157. Memorandum of Conversation1


  • Chiao Kuan-hua, PRC Foreign Minister
  • Ambassador Huang Hua, PRC Permanent Representative to the United Nations
  • Lai Ya-li, Deputy PRC Permanent Representative
  • Chi Chao-chu, Interpreter
  • Kuo Chia-ting, Notetaker
  • Secretary Kissinger
  • Brent Scowcroft, Assistant to the President for National Security Affairs
  • Ambassador Thomas Gates, American Ambassador to the PRC
  • Arthur Hummel, Assistant Secretary of State for East Asia
  • Winston Lord, Director, Policy Planning Staff
  • William Gleysteen, National Security Council (Notetaker)

Chiao: Is this your first time here at our Mission headquarters?

Kissinger: It is my first time in this room. I was downstairs once. I was trying to be helpful finding a place for you. Ambassador Huang did better himself without my help. Do you find it satisfactory?

Huang: It is very convenient for both work and living.

Kissinger: I agree. Mr. Chi won’t have time to go back to his alma mater? Both of us studied chemistry there. I got extremely high grades in chemistry but it reflected memory, not understanding of the subject. Those who deplore my political views could perhaps have spared the world by keeping me in chemisty. I once asked Professor Kistiakowsky whether I should keep on in chemistry, and he answered that anyone who had to ask such a question shouldn’t. (Laughter)

Chiao: If you had continued your studies in chemistry, it might have benefited your political activities more.

Kissinger: My accomplishments in chemistry were just the result of brute memory. I remember once in the laboratory doing an elaborate experiment where I got results which were precisely opposite from the ones I was supposed to get. Perhaps the professor who analyzed how I managed to do this went on to get a Nobel Prize. (Laughter)

Chiao: How is Mrs. Kissinger?

Kissinger: She is fine and asks after Mrs. Chiao.

Chiao: She didn’t go with you to Africa did she?

[Page 962]

Kissinger: Yes she did.

Chiao: (Turning to Gates) How long have you been here?

Gates: I have been here since last week, and I am returning to Peking next week.

Chiao: (To Lord) How is your wife?

Lord: Fine, thank you.

Chiao: (Turning back to the Secretary) We last met in December, I believe.

Kissinger: Yes, when I was with President Ford in Peking. Before we go on, I would like to extend my personal condolences on the death of Chairman Mao. He was a great man in the history of our era. All of us who knew him felt that it was a great event in our lives.

Chiao: Thank you very much. I would also like to thank many of your friends who went to our offices to extend condolences. General Scowcroft was among them here in Washington and Ambassador Gates, of course, did so in Peking.

Of the Americans who knew Chairman Mao, you are probably one of the ones who saw the most of him.

Kissinger: Yes, five times. The first meeting was with President Nixon in 1972; then I met him in February 1973 and November 1973 when I had my long talk with him; and then again last year in October and with the President in December.

Chiao: He had a great effect on the Chinese people.

Kissinger: Surely. I remember during our meeting in October 1975 that while he had great difficulty speaking, the content of his thought was profound.

Chiao: He had difficulty speaking, but his thoughts were clear.

You have seen from our public statements and documents that the Chinese Government is determined to carry on the policies of Chairman Mao.

Kissinger: I saw it in your speech.2

Chiao: Actually, since liberation, our policy has always been grasped and looked after by Chairman Mao. I noted that President Ford also mentioned that Chairman Mao looked after (was responsible for) the opening of our relationship.

[Page 963]

Kissinger: I remember that during our negotiations Chinese leaders would go to Chairman Mao at crucial points and return with instructions.

Chiao: Chairman Mao always kept an eye on many matters, not only major strategic issues.

Kissinger: I remember during negotiation of the Shanghai Communiqué when Premier Chouo went to see Chairman Mao and came back with some rather firm proposals which permitted us to proceed successfully.

Chiao: Yes, that was the first part of the Shanghai Communiqué. It was a good method because it did not hide anything.

Kissinger: It was an original method which suited the circumstances.

Chiao: Not covering up contradictions is the beginning of their solution. Then, the agreements which follow are genuine.

Kissinger: Yes, the points of agreement then have more meaning. Mr. Foreign Minister, how do you propose to proceed tonight?

Chiao: Let’s proceed as usual. I would like to take the opportunity to hear your views. Why don’t you start? You have been to so many places.

Kissinger: Because we are in your place tonight. (Laughter)

Chiao: We have two sayings. One is that when we are the host, we should let the guests begin, and the other is that when we are guests, we should defer to the host.

