122. Memorandum of Conversation1


  • Teng Hsiao-p’ing, Vice Premier of the State Council, People’s Republic of China
  • Ch’iao Kuan-hua, Minister of Foreign Affairs
  • Wang Hai-jung, Vice Minister of Foreign Affairs
  • Huang Chen, Chief of the PRC Liaison Office, Washington
  • Lin P’ing, Director, Department of American and Oceanic Affairs, Ministry of Foreign Affairs
  • T’ang Wen-sheng, Deputy Director, Department of American and Oceanic Affairs, Ministry of Foreign Affairs
  • Tsien Ta-yung, Political Counselor, PRC Liaison Office, Washington
  • Ting Yuan-hung, Director, United States Office, Department of American and Oceanic Affairs, Ministry of Foreign Affairs
  • Chao Chi-hua, Deputy Director, United States Office, Department of American and Oceanic Affairs, Ministry of Foreign Affairs
  • Shih Yen-hua (Interpreter)
  • Henry A. Kissinger, Secretary of State and Assistant to the President for National Security Affairs
  • Philip C. Habib, Assistant Secretary of State for East Asian and Pacific Affairs
  • George Bush, Chief of the United States Liaison Office, Peking
  • Winston Lord, Director, Policy Planning Staff, Department of State
  • William H. Gleysteen, Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for East Asian and Pacific Affairs
  • Oscar V. Armstrong, Director, People’s Republic of China and Mongolian Affairs, Department of State
  • Richard H. Solomon, Senior Staff Member, National Security Council


  • Global Strategy for Dealing with the Soviet Union; the Historical Lessons of the 1930s

Vice Premier Teng: You visited the Forbidden City?!

Secretary Kissinger: I love to visit there. During my last trip I escaped my keepers and visited there by myself.

I appreciate all the arrangements you have made.

Vice Premier Teng: It seems to me that of all emperors and kings [in the world], the Chinese emperors did not know how to enjoy life.

Secretary Kissinger: Didn’t know how to enjoy life?

Vice Premier Teng: In terms of food and clothing, yes; but in terms of the quality of their residences they did not know how to enjoy life. [Page 766] One other thing is that the Chinese emperors changed their clothes every day—new clothes every day! Do you think they would be very comfortable wearing new clothes every day? And at every meal the emperor would have 99 courses. Actually they could only take whatever was close to them.

Secretary Kissinger: It doesn’t sound like trouble or hardship to me. If you give me one corner [of the Forbidden City] I would be comforable.

Vice Premier Teng: That was built by the Empress Dowager.

And the other feature of the Chinese emperors was that whatever [food] they thought of they would try to get immediately. The Imperial cooks would only give them food that was most obtainable. They didn’t give them any other dishes, otherwise the emperor would kill the cooks!

Secretary Kissinger: Why was that?

Vice Premier Teng: Because the cooks could only get the things that were available in that season. If the emperor liked a dish and asked for it but could not get it, he would kill the cook.

Secretary Kissinger: That is what my staff does in the State Department. They try to limit my choices.

Vice Premier Teng: Let’s turn to the subjects we are going to discuss. I will first explain our views.

Our relations were started in February, 1972. That was during President Nixon’s visit to China. And before that Doctor made visits to Peking to prepare for President Nixon’s visit to China. And we have stated on more than one occasion that we appreciate the first remarks by former President Nixon to Chairman Mao. When he met the Chairman he said, “I have come to China out of our national interest.” We also appreciate that President Nixon took this courageous step. And we also understand the sincerity of President Nixon when he said that he had come to China out of the national interest of the United States. We believe this is not diplomatic talk.

And thereafter, the Doctor made several visits to China, and Chairman Mao told President Nixon, as well as the Doctor, that we have common points which were reflected in the Shanghai Communiqué. Our common aim is to fix the polar bear, deal with the polar bear.

I believe the Doctor also remembers that when in talking about the Middle East, Chairman Mao also advised the United States to use two hands. You should not only use one hand to help Israel, but also the other hand to help the Arab countries, especially Egypt. In the talk, Chairman Mao emphasized that China supported the Arab countries. And this position of China is different from that of the United States. But we can also see a common ground—that is we can both fix the polar bear.

