153. Memorandum for the Record1


  • Ambassador Gates’ Meeting with the Secretary, August 25, 1976

Ambassador Gates met with the Secretary for about 45 minutes. Also participating were Mr. Hummel, Mr. Lord and myself.

Meeting with Foreign Minister Chiao

After opening exchanges about Ambassador Gates’ service in Peking and the effects of the earthquake, the Secretary asked Ambassador Gates if he planned to stay in the U.S. until the meeting with Foreign Minister Chiao. In discussion of the probable date of the meeting, Ambassador Gates noted that Federal Reserve Chairman Burns was scheduled to arrive in Peking after the Manila meeting, which concludes October 7 or 8, and that a New York meeting after October 1 might put him (Ambassador Gates) in a time squeeze. The Secretary confirmed that Ambassador Gates “might as well sit in” on the Chiao meeting.

Chiao’s Role; Hua’s Potential

The Secretary asked Ambassador Gates to assess Foreign Minister Chiao’s role in the PRC. Ambassador Gates said it is hard to fathom, that Chiao had recently been strangely quiet and not very visible. Ambassador Gates added that Chiao seems to be rather “unaligned”, at least publicly, and remains a bit of a mystery. After the earthquake, Ambassador Gates said, Premier Hua Kuo-feng was much more visible than others.

The Secretary asked if Hua were smart enough to take charge of the country. Ambassador Gates said he didn’t have such an impression, indicating that he thought that Chang Chun-chiao is a more likely candidate. The Secretary asked if this was the man who “beat up Scott,” and this led to discussion of Senator Scott’s visit.2

The Scott Visit; Chinese Hard Line

The Secretary noted that Senator Scott was “asking for it” from Chang; when Ambassador Gates mentioned Robert Barnett’s [Page 953] unhelpful role, the Secretary characterized Mr. Barnett as a “horse’s ass.” Speaking of the Presidential letter that Senator Scott carried with him, the Secretary first suggested that it was a responsibility of the “bureau” to prevent such letters. Mr. Hummel or Mr. Lord said they didn’t know about the letter before it was sent. The Secretary said that, in any event, Senator Scott had no real mission for the President. Ambassador Gates said that Senator Scott and Mr. Barnett had no judgment or discretion, recalling his talk with the Senator before the Chang meeting at which Ambassador Gates had tried to dissuade Senator Scott from raising contentious subjects. Ambassador Gates said that Mr. Barnett apparently had restimulated the Senator unhelpfully. Ambassador Gates asked if the Secretary had received his back-channel message on the Scott visit.3 The Secretary said he had and complimented Ambassador Gates on his handling of the problem. The Secretary went on to comment that now Scott had turned the Chinese hard line back onto the Taiwanese. He added that the Scott visit had not had the impact in the U.S. that he, the Secretary, had anticipated.

Ambassador Gates said that he had at first thought that Chang had been needled by the Senator into the hard position. Ambassador Gates now felt that the Chinese before the meeting had intended to take the line and have it go public. The Secretary speculated that perhaps the Chinese had thought that both the Republican and Democratic Parties were trying to “pocket” peaceful liberation before the election and that they were determined to avoid having a bipartisan consensus in the U.S. on this.

U.S. Response to Chinese Hard Line

Ambassador Gates thought that the Administration should now act, telling the Chinese that they are freezing U.S. public opposition to normalization. The Secretary recalled that he had said this to the Chinese last week.4 Ambassador Gates said that it is important for the Secretary to do it more strongly. The Secretary asked if the idea would be to stop the Chinese from holding the view that military liberation will be required or to stop the Chinese from talking about it. It was agreed that the point is to stop the Chinese from talking about it. Ambassador Gates mentioned the Republican platform, wondering how the Administration could back off it. The Secretary noted that the platform means a two-China solution, adding that it would have been better to have said that Taiwan is the legitimate government of all China. He said that he will just have to ignore the Republican platform. He had [Page 954] told the Chinese last week not to pay any attention to the platform, although maybe they did not get the message clearly.

Ambassador Gates said that the Chinese now had to bear the responsibility for damaging our ability to progress on normalization. The Secretary recalled that Chou En-lai knew that the Chinese had to do something themselves to contribute to progress. He recalled that the most forthcoming meetings with the Chinese had been in 1973, as was reflected in that year’s communiqué(s). Chou himself had pointed this out. But later, as soon as Chou was out of the picture, the Chinese dropped any effort to settle the claims issue. He lamented that if Nixon had stayed in office everything would have been easier. Ambassador Gates reiterated that it would be useful if the Secretary would say something further to the Chinese. The Secretary said he could do so to the Foreign Minister. Ambassador Gates urged that this be done before the election instead of during a possible lame-duck period.

The Secretary asked how Ambassador Gates thought the Taiwan issue should be settled. The Ambassador said that the only idea he had been able to come up with was a Congressional resolution expressing the sense of Congress on a peaceful solution. The Secretary characterized this as “ingenious”. He went on to say that the question would have to be resolved probably by two unilateral statements—one by the PRC and one by the U.S. Reverting to the Scott visit, the Secretary said that even if the PRC had a peaceful liberation formula now they would still hold it back from us until one minute before final settlement. The Chinese are “not nuts,” and therefore would not reveal their formula to Senator Scott.