Kissinger: You can always use this so I have to start in any event. (Laughter) But I will be glad to start. First, perhaps I could make a general assessment of the relations between us. Then I might say something about the world situation, and finally, we might discuss some specific issues.

Chiao: Quite alright.

Kissinger: I might begin in the spirit of the Foreign Minister’s comment that pointing out contradictions may help their solution. Speaking frankly and as someone with some sentimental involvement in the start of our relationship—I was the first senior U.S. official visitor to China, my impression, and that of my colleagues, is that there has been a certain deterioration in our relationship since the time of President Ford’s visit. It is seen in the way we exchange views and hear Chinese views much more through Chinese statements to visitors than official representatives.

Chiao: What we say to non-official visitors is at one with what we say to you officially.

Kissinger: True. But it is often at greater length and higher levels. Moreover, these delegations will usually repeat what you say so that it practically constitutes a form of public pressure on us.

[Page 964]

Chiao: Can it be so said?

Kissinger: Despite the fact that I am attacked directly or indirectly, I still feel that the opening to China is the most important thing I have done in my public life. If the Foreign Minister will permit me to use it as an example, his speech to the General Assembly is a reflection of the problem. Some of his speech was so subtle that only a few people understood who was being attacked. But I can assure him that they knew. Don’t worry, your efforts weren’t wasted. I will pass on your views to Mr. Sonnenfeldt the next time I see him. (Laughter) If my father ever sits next to you at dinner, you can be sure he will explain his views on the subject.

As I understand it, you said in your speech that when the U.S. negotiates with the Soviets, it is engaging in appeasement and pushing the Soviets toward China. But when the United States resists the Soviets, it is engaging in a rivalry of the superpowers against which all mankind should unite. Under those conditions we are playing under rules where we cannot possibly win. It reminds me that the British Foreign Minister has a game where only he knows the rules. He keeps a point score. Every day he tells me of the score. Every day I’m defeated and the only question is the extent of my defeat. (Laughter) Possibly we have different assessments of the Soviet Union, but I doubt that the difference is so large. It is a tactical difference. Fundamentally, if you criticize our negotiations with the Soviet Union as appeasement and describe our efforts to resist them as superpower rivalry, then what did your Prime Minister have in mind when he suggested to Schlesinger that we “pool our efforts”?

Chiao: Right.

Kissinger: What do you mean by right?

Chiao: I mean the reference to pooling our efforts is right.

Kissinger: We are ready to pool our efforts, but I don’t see how we can proceed when you attack us for our policy, e.g. in Europe and Africa. When we conduct negotiations out of tactical considerations you attack us. If you do so, how, in your view, can we oppose the Soviets?

Chiao: Your comments are too general. We are never against negotiations with the Soviet Union. We are negotiating with them now. We are not opposed to negotiations. The problem is the basic position from which one negotiates. You will recall that Chairman Mao discussed with you the problem of the Helsinki Conference. After Helsinki the Soviets went on a large scale offensive in Angola and we believe this was caused by the weak attitude you adopted at Helsinki toward the Soviets. In the Middle East, as you know, we have supported dual tactics. You adopted dual tactics and we supported them. We did not attack.

Kissinger: You couldn’t attack us because you suggested it.

[Page 965]

Chiao: We did not suggest it, but we put it forward for your consideration.

Kissinger: But you have opposed us in Africa.

Chiao: We have had doubts.

Kissinger: What doubts?

Chiao: We have doubts that you will reach your objective.

Kissinger: We have two objectives in Africa. One is the liberation of black Africa. The other is to prevent Soviet intervention of a direct or indirect kind. We must try to separate the issue of liberation from Soviet intervention.

Chiao: We have always separated these issues. In Angola we supported liberation and after the Angolans won a victory the Soviets moved in.

Kissinger: What we want—and it is a complicated process—is to create a basis for resisting Soviet intervention while not obstructing liberation movements.

Chiao: Just not opposing liberation movements is not enough.

Kissinger: We are supporting them.

Chiao: I have doubts that you are. You are not thoroughgoing, speaking quite frankly.

Kissinger: You said so publicly in your speech!

Chiao: Not quite.

Kissinger: What would be thoroughgoing? Or what should we do differently?

Chiao: You should support the demands of the blacks.

Kissinger: We are supporting them.

Chiao: The procedures you are adopting in Zimbabwe won’t achieve their aim.

Kissinger: There are two ways events could develop in Zimbabwe. One is straight armed struggle which would bring in outside forces and add to the credit of those outside forces. If this were to occur, we could not resist those outside forces because we could not go to the support of white regimes against blacks. So we are trying the second way to bring together the black forces of Mugabe, Muzorewa, and Nkomo in one black government that we can support to resist the intervention of outside forces. I consider Smith’s position only the opening move.