[Page 767]

Chairman Mao stressed on many occasions that between us there are certain problems of bilateral relations, but what is more important are the international problems. On international issues, we think we should look at the international problems from a political point of view. Only in this way can we have a common view, can we have coordination in some respects. And exactly on this point we appreciate the statesmanship of President Nixon. We have never attached any importance to what you call the Watergate event. By political problems I mean how we should deal with the Soviet Union. This is a question of strategy—a question of global strategy.

And this morning I listened attentively to the Doctor’s remarks,2 and according to what you said this morning the United States has a clear world view with regard to strategy, and now you are only thinking of tactics. As I understand it, tactics are guided by strategy and serve strategy. The tactics manifest in various fields may conform to the strategy and may also deviate from strategy.

The Doctor seems to believe that the Chinese are intransigent in tactics, and I know what you are referring to. You put stress on flexibility. If we are to make an assessment of ourselves, we can say that we have never been intransigent. We think that flexibility must conform to strategic needs. Too much flexibility leads people to wonder what the strategy really is.

This morning the Doctor first talked about strategy towards the Soviet Union. There exist differences between us in this respect. We believe the focus of the Soviet strategy is in the West, in Europe—in the Middle East, the Mediterranean, and the Persian Gulf—all the places linked to Europe.

Although the Soviet Union has stationed one million troops along the 7,200 kilometer border [between Russian an China] the Soviet strategy remains toward the West. The Soviet strategy is to make a feint toward the East while attacking in the West.

In this regard, the U.S. has stressed to us on many occasions the danger of a Soviet attack against China. I believe that the Doctor still remembers that Chairman Mao had a deep talk with you in this regard. He concluded that the polar bear is out to fix the United States.

We have heard, on not less than one occasion, that the Doctor has said that whether the Soviet Union was making a feint in the East while attacking the West, or making a feint in the West while attacking in the East, this makes not much difference.

We hold different views. How to assess Soviet strategy? This is not a matter of rhetoric but a matter of substance. This assessment is the [Page 768] starting point of the tactics formulated to deal with international matters.

We say that the focus of the Soviet strategy is in the West and it is out to fix the United States. Even the one million Soviet troops stationed in the East are directed against the U.S. Seventh Fleet first of all and not merely against China. First we say that the Soviet troops are directed against the Seventh Fleet, and then Japan, and then China. Also we say that the Soviet focus is in the West.

We are also making solid preparations. But one should by no means be under the false impression that when China proposes this theory that China wants to direct the Soviet Union Westward so that the Soviet Union will not go to the East.

I heard that during your first trip to China, prior to President Nixon’s visit, Premier Chou talked to you. I was not present, but he said China’s strategy was to get prepared to deal with aggression from all sides. At that time we did not have the Shanghai Communiqué yet. Well, although I have read the verbal record of your talk, I do not remember what the original words were; but anyway, the Premier told you that even if the Soviet Union siezes the land north of the Yellow River, and Japan grabs the northeast, the United States the east, and India grabs Tibet, we are not afraid. That was what we thought at that time.

After the Shanghai Communiqué, we made no reference to these words. We have always believed that we should rely on our independent strength to deal with the Soviet Union, and we have never cherished any illusions about this. We have told this to the Doctor as well as to visiting American friends. We do not depend on nuclear weapons; even less on nuclear protection [by other countries]. We depend on two things: First is the perseverance of the 800 million Chinese people. If the Soviet Union wants to attack China it must be prepared to fight for at least two decades. We mainly depend on millet plus rifles. Of course, this millet plus rifles is different from what we had during Yenan times. We pursue a policy of self-reliance in our economic construction and also in our strategic problems.

As I said just now, we are not directing the evil of the Soviet Union Westward, but we are concerned about the West because if the Soviet Union is to make trouble its focal point is in the West. Naturally we are concerned about it. It is precisely proceeding from this assessment that we are interested in a unified and strong Europe—including the improvement of relations between Europe and the United States.

