28. Memorandum of Conversation1



  • Courtesy Call by Ambassador David K. E. Bruce, Chief of the Liaison Office in Peking


  • Acting Assistant Secretary of Defense (ISA)—Lawrence S. Eagleburger
  • Department of State, Chief Peking Liaison Office—David K. E. Bruce
  • Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense (ISA/EAPA)—Dennis J. Doolin
  • Director, East Asia … Pacific Region (ISA)—RADM Thomas J. Bigley
  • Department of State, Acting Director, People’s Republic of China and Mongolian Affairs—Roger W. Sullivan
  • Assistant for People’s Republic of China (ISA)—Robert L. Vandegrift

Ambassador Bruce said he and Mr. Holdridge would leave for Peking about 1 May and that he hoped to get settled early since the Chinese were cooperating very well with Mr. Jenkins in the preliminary arrangements for quarters and other housekeeping chores.

Mr. Eagleburger explained that DOD had a much stricter interpretation of the Shanghai Communiqué and harder view of the Taiwan situation than State and that it would probably be a long time before all U.S. forces were withdrawn from Taiwan. Mr. Doolin stated that most of the personnel stationed there were assigned to regionally oriented security assignments not connected with the defense of Taiwan. RADM Bigley explained that the men attached to the C-130 units on Taiwan were related in part to Southeast Asian commitments and could gradually be transferred elsewhere as tensions in Indochina diminished. Mr. Sullivan stated that State and DOD views on the issue of U.S. forces on Taiwan were now much closer since the establishment of the Liaison Offices had made it clear that this issue was no longer an obstacle to PRC normalization moves with the U.S.

In regard to Chinese language fluency, Ambassador Bruce stated he possessed no ability whatsoever but that everyone on his staff was competent. After a general discussion of the great differences between Chinese dialects and the great difficulty the Chinese themselves had in understanding the local dialects of their leaders, Mr. Sullivan said [Page 245] the State Department has no one who can understand the Hunan dialect spoken by Mao. Even the discussions President Nixon had with Mao, not to mention the other U.S. officials, were completely incomprehensible to the Americans. Translations were made by Chou En-lai or a Chinese interpreter and it was not possible to verify the accuracy of the translation even to subject, let alone inflections and nuances. As a result, no one at State really is certain what Mao said or whether he was coherent. Mr. Doolin and the Ambassador then discussed the realities of one’s interpreter taking liberties with both what and how he translates without the principal even being aware of the change.

Mr. Eagleburger assured Ambassador Bruce that DOD had no plans to complicate his mission by pushing for a Defense Attaché Office in Peking. Mr. Doolin pointed out there was no advantage to have a DAO while current PRC surveillance and travel restrictions remained in force, but that the PRC might at some point make some initiatives along this time.

Ambassador Bruce then asked for and received the latest DOD analysis of the Chinese military capabilities, their science and technology efforts, and their present relations with the USSR from Mr. Doolin and RADM Bigley. Ambassador Bruce also raised questions on Soviet naval capabilities which RADM Bigley answered.

The meeting concluded with a general discussion which included Chinese archives and libraries, a book the Ambassador had written on President Lincoln, stories concerning prominent personalities he had known, and some of his personal experiences in the Foreign Service.

  1. Source: Washington National Records Center, RG 330, OASD/ISA Files: FRC 330–76-117, China, 333, April 23, 1973. Secret. The memorandum of conversation was prepared by Robert L. Vandegrift and approved by Dennis Doolin. The meeting was held in Lawrence Eagleburger’s office.