Chiao: You can try, but we have our doubts.

Kissinger: Maybe there are grounds for doubt. But we had to get control over events so we would have some basis to resist outside forces. We are not asking you to do anything but we are asking that you not oppose us.

[Page 966]

Huang: You should analyze carefully the attitudes of the five front line African countries. If you do not (satisfy them), they will be forced to accept Soviet assistance.

Kissinger: That is just what we are trying to do. And we need help in doing so. I think we have the support of at least four of the five front line governments.

Huang: At most four.

Kissinger: We can’t have more than four because Angola will never support us. It would be like trying to get the support of Outer Mongolia.

Chiao: I don’t want to go into details, but your efforts are only half measures. You may keep on trying, but you may find that the result is the opposite of what you expect. You may end up angering the blacks.

Kissinger: What, in your opinion, would be thorough going measures?

Chiao: That would be going into detail. All I want to stress is the importance of attitude. Is the key, in your opinion, the interim government?

Kissinger: We can only have an interim government if the blacks will support it.

Chiao: The situation may not develop that way.

Kissinger: What is the alternative?

Chiao: As for the specific method, I cannot say that you should do this or that. But fundamentally, you must stand on the side of the blacks.

Kissinger: There are two approaches among the blacks. The bulk of the blacks are not happy about fighting and would like to find a way to avoid it. But there is a minority which is ready to fight with Soviet help.

Chiao: I do not think it is fair to look on proponents of guerrilla warfare as supporters of the Soviet Union.

Kissinger: I don’t say that they are—at this time. But if developments proceed toward control by these elements, it will go that way.

Chiao: We will have to see.

Kissinger: I’m hopeful that Mugabe, Muzorewa, and Nkomo are going to join forces.

Chiao: We will have to see. We have reservations.

Kissinger: I see you have no better strategy.

Chiao: It is your problem.

Kissinger: It is more than our problem. I remember in November 1973 when Premier Chou spoke to me regarding the need for global equilibrium to prevent Soviet expansionism.

[Page 967]

Chiao:That is your summation of his views, is it not?

Kissinger: To be sure, Premier Chou made many other points. But if expanionist countries gain advantages, eventually other countries will suffer.

Chiao: Yes. We recognized this in the Shanghai Communiqué where we said that we would not seek hegemony ourselves and would oppose the efforts of any others seeking hegemony. This was a common point between us.

Kissinger: But we are having difficulty putting it into practice. Let us leave Africa and discuss another issue which you have raised repeatedly; namely, the accusation that we are following a Munich-like policy of appeasement or that we are pushing to deflect the Soviets to the East, and so on. I have explained it to you before but let me summarize it again. I do it for you once a year and quite obviously it has never made a lasting impact.

I see Soviet expansionism as a geo-political problem not limited to one region. There is no solution where we can allow a push in one place and preserve our interests in another. I see the following as the Soviets’ strategic problem: they face powerful countries in the West; potentially powerful countries in the East, in the case of China and Japan; and confusion and weakness to their south and in the Middle East. The Soviets have an inefficient bureaucratic system; they cannot create real power. They don’t conduct a brilliant foreign policy. They are rather good at amassing physical power but they don’t know what to do with it. The Red Army seems effective only when used against Soviet allies, not enemies. Soviet forces have not achieved a diplomatic success for the Soviet Union.

Chiao: Didn’t the Soviets win a diplomatic victory at Helsinki?

Kissinger: I don’t agree.

Chiao: Why did President Ford make those remarks (about Eastern Europe) at San Francisco?

Kissinger: You don’t think this was the result of Helsinki! (Laughter) Actually, it reflected panic. In this case, the President transcended his advisors. (Laughter)

Let me get back to strategy and how the Soviets can be contained. As for their strength, the latest plane that we got in Japan shows that they are really quite backward.3 The plane is about 10 percent better than our planes of 14 years ago. If this achievement is the result of a high priority project in the Soviet Union, I hate to think of the outcome of their low priority projects. (Laughter)

[Page 968]

As I look at the Soviet Union, they have certain opportunities for the next ten–fifteen years. After that, their circumstances will prevent expansionism. In the Middle East, whatever they touch turns into disaster. All sides in Lebanon are fighting with Soviet weapons and the Soviets don’t know which end to touch. The Soviets may try to break out of the situation at some point, though not under the present leadership which is too bureaucratic and too old. But they may try to break out under Brezhnev’s successors. But the consequences will be the same for us wherever they try to break out.