It is also precisely proceeded from this strategic assessment that we advised you to use both of your hands in dealing with Arabs and Israelis.

[Page 769]

It is also precisely out of this strategic assessment that we expressed that we did not understand the attitude of the United States in the case when the Soviet Union and India dismembered Pakistan.

These are political problems as well as strategic problems, and these include tactics under the guidance of these problems, these strategic problems—for instance, when we advised you to use both of your hands [in the Middle East] this was tactics.

It was also precisely out of this strategic assessment that we have often told you, as well as Japan, that Japan should put a first priority on relations between Japan and the United States and then between Japan and China. This not only concerns the West but also the East.

On this point, we have advised our American friends on many occasions that the United States should formulate its own focus of strategy. We have often said the United States was keeping ten fleas under its ten fingers and that the United States should not let itself bog down in the quagmire of Indochina.

And out of this strategic consideration, when the United States was building its military base in Diego Garcia on the Indian Ocean China did not criticize this.

On these questions and a number of other issues we proceed from political and strategic considerations to deal with international problems as well as our bilateral relations. We have made our assessment of Soviet strategy after careful study of the international situation. In our talks with the Europeans, they have constantly raised the [following] question: “If there is trouble in Europe, what will be the attitude of the United States?” I will be very candid with the Doctor, the Europeans are very apprehensive on this point.

Secretary Kissinger: But our question is what will be the attitude of the Europeans?

Vice Premier Teng: Perhaps this has something to do with your relations with the Europeans. The Doctor may recall that in 1973 Chairman Mao asked you whether it was possible for the new isolationism to emerge in the United States.3 You answered in the affirmative, negative term. You said no.

Secretary Kissinger: I just now said to Mr. Lord that I knew I was tricky, but I am not that tricky—to answer “affirmatively no.” (Laughter)

Vice Premier Teng: But from that you can assess what Chairman Mao is thinking, what we are thinking about. This observation of the situation dates back as early as the first nuclear arms talks between the United States and the Soviet Union. Those talks took place in 1963. That [Page 770] treaty was prepared by three countries, and it left a deep impression on me at that time. I made my last visit to the Soviet Union as head of the delegation of the Chinese Communist Party to negotiate with the Russians, and it [the non-proliferation treaty] was made public on the day when we left [Moscow].

At that time our talks with the Soviet Union were completely bankrupt, and we were certain that a most important part of the treaty was directed against China. I don’t doubt that at that time the attitude of the United States and the British was to restrain the Soviet Union from nuclear development. Of course this is a strategic problem and, in terms of tactics, after more than nine years—nearly ten years—in this period things have changed. They show that the aim—the purpose—of these tactics has failed to be achieved.

In 1972, when you reached the second [SALT] agreement, the Soviet Union drastically quickened their pace in the development of nuclear arms. Their pace was quicker than the United States. When the third agreement [on prevention of nuclear war] was reached between your countries, it [the strategic balance] had reached equilibrium. In November last year when we met [after the Vladivostok meeting], the Doctor informed us that the number of Soviet missiles had not yet reached the ceiling, and this morning you told us that the number of Soviet missiles had exceeded the ceiling—leaving aside the quality.

This is our observation from one angle. And in the race between the Soviet Union and the United States, the United States has not gained. In terms of conventional weapons, the Soviet Union has far exceeded you and Europe.

It is almost eleven months since we met last year. During this period we have again made our observations. And through our observations we have got the impression that the Helsinki Conference is an indication—and not only the Helsinki Conference, but things before the Helsinki Conference—that it is worthwhile to recall history.

Secretary Kissinger: What things?

Vice Premier Teng: Well, problems of various descriptions [mentioned] earlier.

By recalling history, I mean the period prior to the Second World War—the period 1936 to 1939, which is particularly worthwhile to recall. The Doctor studies history and I think is more knowledgable than I.