Referring to earlier discussion of the Republican platform, Ambassador Hummel said he agreed with Ambassador Gates about the difficulty of going back on the platform, but he had noticed that Jimmy Carter had repudiated his adherence to the Democratic platform. Mr. Lord, in response to the Secretary’s question as to how Governor Carter had done this, said that the Governor had announced that he was not bound by everything in the Democratic platform. The Secretary commented that if the President had repudiated the platform, it would have given Governor Reagan ammunition to assault him. The platform, nevertheless, is “an outrage,” the Secretary said. Ambassador Gates said we could truthfully tell the Chinese that they had helped write the Republican platform. The Secretary responded that the “yahoos” would have written the platform that way anyhow. He went on then to confirm that he would “do it with” Chiao Kuan-hua.

Schlesinger Visit (first mention)

The Secretary, now referring to the Schlesinger visit, said that the Chinese were “bloody-minded”, and that it was an outrage to invite him, particularly to invite a man they know to have been fired by the [Page 955] President. All the news coming out of the Schlesinger visit is going to be anti-Administration, he said. (This portion of the conversation concluded by a general exchange on the Chinese habit of inviting people who were out of office. Mr. Lord noted that in this sense Tanaka would now be a new hero, and the Secretary jokingly said that they might be inviting him next.)

USLO’s Role

Ambassador Gates said that he had a “gripe” which he would like to raise with the Secretary. He said that the people in the Department ought to think up opportunities to facilitate more contact between USLO and the Chinese. He said that USLO also should be more involved with the Secretary’s meetings here with the Chinese. The Secretary agreed. Ambassador Gates said that it would have been helpful to know in advance that the Secretary was going to be seeing Ambassador Huang Chen. The Secretary said: “I want them to know in the future.” He went on to add: “We should get the transcript to Peking within 48 hours and you should know about the meeting ahead of time.” The Secretary said he didn’t mind Ambassador Gates’ getting this information if he could protect it. He added: “I just don’t want country directors writing letters about it.” (Referring presumably to the Official Informal letter transmitting the CDC memo,5 the letter which went by international mail.) Ambassador Gates reiterated that he should know ahead of time and should have an input in the preparations for the Secretary’s meetings here with Huang Chen. The Secretary indicated agreement.

Events in China

The Secretary asked about the mood in Peking. Ambassador Gates said that a struggle is going on, so the leadership is talking for internal purposes. It is hard to understand what is going on and he thought that Wang Hai-jung, for example, was talking for the record, directed internally. He said that he thought the struggle was so intense that the leadership is marking time. The Secretary asked if Hua would last. Ambassador Gates said that Hua was the only visible figure following the earthquake and he might last if he doesn’t get shot. Ambassador Gates said he didn’t buy the coalition theory and thought that somebody, some individual, is going to emerge, either Hua or Chang. He said it is certain that the struggle is intense, and would be narrowing down [Page 956] both the players and ideological issues. He noted that the Chinese showed themselves to be really organized following the earthquake, mentioning effective security and effective cleanup of streets after the Peking residents moved out of their tents and back into their residences.

Schlesinger Visit (second mention)

Mr. Hummel recommended that the Secretary, when he meets former Defense Secretary Schlesinger, ask him to request the Chinese to have USLO participate in any Schlesinger meeting with Chinese high officials. The Secretary said that he would “recommend” this to Schlesinger. However, he added, he knew what Schlesinger’s answer would be (implying a negative answer). Ambassador Gates asked the identity of Schlesinger’s host for the trip, and he was told that it was the Chinese Friendship group. (We have since discovered this to be an error; the host organization is the Chinese People’s Institute of Foreign Affairs.) The Secretary, referring again to Mr. Hummel’s recommendation, confirmed that he would tell Schlesinger, but went on to note that the Government had changed since Ambassador Gates was in Washington and that people aren’t working for the country any longer but rather for themselves. He repeated: “I’ll request and let him turn it down.” The Secretary added that he did not think that the Chinese should get away with inviting Schlesinger to Peking. Gates said (ironically) that Schlesinger was a “decent fellow”, since Schlesinger had decided to postpone his trip until after the political conventions. The Secretary said he had not known that Schlesinger had been invited to go last spring. In any case, he said, Schlesinger overestimates his own influence.

Japan Problems

Ambassador Gates said that he was worried about the effect of the Japanese now talking about Taiwan. The Secretary said that Tanaka had told former President Nixon that the U.S. should take care of Taiwan and the Japanese would take care of China. He said that the new element is that the issue now has become involved in Japanese domestic politics. Referring to the Lockheed scandals, the Secretary said that what we’ve done to the LDP guarantees that the Japanese will be increasingly nationalistic. He said, “We’re going to pay for this in Japan.” Ambassador Gates referred to his recent talks with a leading business executive in Tokyo, who said the LDP is finished. The Secretary again made the point that the Japanese would be moving toward an intense nationalism and the U.S. had been responsible for it, the damage growing from Senator Church’s political ambitions. The United States has done this to Japan, the Secretary repeated. In the case of the Netherlands we can survive, but “in Japan it is going to take some very ugly forms.”

  1. Source: Ford Library, National Security Adviser, KissingerScowcroft West Wing Office Files, 1969–1977, Box 6, China, unnumbered items (34), 9/1/76–9/29/76. Secret; Nodis. Drafted by Harry E.T. Thayer (EA/PRCM) on September 1 and approved in S on September 23.
  2. See Documents 150 and 152.
  3. Presumably backchannel message 161 from Beijing, not found. see footnote 2, Document 150.
  4. See Document 152.
  5. CDC in this instance probably stands for Control Data Corporation, a U.S. company that manufactured a computer that the Chinese Government wanted to buy as part of a seismic oil exploration system. (Telegram 261496 to Beijing, October 21; Ford Library, National Security Adviser, Presidential Country Files for East Asian and Pacific Affairs, Box 14, People’s Republic of China, State Department Telegrams)