I believe, personally—if the elections turn out the wrong way, you won’t see me again and may not care about my personal views. In any event, I believe that if the Soviets attack, it would be best if they attacked in the West. Because if they do attack in the West, our political possibilities for resistance are very great. My strategic nightmare is that they will attack in the East—I recognize this would not be consistent with the line in your speeches and papers. If the Soviets attack in the East and have an initial success, it would have a massive impact on Japan and even in Europe and would contribute to the hegemonial effect we want so much to avoid. My own conviction is that if the Soviets were to attack in the East, the United States would still have to oppose them whether asked to or not. We would be doing it because of our own interests and not as a favor. But the psychological and political conditions for U.S. action would hardly be ideal. Nor is it our view that we can buy off the Soviet Union with little concessions in the West to deflect them toward the East. I agree with what you say about the importance of a strong West.

Even though you may not agree with my political analysis, I want the Soviets to negotiate first with us, not Europe, because we are stronger politically. If some of the people you admire come to power in the U.S. and are able to destroy our diplomatic flexibility, the Soviets will be able to move to negotiations with Europe and threaten Europe by a process of selective negotiations. They have recently approached the Germans and the French and they will surely approach the British. All are searching for concessions they can make to the Russians as a way of dealing with their internal pressures. Since the beginning of our détente policy in 1971, the defense effort in Europe is larger than before because we have been able to paralyze these compromising elements in Europe who oppose defense efforts.

Chiao: What is the logic of that? You took the lead in détente so you can hardly blame the Europeans for moving in the same direction.

Kissinger: No. We insist that we proceed toward détente together with no one going out in front. You can see the objective results of our policy on defense efforts as they are reflected in the United States, Germany, and to some extent throughout NATO. You just need to look at statistics to see what I mean.

[Page 969]

Chiao: It is important not to confuse negotiations and strength.

Kissinger: I agree completely.

Chiao: For example, early this year you used strong language about Angola, but then you went ahead with negotiations on SALT. If you behave this way why do you think the Soviets will heed your warnings?

Kissinger: I was almost alone in the U.S. over Angola. Let me explain what I was trying to do. I forced the U.S. to do something about Angola. By December 1, we were on the verge of assembling a force which, when deployed, would have exhausted the Cubans. Several countries were involved. On December 8, President Ford called in Ambassador Dobrynin and told him to stop arms shipment to Angola. A few days later, the Soviets did stop shipments. We were prepared to have a resolution in the January 12th meeting of the OAU. Then on December 19, Congress voted to cut off all money for Angola, and there was no prospect of our using force. On December 24, the Soviets resumed armed shipments. When the time came for me to go to Moscow in January, the only thing left for me to use was a bluff and I tried it. It didn’t work. Since then I have made violent attacks on the Soviets. In Angola we were defeated by our own people. I know this is no consolation to you. But I wanted to explain.

Chiao: When did you go to Moscow?

Kissinger: At the end of January.

Chiao: Our view is that the Soviets, through Helsinki, see your weakness.

Kissinger: Really, Mr. Foreign Minister, I don’t want to be impolite, but I don’t agree. We are not weak. Rather, we are temporarily weak until after our elections. We have gone though a period of temporary weakness when the forces which overthrew Nixon have been dominant in this country. But that will end on November 2.

Frankly, we considered the Helsinki Conference a second-rate enterprise. We gave instructions to our delegation to stay one-half step behind the Europeans and to take no initiative. Maybe I’m lacking in imagination, but I really can’t see what you think the Soviets gained from Helsinki. All they got was just words.

Chiao: I know your views. You mentioned them in the car to me last year. I considered them seriously.

Kissinger: And rejected them!

Chiao: No, but we don’t agree with you.

Kissinger: What is the Soviet victory at Helsinki?

Chiao: I don’t want to be impolite. The Soviets, through Helsinki, have come to feel that the West is anxious to reach agreement. This is a long-range problem and nothing very terrible but it is a fact that the Soviets have reached such a conclusion.

[Page 970]

Kissinger: I think you know the Soviets. Gromyko’s strength is to pursue something relentlessly. I find that Gromyko persists even when it makes no sense whatsoever.

Chiao: We understand Gromyko’s practice. We will persist in resisting this practice of Gromyko. This is our policy in our talks with them.

Kissinger: The Soviets started agitating for Helsinki in 1963–64. At that time they tried to exclude the U.S. and to push for abolishment of the Warsaw Pact and NATO. Finally, we decided to go along in 1971, and the talks dragged out four years. The Soviets got nothing out of the Conference; only empty principles. If they had made a demand on Berlin, I would advocate total resistance. In practice, however, they got nothing. Their foreign policy is ineffective. Helsinki didn’t in any way affect the legal situation in Europe.