As I understand, the Doctor once said that in actuality the Soviet Union has gone beyond the Rhineland. This shows that the Doctor has made a study of it. After the Germans entered into the Rhineland you may recall what was the attitude of the British and French, and what [Page 771] was the policy pursued by Chamberlain and Daladier. They pursued a policy of appeasement towards Hitler, and shortly after that the Munich agreement was concluded.

In pursuing such policies the purpose of Chamberlain and Daladier was obvious. They wanted to direct the peril Eastward, and their first aim was to appease Hitler so that he would not take rash actions. Their second aim was to direct the peril toward the East. The stark historical realities have brought out the failure of the policies carried out by Chamberlain and Daladier. Their policies have gone to the opposite of their wishes. They neither got international peace and stability nor achieved their purpose of directing the peril of Hitler to the East. Instead, the spearhead of Hitler was directed to the West—Czechoslovakia and Poland. These countries were in the West, and they [the Germans] did not attack the Soviet Union first.

If I remember correctly from what I read in newspapers, when Chamberlain visited Germany he carried an umbrella. But it neither shaded him from the moon or the sun—no, the rain or the sun. At that time France boasted that they had the Maginot line. But Germany did not attack the Maginot line. They attacked from Belgium and attacked France, and France collapsed and Chamberlain gave up all resistance. He mobilized all the ships to move from Dunkirk—that is, he wanted to slip away.

So in fact this appeasement policy led to an earlier break out of the Second World War. In our contacts with quite a number of Europeans they often raise the lessons of Munich. According to our observations, we may say that the danger of such historical tragedy is increasing.

The Doctor asked just now what were other things apart from the Helsinki Conference. I raised three questions to you this morning. This shows there were other things apart from the Helsinki Conference.

In terms of strategy, Soviet weapons have far exceeded those of the West. Also you have reached the equilibrium of weapons. In terms of total military strength, the Soviet Union has a greater military strength than the United States and the European countries put together. But the Soviet Union has two big weaknesses: One, they lack food grains; the second is that their industrial equipment and technology is backward. In the long run although the Soviet Union has a greater military strength, these two weaknesses have put the Soviet Union in a weak position. It is limited in its strength so that when a war breaks out the Soviet Union cannot hold out long.

Therefore, we do not understand why the United States and the West have used their strong points to make up for the Soviet weakness. If the United States and Europe have taken advantage of the weaknesses of the Soviet Union you might have been in a stronger negotiating position.

[Page 772]

As for our views on the Helsinki Conference, I think you know our views, which differ from yours. We call it the European Insecurity Conference and you call it the European Security Conference. The Munich agreement pulled the wool over the eyes of Chamberlain, Daladier, and some European people. And in the case when you supply them, make up for the weak points of the Soviet Union, you help the Soviet Union to overcome its weaknesses. You can say you pulled the wool over the eyes of the West and demoralized the Western people and let them slacken their pace. We have a Chinese saying: A donkey is made to push the mill stone because when you make the donkey to push around the mill stone you have to blindfold it.

This is a political or we may say a strategic problem in the present situation which people are most concerned with. And we are now speaking our views on these problems very candidly.

As for the Russians, they now feel you cannot restrain them. They are not reliable and cannot be restrained. And, of course, in the West—including the United States—there are two schools of public opinion. A greater part of the public opinion has clearly seen this. A considerable, greater part of the public opinion has seen this. We understand that the Americans, Europeans, and including the Japanese, do not want a war because they have gone through two World Wars. This we can understand. They fear a war.

We always feel that to rely on the European Security Conference, or anything else in an attempt to appease the Russians, will fail. These things will be counter productive. For example, the Europeans fear war day and night. They hope to obtain peace for a certain period of time at any price. Exactly because of that, we should not blindfold them by the evolution of détente. We should remind them of the possibility of attack from the polar bear. So every time Chairman Mao meets foreign guests he advises them to get prepared. Without preparation they would suffer. The most effective way to deal with the possible attack from the Russians is not what you call agreements or treaties, [not] what is written on paper, but actual preparations.

As for China, we have told you on many occasions, and I will [again] tell you frankly, that China fears nothing under heaven or on earth. China will not ask favors from anyone. We depend on the digging of tunnels. We rely on millet plus rifles to deal with all problems internationally and locally, including the problems in the East.

