120. Memorandum of Conversation1


  • President Ford
  • Dr. Henry A. Kissinger, Secretary of State and Assistant to the President for National Security Affairs
  • Lt. General Brent Scowcroft, Deputy Assistant to the President for National Security Affairs


  • China; Middle East; Sadat Visit

[Omitted here is discussion unrelated to China.]

Kissinger: On my China trip [October 19–23],2 I would propose negotiating the communiqué of your trip so you don’t have to do it. The Shanghai one had three parts: unilateral statements, an anti-hegemony statement, and a bilateral section—including statements on Taiwan. That language was ingenious.

What can come from your visit? There can’t be complete normalization, although Nixon promised we would do it by 1976. But we can strengthen the anti-hegemony statement. On Taiwan, we have two options: One is to let the PRC state its position including peaceful change, we state our desire for normalization, and we note their view and our desire to work for a solution on the principle of one China. My staff likes this—I don’t. They will reject it and then we will need a fallback. If they do, there will be pressure for full normalization because they will have approved peaceful change. The second option is to restate the Shanghai Communiqué but instead of saying “the U.S. does not challenge this position,” we would affirm the one-China idea. That is unilateral and can be withdrawn. It would reduce our ability to recognize an independent Taiwan, but we could do that only in the context of a massive confrontation with the PRC anyway.

The President: Which formulation is better here politically?

Kissinger: I think mine is.

Scowcroft: I think there is no question about it.

Kissinger: The first option is the unanimous position of my advisors, but I don’t support it. Once you accept it, we will be under pressure [Page 752] to move because they have accepted peaceful change. We’ll have all the liberals on us.

The President: What would the Japanese say if the Chinese tried to take over Taiwan?

Kissinger: They want us to protect Taiwan while they trade with Taiwan. The present situation where we protect Taiwan is best for everyone.

The President: What will we be doing for 4½ days in China?

Kissinger: They move at a leisurely pace. They will want to hear at length from you about the world situation—there is no substitute for that. They will expect a long session on the Soviet Union, Europe, Asia. If you get there Monday, they will give a dinner Monday night; on the following events there will be one cultural show, a reciprocal dinner, and then one evening free.

The President: How about Chou’s health?

Kissinger: He may be on his last legs. You will meet with Mao. Soochow is nice; Hangchow is also. They will certainly want you to go to Shanghai.

The President: The first trip of Nixon was a tremendous extravaganza. There was massive television coverage. I think it would be good to do something different. What is there which is dramatic? See if you can find something different.

Kissinger: Why don’t I suggest to them that you would like something Nixon didn’t do? Sian is the first capital and there is excavating there.

The President: That might attract the television.

[Omitted here is discussion of the Middle East.]

  1. Source: Ford Library, National Security Adviser Memcons, Box 16, July–October 1975. Secret; Sensitive. The meeting took place in the Oval Office.
  2. Brackets are in the original.