Chiao: I don’t think it can be put this way. At least the Soviets gained your agreement that their boundaries can’t be changed.

Kissinger: By force.

Chiao: Why not use the policy of non-recognition?

Kissinger: Because European borders were already set long before Helsinki. The Baltic borders were set in 1946–47 and then other borders were accepted by both Germanies in the 1960’s. How could the U.S. oppose things accepted so long ago?

Huang: Why did President Ford have to go to Helsinki to give overall recognition to the Soviet empire in Eastern Europe?

Kissinger: He didn’t give such recognition. Maybe we are stupid and not as intelligent as you. I remember once Premier Chou told me that I was intelligent. I said that he meant by Chinese standards I was not very intelligent. He didn’t protest—he just laughed. (Laughter) I grant it may be just an example of our mediocre comprehension that led us to Helsinki. But it was not we who agreed to go. It was the British, French and Germans who agreed to go. If we had stayed away, it would not have helped. Of course, we would have stayed away if the conference had involved basic principles. But it didn’t. Apparently this is also the Soviet interpretation because they have never mentioned any principles. As for the countries of Eastern Europe that the President so helpfully mentioned the other night, (laughter) they were the ones who were eager for the conference. Did you know we have a new campaign slogan on liberating Eastern Europe? We discovered the other night that we have already carried out the Republican platform of 1952 without anyone noticing it. (Laughter)

Chiao: Perhaps we should drop this.

Kissinger: In our view, the Helsinki agreements were rather irrelevant documents. The issues were drawn out for four years. At any rate, whether we were right or wrong, the matter is irretrievable.

[Page 971]

Chiao: Regarding the policy…

Kissinger: There is a question of perception and a question of execution with regard to overall policy toward the Soviet Union. As for our perception, I have tried to explain our view—though without apparent success. In execution of our policy, we may make mistakes. Even with people on our staff like Mr. Lord who has a Chinese wife, we occasionally make mistakes.

But back to the matter you mentioned to the recent unofficial visitor—the question of pooling efforts.

Chiao: Chairman Mao mentioned that the U.S., China, Europe, Japan, Pakistan, and Iran should unite to oppose the Soviet Union.

Kissinger: I agree, but your criticism of our policy affects our ability to do this.

Chiao: We have mentioned our concerns because in our view we cannot adopt a weak attitude toward the Soviet Union.

Kissinger: We don’t adopt a weak attitude toward the Soviet Union.

Chiao: You have your own attitude. We have ours. The real question is when, under what conditions, and with what objectives one negotiates with the Russians.

Kissinger: I agree there are differences in our approach. Your tactic is one of firmness with relatively little flexibility. Ours is one of protracted negotiations which don’t achieve anything. We don’t ask you to adopt ours; and I admire yours. However, we must adapt to our own requirements. The end result should be the same—no Soviet expansionism.

Chiao: Tactics must obey strategy. If they are divorced there can be no talk of tactics.

As for your “nightmare”, that is one way of putting it, but I don’t agree either with your nightmare or your way of thinking.

Kissinger: If we are really serious about the danger of Soviet expansionism, we must be prepared to look in all directions.

Chiao: On this we don’t disagree.

Kissinger: Let’s talk concretely. How should we do it?

Chiao: On the one hand, I agree there is Soviet expansionism all over, but the point of emphasis is in the West.

Kissinger: I won’t dispute that.

Chiao: But the point of emphasis is important because it affects strategy. Before the end of the war in Vietnam, we told you that your forces were too scattered. The Soviets took advantage of the situation to expand elsewhere. As for China, we have not neglected Soviet expansionism towards China. We have preparations, and, as Chairman [Page 972] Mao has said, we are all on the defensive against the Russians. We don’t want to attack the Soviet Union. The point of emphasis is important, however, and I can’t agree with your statement about your nightmare. Our defense posture is not less than others.

Kissinger: If the Soviets expand militarily in Europe, the political problems of a military response would be much easier for the U.S. The political problems would be much more difficult if the attack were to come in Asia. If it were to come in Asia, we should respond anyway. But creating the proper political conditions to do so is what makes it a nightmare. I am not referring to your military preparations, and I am not suggesting that you lack resolve or vigilance. Clearly you do not.

Chiao: I noted something in your General Assembly speech4 about relations between our two countries that I don’t agree with. Roughly speaking you said that you will take account of the interests and concerns of China in the conduct of your relations and that China must exhibit a similar attitude toward the United States. Your remarks seem to me to exceed what was said in the Shanghai Communiqué.

Kissinger: In what way?