There is an argument in the world to the effect that China is afraid of an attack by the Russians. As a friend, I will be candid and tell you that this assessment is wrong.

Today we are only talking about strategic problems. The Doctor was a former professor. I have taken my 50 minutes to talk and I have gone beyond 50 minutes. That was because I am only a soldier. It is [Page 773] not easy to confine oneself within 50 minutes. I once taught in a school. I gave a lecture for 50 minutes, but I have never been a professor. I have taken too much of your time.

Secretary Kissinger: No, it was interesting and important.

Can we take a five minute break, and maybe I will make a few observations?

Vice Premier Teng: Yes.

(There was a short break at this point.)

Secretary Kissinger: Do you want me to make some observations now, or how do you propose to proceed?

Vice Premier Teng: Yes. Please go ahead.

Secretary Kissinger: I listened with great interest to the Vice Premier’s presentation and I would like to make a few observations.

First, I have noticed the frequent reference to President Nixon. I have worked very closely with President Nixon. And I think it is correct to say that we jointly designed the policy to which you referred approvingly. It is also the case that I am still in touch with him every two or three weeks at some length, so I know his views very precisely. I can safely say that the policy we are pursuing today is the policy that President Nixon would pursue if it had not been for Watergate. The policy toward the Soviet Union that is being pursued today was designed by President Nixon and myself and is the same that is being pursued today. There is no difference between President Nixon’s policy toward the Soviet Union and President Ford’s. If anything, President Ford is a nuance tougher toward the Soviet Union. And I say this as the one man in public life who has maintained contact with President Nixon and never criticized him and has stated publicly that he has made a great contribution in matters of foreign policy.

Leaving this aside, I must say I listened to the Vice Premier’s presentation with some sadness. I had thought, obviously incorrectly, that some of the public statements which I had heard were said for public effect. But this is obviously not the case. Now what I regret is that I can understand two countries, operating from the same perception, can operate using different tactics—and can understand each other’s tactics. That causes me no difficulty. But if there is not a common strategic perception, then one wonders what exactly the basis of our policy is. If you seriously think that we are trying to push the Soviet Union to attack in the East, then we are in grave danger of frittering away all our efforts—with yourself and everyone else.

The Vice Premier was kind enough to point out the lessons of history between 1936 and 1939. He pointed out that those in the West who tried to push the aggressor towards the East became the first victims of the attack; and that is true. But it is also true that those in the East [Page 774] who sought to escape their dilemma by pushing their aggressor toward the West eventually became the objects of the aggressor anyway.

And when we say that the West and the East have essentially the same strategic problem, we don’t say this because we have an interest in participating in the defense of the East. Anyone who knows the American domestic situation must know that this cannot be our overwhelming ambition. We say it because strategically wherever the attack occurs it will affect the other. And you act on these assumptions too.

And we are saying this not to do you any favors, because you are not all that helpful to us in other parts of the world. We are doing this out of our own national interest.

In 1971, in January of 1971, before we had been in China, during the crisis in India, when India had dismembered Pakistan, I talked to your Ambassador in New York on a Friday evening. He told me that China always fights as long as it has one rifle. I then told him we would move an aircraft carrier into the Bay of Bengal. On Sunday morning, when we were on the way to the Azores to meet President Pompidou, we received a message that your Ambassador in New York wanted to see us; and we sent General Haig to see him. We thought then that you might be taking some military action. And we decided that even though we had no diplomatic relations—President Nixon and I decided—that if you moved, and if the Soviet Union brought pressure on you, we would resist and assist you, even though you had not asked us to. We did that out of our conviction of the national interest.

And we have said recently again to the Prime Minister of Pakistan—because he asked us about this—we said that we would not be indifferent if the Soviet Union brought pressure on China because of the Indian situation. He must have told you this. And again, you have not asked us to do this, nor did we do this as a favor to China.

