146. Memorandum of Conversation1


  • U.S.-PRC Relations, Policy towards the Soviet Union, Africa, NATO, Turkey–Greece Relations


  • People’s Republic of China
    • Huang Chen, Chief, PRC Liaison Office
    • Tsien Ta-yung, Counselor, PRC Liaison Office
    • Shen Jo-yun, First Secretary, PRC Liaison Office
  • United States
    • The Secretary
    • Philip C. Habib, Assistant Secretary, EA
    • Oscar V. Armstrong, Director, EA/PRCM (Notetaker)

(The meeting, held at the Secretary’s request, started at 10:05 a.m. and ended at 10:55 a.m. Miss Shen interpreted.)

The Secretary: I’m very glad to see you again.

Huang Chen: I’m also glad to meet with you again.

The Secretary: I’ve missed you.

Huang Chen: I also missed you.

The Secretary: We appreciate the friendly reception given to Ambassador Gates in Peking. I think you’ll find him an excellent man. He’s a good friend of mine and of the President.

Huang: I understand.

The Secretary: I haven’t seen you for some time, and wanted to have this opportunity to review the world situation.

I spoke to former President Nixon after his return, and found his remarks very interesting. As you know, I always worked very closely with him and have great respect for him.

Huang: Did you read his report?

The Secretary: Yes, and I had several conversations with him. In China you always read our press, and you probably noticed that when the press was carrying various stories about Mr. Nixon’s visit, I always said I would read his report. I believe he’s the only senior American to have met your Premier; I don’t think the recent Congressional delegation met him.

[Page 925]

(Miss Shen initially translated this incorrectly, i.e. that the Congressional delegation had met with the Premier. There was a brief back-and-forth to clarify the matter.)

Huang: Vice Premier Chang Ch’un-ch’iao met with the Congressional delegation.

The Secretary: I speak with Mr. Nixon about every two weeks, so we are in close contact.

I have followed with great interest the various statements about the main line of your foreign policy. I remember, of course, that Chairman Mao said that foreign policy is determined by the basic interests of each country.

Huang: During President Ford’s visit, as well as yours, Chairman Mao made a clear presentation on our position on international and strategic issues, as well as on relations between our two countries.

The Secretary: On our side, we will pursue the policy discussed with Chairman Mao.

You will have noticed that during the Presidential campaign some candidates try to take advantage of our China policy and to raise embarrassing issues. But we are sticking to the Shanghai Communiqué and all the discussions we have had with your government. And I think that even if the Democrats win, they will follow the same policy. That’s my strong impression. Only one man wouldn’t follow that policy, and he won’t be elected. (Huang laughed.)2

Huang: So far as the Chinese side is concerned, we will always carry out the line and the policy formulated by Chairman Mao, not only for foreign policy but also domestic policy.

The Secretary: I understand. As far as we are concerned, we deal with Chinese foreign policy, not domestic policy.

I hope you will understand—you are a careful student of the American scene—that during this election period we phrase our statements very carefully; we don’t want any upheavals here.

Huang: We understand this. Frankly speaking, we have heard that some Senators and Congressmen have made anti-Chinese statements. We attach no importance to them. We also heard that a Senator said that you had told him that the U.S. would not normalize relations after the elections.

[Page 926]

The Secretary: That report is not correct. I said that we have made no concrete agreement; you know why I said that. We discussed this question in Peking on many occasions; the President has discussed it, and I have discussed it, with your leaders. We will continue on the course we started.

Huang: I am very clear about this point, and about the discussions with Chairman Mao.

The Secretary: Some of the stories come from Taiwan. The stories will probably stop when the nomination process is completed, because the Democrats will not make it an issue. So for about two months we’ll have a lot of noise. But you’re used to that; you’ve heard a lot of noise before.

Huang: Yes.

The Secretary: I remember when Watergate started … People in America sometimes say that China is incomprehensible, but I sometimes think we are incomprehensible to the Chinese.

On other parts of the world, Mr. Ambassador … Incidentally, when I was in England I spoke to former Prime Minister Heath; he has warm memories of his visit to China last year.

Huang: You have been very busy. You were in England, before that there was the NATO meeting, and in London there was also CENTO.

The Secretary: We are going to organize, in the context of our discussions with Chairman Mao, barriers to Soviet expansionism. First of all, in Africa, we are not going to permit another Angola to develop. You must have noticed my repeated statements that if there is another Soviet-supported military adventure, we will do something. We are attempting to organize various of these countries to increase their capabilities. The Secretary of Defense will go to Zaire in July to discuss military assistance to that country. We are working closely with Zambia and other countries. I know that you are also quite active in Africa, and you will have noticed that we have raised no obstacles to your activities.

Huang: Frankly speaking, we think the United States should learn a lesson from Angola.

The Secretary: What lesson?

Huang: Well, the fact that the military situation in Angola developed to the point it did is inseparable from U.S. policy towards the Soviets. U.S. policy abetted the Soviet efforts.

The Secretary: We discussed our Angola policy in Peking. Congress stopped us from doing what was necessary. We would have defeated the Soviets in Angola if Congress had not stopped our assistance.

Huang: (Deliberately changing the subject) It is said that the ministerial meeting of NATO went well.