Chiao: In the case of Taiwan?

Kissinger: No.

Chiao: On Taiwan, you owe us a debt.

Kissinger: These are separate issues. First, there is the Taiwan issue and second, there is the question of the conduct of our relations on a global basis. As for Taiwan, the problem has complexities… And in my speech I did not mention normalization in the same context as the need for mutuality in our approach to global issues. In the global context, you must understand our needs just as we try to understand yours. Of course, you can if you wish attack me for something I did not intend to say…On normalization, it seems to me that after our elections we should take an extremely serious look, keeping in mind the things that you have been saying recently—you can rest assured that we have gotten the message. As for the conduct of our relations on a global basis and our common resistance to hegemony, there has been no progress, only a barrage of attacks on us through unofficial delegations to Peking and sometimes even foreign delegations. We are trying to understand your position. You must try to understand ours. But this is quite separate from the problem of normalization.

Chiao: The first section of your speech dealt with normalization. The latter part with this global question.

[Page 973]

Kissinger: The first part was on normalization, the second was on expanding global cooperation.

I might interject that I believe that Senator Scott did enormous damage with his letter from the President and the impression he conveyed that he had been sent by the President to negotiate with you and to make specific proposals. Scott did not reflect the views of the Administration. In fact, before he left, I told him not to discuss the matter of normalization because it was not a suitable issue to talk about before our elections.

Chiao: We were not clear about what you told Senator Scott. Our attitude was one of sincerity since he raised questions with us.

Kissinger: You had no choice, and we did not object to what you said.

Chiao: What we said to Scott was the same as what we have said to you. To normalize relations you must break diplomatic relations with Taiwan, withdraw all U.S. military forces from Taiwan, and abrogate your Defense Treaty. This has been our position all along. We have always said that how we liberate Taiwan is our internal affair. We have never agreed to peaceful means.

Kissinger: Correct. The President was wrong in his reference to the Shanghai Communiqué. He was referring to what we said, not what you said. This was an inadvertent, incorrect statement which will not be repeated by any U.S. official. I think we can guarantee that.

Huang: But what about the misunderstanding that has been caused?

Kissinger: We will arrange to have a question next week which will allow us to clarify our position. We can do it on Monday or Tuesday. Monday is a holiday so perhaps we should do it on Tuesday. We will have a question regarding the legal status of the Shanghai Communiqué in this regard. We will do this if you like. Or you yourselves could do it.

Chiao: It is better for you to do it since it was in your public debate.

Kissinger: I agree.

Chiao: I saw it myself and the President was obviously incorrect.

Kissinger: The President compressed a paragraph of the Shanghai Communiqué a little too much. (Laughter)

Chiao: It really affected our legal interest.

Kissinger: After our 1974 discussions in Peking, I saw no possibility of progress on the Taiwan issue before our elections. I haven’t raised the issue since that time because I did not want to engage in fruitless discussion. I understand what you have said and what Chairman Mao has said. We could not do what would be necessary before [Page 974] our elections. After our elections, we must study very carefully what we can do. However, in addition to Taiwan, we have our global relations and that is what I was addressing in my speech. Incidentally, I was confident my words would get your attention. (Laughter)

Chiao: Right. What Chairman Mao said…

Kissinger: Your suffering days may soon be over. I believe we share your general strategic outlook. In the last two years, we have tended to drift apart because of the consequences in this country following Nixon’s overthrow. After our elections, we will see if we cannot once again get together for some frank exchanges which will permit carrying out the kind of global cooperation we have in mind.

Chiao: Global cooperation is the big matter; Taiwan is the small matter. As for the former, we have never covered up our diferences of view.

Kissinger: I never said you did! (Laughter) Our government must make decisions, and if everybody is told by you that our policy amounts to a Munich or a Dunkirk—even foreigners are told this— then a malaise will develop in our relations with you. Of course, we can each go ahead with our separate policies, but there will be no collaboration.

Chiao: As for coordinated actions between our countries, I have explained before that our social organization and ideologies are different. We use our method to oppose Soviet expanionism and you use yours. Only in this way can our policies be as one.

Kissinger: Yes, but our policies must be in harmony.

Chiao: Yes. We will tell you when we see things we think are wrong. These will be our views and you will have to decide what to do.

Kissinger: I think to improve the situation we should tell you about events in advance, not after the event on U.S. television. Then you can choose either method.

Chiao: What do you mean?

Kissinger: We will keep you informed in good time before we initiate actions. You might sometimes do the same with us and perhaps take this into account in your actions. Recently we feel we have had pressure from you rather than discussions and this has led to the deterioration which I mentioned quite frankly at the beginning of our talk tonight.