So, since I have been in Washington we have gone to a confrontation with the Soviet Union three times: Once over a nuclear submarine base in Cuba; once over the Syrian invasion of Jordan; once over the question of the alert in the Middle East in 1973 and—no, four times—once on the question of access routes to Berlin. We did all of these things on our own, without knowing what any other country, much less China, would do.

The Vice Premier referred to the spirit of Munich. I have studied that period and I lived through it, as a victim, so I know it rather well. The Munich policy was conducted by governments who denied that there was a danger, and who attempted to avoid their problems by denying that they existed. The current United States policy, as we have attempted to tell you, has no illusions about the danger, but it attempts to find the most effective means of resistance given the realities we [Page 775] face. A country that spends $110 billion a year for defense cannot be said to be pursing the spirit of Munich. But the reality we face is a certain attitude that has developed in the United States and an attitude that exists also in Europe even much more.

I know some of the Europeans who you talk about. Some are personally good friends of mine. But there is no European of any standing that has any question about what the United States will do. In any threat, we will be there. Our concern is whether the Europeans will be there. It is the United States that organizes the defense of the North Atlantic and that brings about the only cohesion that exists. It was not the United States that advocated the European Security Conference. It was, rather, to ease some of the pressures on the European governments that we reluctantly agreed to it in 1971.

Now the Vice Premier is quite correct, this is a problem that greatly concerns us, whether the policy that is being pursued may lead to confusion. This is a serious concern. But the Vice Premier should also consider that the policy we are pursuing is the best means we have to rally resistance. If we pursued some other approach, the left wing parties in Europe might split the United States from Europe with the argument that the United States is a threat to the peace of the world.

If you follow the present investigations that are going on in America, you will see that it was the present Administration, including myself, that has used methods to prevent the Soviet Union from stretching out its hands—even if these are not your preferred methods.

And if we were slow in our disengagement from Indochina—and this was not a situation that we created—it was precisely to prevent the mood of neoisolationism from developing that Chairman Mao talked of. We do not rely on the European Security Conference. And we do not rely on détente. Nor is everyone in the United States who talks against détente a reliable opponent of the Soviet Union, because without a strategic grasp of the situation much of it [anti-détente talk] is simply politics. To talk tough is easy—to act with strength and maintain support for a strong policy over a period of time in a democracy is a difficult problem.

If the Soviet Union should stretch out its hands, we will be brutal in our response, no matter where it occurs—and we won’t ask people whether they share our assessment when we resist. But to be able to do this we have to prepare our public by our own methods, and by methods that will enable us to sustain this policy over many years, and not go like Dulles from a period of intransigence to a period of excessive conciliation.

The Administration in the ’50’s started out not willing to shake hands with Communists [translated as, “with China”] and wound up almost giving away Berlin—had it not been for Khrushchev’s clumsiness. [Page 776] Our strategy is exactly as we discussed it with Chairman Mao three years ago. It has not changed, and it has the strategic advantage. But we have to be the best judge of the means appropriate to our situation. And we will not stand still for a strategic advance by the Soviet Union.

And we do not separate the fronts into East and West. If the Soviet Union feels strong enough to attack in either the West or the East, the policy will already have failed. The Soviet Union must not be in a position where it feels strong enough to attack at all.

Now I would like to correct a few other misapprehensions which the Vice Premier voiced, and then I will make one other observation.

One thing has to do with relative military strength. It is perfectly true that the Soviet Union has gained in relative strength in the last decade. This is not the result of the agreements that have been signed. This is the result of changes in technology, and the erroneous decision of the Administration that was in office in the 60’s when the Soviet Union was building up its strategic forces. If you analyze the result of the [SALT] agreement of 1972, since 1972 the strategic strength of the United States has increased considerably relative to that of the Soviet Union. It is also true that after some point in the field of strategic weapons, it is difficult to translate military superiority into a political advantage.

