at the time of your trip of our contemplated drawdowns. (Last November you told Teng Hsiao-ping that we would reduce our forces in Taiwan even in the absence of a normalization agreement, and when we informed the PRC early this year of certain reductions in Taiwan you indicated there would be further drawdowns this year and that we would keep Peking informed.6 The benefit of these moves vis-à-vis Peking might be increased if we also told the Chinese privately before the summit that we intended to consolidate the Taiwan Defense Command and MAAG and/or to reduce the rank of the commanding officers. However, we have not yet decided on this step which would be quite unsettling in Taiwan.)
Diplomatic Representation. The only diplomatic measure we could adopt short of a break in U.S./ROC relations would be lowering the level of our representation from an ambassador to chargé, or reducing the size of the embassy. (You told the Chinese in November 1974 that we would reduce the seniority of our diplomatic representation before 1976 even in the absence of full normalization.7 However, replacement of Unger with a junior ambassador might be counterproductive in view of the fuss Peking made over our replacement of Mc-Conaughy.) Either of these steps, especially, if announced in a communiqué, would be welcomed by Peking but we think they would be ill-advised. More than any of the other measures discussed above, they would be seen on Taiwan as impending notice of radical change. Some of the same destabilizing tendencies which would come into play with a full break in U.S./ROC relations would be stimulated with plenty of time to cause us serious trouble and without our being in position to make the kind of reassuring gestures that might be possible in the context of full normalization.
In sum, after considering the balance of advantage and disadvantage, the political measures which seem promising would be the play on Chou En-lai’s November 1973 statement on “confirming the unity of China” (para 7 above), a reference to “full normalization” (para 8), and possibly a rounded reference to continuing progress in the withdrawal of U.S. forces from Taiwan (para 10). Even without some matching advance from the Chinese side, we might find one or possibly more of these initiatives in our interest as a means of getting the right message to various audiences, not simply the PRC. Obviously it would be far better if our statements were part of a carefully balanced package, including some bilateral agreements with the PRC. Such a package might consist, for example, of one or more U.S. political statements, a claims agreement, exchange of defense liaison officers or a hot line, and some qualitative improvement in the exchange program. (Even if not in a publicly useable form it would be helpful if you were able to obtain PRC agreement to adopt a less antagonistic tone toward us on international issues.) The Chinese might resist such an extensive “interim step,” but we should have enough choice to ensure that the measures were adequately balanced in terms of US interests.

Bilateral Issues Where Progress Might Be Made

Irrespective of any progress in resolving the political issues which remain between us and Peking in conjunction with the President’s trip, you should seek agreement on a number of outstanding bilateral issues in the areas of claims, exchanges, trade, and governmental relations. Agreements of this kind would strengthen our ties with the PRC, sustain abroad a sense of continuing momentum in our relationship, and help justify to domestic audiences a second Presidential trip to Peking. The alternative to such agreements is conclusion of a modest set of understandings in already-familiar exchange areas which would do little more than indicate to the world that U.S./PRC relations were coasting at their present level.
Following are a number of possible areas for agreement which would strengthen our bilateral relationship with the PRC. Some would constitute a step forward in ongoing matters; others would break new ground. We must emphasize that to date the Chinese have indicated an unwillingness, for example, to solve the claims/assets problem before our relationship is fully normalized. They may not shift their position, either because doing so would limit their future leverage on the outstanding normalization issues, and/or because there probably exist domestic PRC political constraints on concessions in these areas in the absence of progress toward full normalization. Nevertheless, if the Chinese share our desire to demonstrate continuing momentum in our relationship, they may be more receptive to one or more of these steps than they have been in the past.
Claims Settlement. A settlement, despite the existing agreement in principle in March 1973,8 would have a sizable symbolic value: the issue has received considerable public attention, and it would be the first formal U.S./PRC intergovernmental agreement. More concretely, a settlement would remove a major impediment to further progress in economic/commercial relations, such as banking, trade exhibits and air and sea links.
Settlement has been prevented by the Chinese unwillingness to compromise on several issues. However, in the counterpart talks during your November 1974 visit, it became clear that the Chinese did not want a settlement then and were using the few remaining problems as a pretext for stalling.9 We believe that whenever the Chinese decide that a settlement is desirable, those problems can be resolved relatively easily. If they are receptive, an agreement could be signed during the Presidential trip.
Branch Liaison Offices. An agreement to establish branch liaison offices, e.g., in San Francisco and Canton, would have considerable symbolic value. However, the Chinese would derive far more benefit; they could take full advantage of our open society, while our branch would be of limited value to us. This situation might change if our branch were involved in implementing an agreement on the reuniting of families (see separate item).