Chiao: We have not—as I have said several times—said anything differently to our American guests from what we have said to you.

Kissinger: I have made my point. If we told everybody else what we have told you it would add a new dimension to our relations.

Chiao: Things aren’t really that way. People come to Peking and ask our views. Then we tell them. If we didn’t it wouldn’t be good. It [Page 975] is quite different from what you have said. Furthermore, you know we haven’t told them everything.

Kissinger: Not quite!

Chiao: We can’t obscure the major strategic outlines of our relations.

Kissinger: If you study my remarks tonight, you will understand the pattern of our mutual relations as it appears to us. However, I want to assure you that even if the election goes against us, I attach the greatest importance to progress in U.S.–PRC relations and I would do my best to work for progress.

Chiao: To be quite frank, in global affairs you act as though everything is up to you and the Soviets to decide. In your General Assembly speech you referred first to the Soviets then Europe, Japan, and only then to the PRC. We were like this in importance (holding up his little finger).

Kissinger: I mentioned Western Europe, Japan, and then the Western hemisphere first.

Chiao: My impression is…

Kissinger: Of course, we do attach great importance to these areas.

Chiao: We recognize this and it’s quite proper. You recall Chairman Mao told you about the importance of U.S. relations with Japan. Furthermore, we approve of your relations with Western Europe.

Kissinger: As for the Soviet section of my speech, most people thought it was very harsh. In the case of China, the speech unfortunately had to reflect the fact that there is not much going on. Our relations with the Soviet Union are in a different category from our relations with you. The Soviet Union is an adversary with whom we co-exist. China is an ideological opponent but a country that in strategic terms we cooperate with globally. In my conception, I attach an importance to China comparable to that of Western Europe as a factor on the world scene. But in the case of our bilateral relations there is nothing going on, and I think this is a mistake.

Chiao: Whose fault is it?

Kissinger: Frankly, it depends on your viewpoint. If you say there can be no progress in this area until normalization, then the fault lies with us. But if you say that we need to progress in this area to create the basis for normalization, then we both have responsibility.

Chiao: That is probably not a fair statement. On bilateral relations the responsibility is on your side. On other questions, such as our criticism of you, we have done it frankly giving our thoughts from a strategic point of view as to the best way to deal with our opponent. Don’t take them (the opponent) lightly.

Kissinger: Precisely. Why was my statement unfair?

[Page 976]

Chiao: From the beginning the Taiwan problem has been your affair. You said you had to maintain diplomatic relations, keep troops on Taiwan, and maintain the treaty.

Huang: How about the Olympics?

Chiao: It is true there has been some deterioration in our relationship, but the source of it is you. Why did you take your position on the Olympics?

Kissinger: If you must know the truth, because of the Republican Convention.

Huang: And perhaps the Taiwan lobby?

Chiao: And then we have Governor Scranton’s remarks about welcoming Taiwan into the UN.

Kissinger: What’s that?

Chiao: (Reading from a transcript of the October 3 NBC Meet the Press)

“Mr. Hunt: Just one more question, Bill. You mentioned the idea of universality, that every sovereign government should be a member of UN. On that basis, why should not Taiwan be readmitted?

Scranton: In my judgment, I would be glad to have them.”

Kissinger: Ridiculous, outrageous! Perhps you can’t believe me when I say I didn’t know about this until you told me just now.

Chiao: This reflects a trend.

Kissinger: Yes, in public opinion.

Chiao: Not only in your society but in your government too.

Kissinger: Governor Scranton is a friend of mine. He is a fine man. I have no idea why he said what he did.

Chiao: I smile bitterly.

Kissinger: You have several choices. You can say that it was all a plot and smile bitterly. Or you can believe what I have said sincerely about our being in the last stages of the post-Watergate confusion. The day after the election you will see discipline and cohesion beginning in the United States. I recommend that you think in terms of the latter.

Chiao: I don’t want to attach too much importance to these things.

Kissinger: You should attach no importance to them.

Chiao: Perhaps a little?

Kissinger: No, really none. Governor Scranton hadn’t thought through what he was saying. I must say, however, that in the kind of cooling atmosphere that has been created there is less vigilance in this country about such remarks. But don’t worry. I promised Premier Chou in 1971 that we wouldn’t support two Chinas. We won’t go back on this statement.

[Page 977]

Chiao: The language in the Shanghai Communiqué on this point was your creation.

Kissinger: Scranton should have said that we don’t recognize the Government on Taiwan as the Government of Taiwan.

Chiao: Yes. The cooling of relations is not our responsibility.