With respect to the second agreement, the Vladivostok agreement, you must have translated what I said incorrectly from the German. There has been no change in the Soviet strength since Vladivostok. Since the Soviet Union does not dismantle their obsolete units, they have 2,700 units and they have had those for five years. After Vladivostok they would have to get rid of 200. Since we do get rid of our obsolete units we have somewhat less than 2,400. But numbers are not so important anyway, as each [U.S.] unit can carry more warheads. We have gone ahead by a ratio of 6 or 7 to 1. Moreover, since the Soviets like big things which take room, they have about 85 to 90 percent of their forces on land, where they are vulnerable because the accuracy of our forces is improved. Less than 20 percent of our forces are on land, and they are less vulnerable. So it is not true that in the strategic balance we are behind, even though there are many newspaper articles in America written for political purposes that assert this.

In 1960 President Kennedy was elected by speaking of the missile gap, even though the Soviet Union had only 30 missiles, each of which took ten hours to get ready to fire and we had 1,200 airplanes. Ever since then it has been the secret dream of every American presidential candidate to run on a missile gap campaign, so we are in danger of this issue erupting every four years.

In 1970 when we confronted the Soviets on the submarine base in Cuba, in 1970 in Jordan, in 1970 in Berlin, and in 1973 in the Middle [Page 777] East, they always yielded within 36 hours when we made a military move. Their military calculations are not as optimistic as some of our European friends fear—such as Denmark.

On the question of food grains: We have moved at the slowest pace that is politically possible for us, and have even held up our grain sales—even while Canada, Australia, Argentina, and Western Europe have cleared out their bins in selling to the Soviets. The long term program we are now negotiating precisely prevents them from storing large quantities because it puts a ceiling on what they can buy in one year on the American market.

So our policy is quite clear, and in pursuing it we have not asked anything from China. We have kept you informed by our many discussions, but I don’t recall that we have ever asked for anything from the People’s Republic of China. Of course, China pursues its own policies, and we respect your independence. I hope you will make the positions which you made clear to us clear to every European visitor who comes here. We do not object to your public posture. We think it is essentially correct, and indeed it is even helpful. We do object when you direct it against us, when you accuse us of betraying our allies and endangering the security of the world by deliberately promoting war and standing on the side lines, when in fact we are doing actual things to prevent a war and preserve the world equilibrium.

And you should also consider that if the United States public finds too much discouragement around the world, and if everywhere we move we find the opposition of every country, then precisely this mood of isolationism which concerns so many other countries will develop.

We attach great significance to our relationship with the People’s Republic of China because we believe you conduct a serious policy and because we believe your word counts. And we believe that the world is one entity from a strategic point of view and a political point of view.

We are prepared to coordinate actions along the lines of my conversations with Chairman Mao two years ago. But the world situation is extremely complex, and the domestic situations around the world are also extremely complex. It is important that you have a correct perception of our objectives. If you think we are engaged in petty tactical maneuvers then that would be a pity for both of us. You do not ask for favors, and we do not ask for favors. The basis of a correct policy is an accurate perception of the national interest and respect by each side for the perception of the national interest of the other.

This is why we think a visit by the President here would be useful, and that is the purpose of our policy. We don’t need theater, and we don’t need you to divert Soviet energies—that would be a total misconception and it might lead to the same catastrophe as in the 1930s. [Page 778] After all we resisted Soviet expansion when we were allies, and we will resist it for our own reasons as you resist it for your own reasons.

I repeat, we attach great significance to our relations. We are prepared to coordinate. We think you are serious, and we are equally serious. On that basis I think we can have a useful relationship.

As I have not used up 50 minutes, I will use the remainder tomorrow.

Vice Premier Teng: Yes. It is quite late—shall we go on tomorrow afternoon?

Secretary Kissinger: Yes.

Vice Premier Teng: As to the time, we can discuss it later.

Secretary Kissinger: We are not going anywhere.

Vice Premier Teng: Right.

Secretary Kissinger: Good.

  1. Source: Ford Library, National Security Adviser, Kissinger Reports on USSR, China, and Middle East Discussions, 1974–76, Box 2, China Memcons and Reports, October 19–23, 1975, Kissinger’s Trip. Top Secret; Sensitive. The meeting took place in the Great Hall of the People. All brackets are in the original.
  2. See Document 121.
  3. See Document 58.