[Page 927]

The Secretary: It was the best meeting in many years. It took decisions on the strengthening of defense and on close cooperation and coordination of policies against the Soviet Union on a worldwide basis. In this connection, I can tell you, so you can tell your government— it won’t become public for about a week—that President Ford has invited the leaders of England, France, Germany, Italy and Japan to a meeting in Puerto Rico to develop a common strategy. The meeting will probably be June 27–28.

Huang: From reading press stories, I learned that the ministers attending the NATO meeting expressed concern about Soviet expansion, and that they stressed the need to resist Soviet military and political pressures. I also noticed that the European Governments and the European public are seeing that the Soviet threat is getting more serious. All this shows that the ministers’ understanding of the situation is clearer.

The Secretary: At NATO, and also at CENTO, I said that we cannot accept the principle of coexistence in one part of the world and permit aggression in another part. That is our policy.

Huang: The Soviet Union will not change its policy of dividing and weakening Europe, with military strength as its backing and détente as the smokescreen.

The Secretary: That is one reason we are opposed to the inclusion of European Communist parties in government. That is bound to weaken the defense of Europe.

Huang: It seems that the West is getting very nervous about this possibility. But there are contradictions between the European Communists and the Soviets.

The Secretary: Maybe, to some extent. Perhaps the Italians, but not the French. But in any event, we favor the strength and unity of Western Europe, and will not let the Soviets succeed in their policy of dividing and weakening Europe.

Huang: That’s very important.

The Secretary: At the same time, we shouldn’t overestimate Soviet strength. It is strong in some categories, but it is not as strong as some newspaper stories suggest.

Huang: This point was also touched on in the conversations between the President and the Secretary and our leaders. The Soviets have wild ambitions but their capacity is not adequate to living up to those ambitions. On the other hand, it is important to keep up the guard. At a minimum, the Soviets will continue their policy of dividing and weakening. It is very important to strengthen unity and defense.

The Secretary: Defense should be strengthened, but we should not have an attitude of being afraid of the Soviets. They cannot feed their [Page 928] people. In Europe, I found many, including in Sweden, who feel that the Soviet army is overrated. They have many men, but their army is not as strong as the numbers suggest. But we do have to strengthen defenses; all the NATO countries—almost all—are doing it.

Huang: How are relations between Turkey and Greece? They are in the Southern flank.

The Secretary: What success the Soviets have had has not been due to mistakes by the West.

The Turkey–Greece situation is complicated by the domestic situation in the two countries, and also, frankly, by the domestic situation here, because of the Greek lobby. I’ve talked to the Foreign Ministers of both Turkey and Greece. It is a weird situation. In the Middle East, the problem is objectively difficult. But Turkey and Greece have practically agreed on a solution. However, because of Makarios in Cyprus and their domestic situations, they have not been able to carry out what has been practically agreed upon. When the two Foreign Ministers met in Oslo, they spent most of the time not on substance but on procedures for putting forward a solution so they would not be attacked at home. I think that during this year they will move to a solution.

Will your Foreign Minister be coming to the General Assembly, or is it too early to know?

Huang: I don’t know yet—I think he will come.

The Secretary: I will be delighted to see him and review matters with him. But we’ll have opportunities before then to discuss matters.

Huang: It is always good to exchange views.

The Secretary: Always.

Huang: We are also good friends.

The Secretary: True. I have known you many years and consider you a good friend.

Huang: I understand you will visit Latin America next week.

The Secretary: Yes, for an OAS meeting. Then at the end of the month I will go back to Europe for an OECD ministerial meeting. While in Europe, I will try to do something to bring majority rule to Rhodesia, by meeting with black African leaders and maybe South African leaders.

Huang: You are always very busy, always keep moving.

The Secretary: It is better to dominate events rather than to let events run away. It also keeps me out of the political campaign.

Huang: Every time I come, I always like to exchange views. Are there any other points you wish to bring up?

The Secretary: Whenever you wish to discuss matters, you will always be welcome. When I come back from my next trip, I will ask you if you wish to exchange views again.

[Page 929]

Huang: I am always pleased to exchange views.

The Secretary: If anything comes up in our political campaign that raises some question, you should not draw conclusions without consulting us. We have conducted our policy for five years with great care, and will not let it fail because of two months of political campaigns.

Huang: I understand.

(Miss Shen wanted to clarify the term “OECD” and there was a brief discussion of its membership.)

The Secretary: Mr. Habib is getting promoted.

Huang: I know—congratulations. I understand Mr. Hummel is coming back.3

The Secretary: Yes, as Assistant Secretary.

Huang: He is also Chinese.

The Secretary: Yes. I think he was born in China.

(There followed a brief discussion of Ambassador Hummel’s China background.)

  1. Source: Ford Library, National Security Adviser, KissingerScowcroft West Wing Office Files, 1969–1977, Box 6, China, unnumbered items (30), 5/24/76–6/25/76. Secret. Drafted by Armstrong on June 1 and approved in S on June 8. The meeting was held in Secretary Kissinger’s office.
  2. Kissinger is referring to Ronald Reagan’s criticism of Ford’s China policy. During a telephone conversation with Habib one day earlier, Kissinger expressed concern about public reports indicating that the United States would recognize Communist China after the election, and had warned against publicly discussing improvements in U.S.–PRC relations, which might “give Reagan ammunition to flog the President with.” (Transcript of telephone conversation with Habib, May 28, 8:12 a.m.; Department of State, Electronic Reading Room, Kissinger Telephone Transcripts)
  3. Arthur Hummel was then serving as Ambassador to Ethiopia.