Defense Liaison Officers. We could suggest an exchange of “defense liaison officers.” In addition to publicly expanding the scope of our two Liaison Offices, the move might be welcomed by the Chinese because of its impact on the Soviets. We would need to carefully consider such an exchange in terms of our relations with Moscow, and Taipei would be displeased. In a more practical vein, foreign military attachés in Peking have minimal contact with the Chinese military, and our Liaison Office is so crowded that Chinese cooperation in providing more office space would probably be necessary.
Hot Line. We could propose that a “hot line” be established between Washington and Peking and that an announcement be included in the communiqué. You have tentatively floated this idea before with the PRC without any interest on their part. But it remains the only feasible step in the arms control area.
Exchanges. We have already been requested by the two committees involved in our exchange program to support their efforts to improve the quality of the exchanges and to achieve a better balance between the benefits to the PRC and the interests of American participants. In addition to seeking this general improvement, we could again propose several specific steps which would visibly demonstrate forward movement. The possibilities include:
  • — Exchange of students for language study.
  • — Longer term joint research efforts, preferably intergovernmental, in such fields as agriculture or environment.
  • — Permanent press representation in Peking and Washington.
Reuniting Families. The Canadians have an agreement with the PRC designed to make it easier for Chinese in the PRC to join their close relatives in Canada. In this country there are probably thousands of Chinese-Americans who want to bring their close relatives in China to the United States, and many members of Congress receive requests for assistance. Moreover, the 1974 Trade Act makes the extension of MFN partially contingent on the other country’s willingness to permit the reuniting of families. We seriously doubt that the PRC, in the absence of full diplomatic relations, would be prepared to negotiate an agreement, and they will not want to appear to be yielding to the Trade Act provisions on emigration policies. Nevertheless, since an intergovernmental agreement on this subject would have a substantial positive impact in this country, we could make a low-key effort to determine the PRC attitude.
Trade Agreement and MFN. We have indicated to the PRC that once the claims issue is settled, we would be prepared to discuss extension of the Most Favored Nation treatment to PRC exports to the United States. However, the 1975 Trade Act provides that MFN can be extended only through a bilateral trade agreement under which we would receive some comparable benefits. Moreover, the “emigration” provisions of the Act (the Jackson–Vanik amendment and an article about reuniting families) will be unacceptable to the PRC. Proposing preliminary discussions of a trade agreement, including MFN, therefore seems pointless. However, we could suggest a more limited agreement, e.g., on trade exhibits, trademarks, and arbitration of business disputes.
Embassy Sites. Our Liaison Office in Peking is now so crowded that little expansion of staff is possible. the PRC Liaison Office here has plenty of room, and we do not know if they would move when embassies are established. In any event, we could tell the Chinese that in anticipation of the time when our two Liaison Offices are changed to embassies, we would like to start discussions on permanent sites for our respective missions. A statement to this effect could be included in a communiqué, along the following lines: “The two sides, looking forward [Page 722] to the further normalization of relations, have agreed to initiate discussions regarding more permanent facilities for their respective missions in each other’s capital.” Such a statement would obviously have significant symbolic impact.
Jamming of VOA. The Chinese continue to jam the Chinese-language broadcasts of VOA. As far as we know, these are the only foreign broadcasts which are jammed (even those from the Soviet Union are not jammed). We could express our puzzlement and our hope that the jamming could be ended. If they agreed, we would not press for any mention of jamming in the communiqué, but we could make the change public by other means.
We will continue to work on formulas and other ideas but wanted you to have our thoughts so far.
  1. Source: Ford Library, National Security Adviser, KissingerScowcroft West Wing Office Files, 1969–1977, Box 5, China, unnumbered items (17), 8/4/75–8/31/75. Secret; Nodis.
  2. The meeting was on July 6; see Document 113.
  3. Tab 1, attached but not printed, contains draft language for “formulation indirectly acknowledging Taiwan as part of China.”
  4. See footnote 7, Document 60.
  5. Tab 2, attached but not printed, contains an “alternative formulation regarding the ‘principle of one China.’”
  6. See Document 94, Document 98, and Document 109.
  7. See Document 98.
  8. In a memorandum to Kissinger, March 9, 1973, Theodore Eliot reported that the PRC “has agreed to settle U.S. private claims through an assignment of blocked Chinese assets to the U.S. Government for use in compensating American claimants.” (National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Box 527, Country Files, Far East, People’s Republic of China, Vol. 7, May, 1973–Jul 9, 1973)
  9. See footnote 4, Document 98.