Kissinger: You have some responsibility for what has happened. Some Chinese actions have had a negative impact on developments.

Chiao: I don’t agree. Our criticism of you proceeds from our common objective. If it were not for the common objective there would be no need to say anything. Do you remember in 1971 Premier Chou told you that China was ready to deal with the enemy from all sides.

Kissinger: Yes, it was in the Fukien Room.

Huang: Chairman Mao told some Germans that we wanted Europe to be strong and united. The Germans said then the Soviets would turn to the East. Mao said we were ready for them.

Chiao: Up to now, we have supported a strong Western Europe and strong U.S. West European relations.

Kissinger: Let us both reflect on this conversation and see if we can begin a dialogue on a governmental level to analyze the situation.

Chiao: (Turning to Huang and speaking in Chinese) Is there anything else we should raise?

Huang: At the beginning, Secretary Kissinger mentioned Soviet problems in developing their power. Do you foresee a period of protracted peace?

Kissinger: No. Up to 20 years I think it will be very dangerous. We are heading into a period of increasing danger. If we get through it, then there may be an era of peace.

Chiao: As for the Soviet threat, the Soviets are internally soft but one should not underestimate their expanionist ambitions. When we say there is a danger of war increasing, it is because we have given it very serious thought. The question is how to deal with the USSR. They bully the soft but fear the tough.

Kissinger: Mr. Foreign Minister, we have talked with each other for almost five years. You can’t believe we are soft. We have to devise a strategy which suits our own and our allies’ domestic requirements. It must be sustainable for the longest period of time. We would have won in Angola had it not been for Watergate in the United States. Please give us credit. We have no illusions.

Chiao: We have discussed this many times. Your tactical concepts negate your strategic objective.

Kissinger: I don’t agree. We have held the Western Alliance in better shape than it was four years ago.

Chiao: We have criticized Munich thinking because it corrodes.

[Page 978]

Kissinger: But we don’t have Munich-like thinking. Frankly, we find it insulting. At Munich the allies sacrificed others. We have not.

Chiao: There is not much change in the trend of appeasement.

Kissinger: Repeating twice something we find insulting doesn’t make it true. (Laughter) The increase of our Defense budget, our actions in Portugal, Angola, the Middle East, and Africa and the sale of arms hardly amount to a Munich.

Chiao: We have not opposed your Middle Eastern and Iranian policies, but you created some trouble for yourselves in Pakistan.

Kissinger: What trouble?

Chiao: I have been reading some things about trouble.

Kissinger: Bhutto wouldn’t agree with you. Why don’t you ask him?

Chiao: We approve of U.S.–Pakistan relations. It is good that they are improving.

Kissinger: If we keep on repeating these arguments, we will only create a controversial frame of mind.

Chiao: We should concentrate on the common objectives. Chairman Mao said you have interests which you want to preserve; the Soviets have expansionist desires. The Chairman said this to you. Some here tonight may not know that these were his words.

Kissinger: You used them in your speech. I agree with you about the danger of war. Our defense budget has increased 25 percent in two years.

Chiao: There are material means, but weapons are made for man and man must have high morale.

Kissinger: Yes. But each side must decide for itself what is best for its morale.

Chiao: I agree.

I have brought along this volume of Chairman Mao’s poems. It includes the two final poems he wrote. It is in both Chinese and English.

Kissinger: Thank you so much. I recently read a beautiful poem by Chairman Mao. I believe it was the last one he wrote.

Chiao: This is the complete, published edition of Chairman Mao’s poems.

Kissinger: I’m very touched and deeply moved by Chairman Mao’s poems and I thank you very much for your volume.

Chiao: I promised it to you and I’m glad I remembered to bring it.

(Chiao then escorted the Secretary downstairs to the door of the PRC mission and the two bade a warm farewell.)

  1. Source: Ford Library, National Security Adviser, KissingerScowcroft West Wing Office Files, 1969–1977, Box 6, China, unnumbered items (35), 10/2/76–10/8/76. Secret; Nodis. The meeting was held at the PRC Mission to the United Nations.
  2. Supplementary briefing material for Kissinger described Qiao’s UN speech. (Memoranda from Hummel and Lord to Kissinger, October 5 and 8; ibid.) Qiao delivered his UN speech on October 5. (“China, at UN, Spurns Attempts by Soviets To Resume Old Ties,”The New York Times, October 6, 1976, p. 1)
  3. On September 6, Victor Belenko, a Soviet Air Force officer, defected to the West by flying his MiG–25 jet fighter to Japan.
  4. “Toward a New Understanding of Community,” Department of State Bulletin, October 25, 1976, pp. 497–498.