63. Minutes of Secretary of State Kissinger’s Staff Meeting1

[Omitted here are comments unrelated to China.]

[Secretary Kissinger:] Now—about China.

The newspapers report that we came to China in order to establish diplomatic relations, and that we did not achieve that objective. That is total nonsense. The last thing we could afford at this moment is diplomatic relations with China. It is not that we are short of domestic debates at this moment in this country. So that the absolutely last thing we attempted to do in China is to settle the relationship between Taiwan, Peking and the United States.

First of all, the diplomatic relations with China are a surface phenomenon. Between the liaison offices and these periodic exchanges, our relations with the Chinese are fuller than with most governments in the world with which we do have diplomatic relations. I can think of nothing that we are missing in our relations with the Chinese as a result of not having formal diplomatic relations. So that at no stage in the discussion did the issue of formal diplomatic relations come up.

The purpose of the discussion was, first, to exchange—well, as far as we are concerned, we have dealt only with three men; with Mao, Chou and Chai Cheng-wen (?).2 No senior American has ever dealt with any authoritative person other than those three.

It is therefore essential that we meet with them periodically for the sort of conceptual review that the Chinese appreciate, and in which we have found their assurances in the past absolutely reliable—that what they say at these meetings they will do over a six-month period or a year’s period, we have found one could absolutely rely upon.

So the purpose was to review the international situation in the light of events since our last meeting. Secondly, to maintain the momentum in our relationships, both symbolically and substantively.

I would urge any of you who are interested to compare the Shanghai Communiqué with the communiqué that was published last week. Now, for a variety of reasons we were not eager to get too much press attention to the differences between the Shanghai Communiqué and [Page 443] this communiqué, because we did not want to get involved or we didn’t want to shake up Moscow more than has already been the case in recent weeks. I think if you take the key paragraphs of the Shanghai Communiqué and the key paragraphs of this communiqué, you will see a qualitative advance in almost every essential category.

The common objectives in the Shanghai Communiqué were confined to the Northeast Pacific. In this communiqué, they were extended to a global basis. In the Shanghai Communiqué we talked in a general way about consultations. In this one we talked about authoritative exchanges and concrete consultations. And there was a major change in the Chinese position with respect to diplomatic recognition, which in the past they have made dependent on a whole series of very concrete conditions, and which in this communiqué they made dependent only on the acceptance of one China.

So essentially we went further than I actually thought we would go on this trip. And we went to the absolute maximum of where we could go, given the international situation and given our domestic situation.

[Omitted here are comments unrelated to China.]

With respect to China, that policy is essentially on a good track. But we have established it with two aged leaders, and we have absolutely no clue as to what anyone else in China thinks about it, except that the necessities of their position would tend to drive them in the direction that they are now pursuing, although whether successors will have the tactical skill is not so clear.

[Omitted here are comments unrelated to China.]

  1. Source: National Archives, RG 59, Transcripts of Secretary of State Kissinger’s Staff Meetings, 1973–1977, Entry 5177, Box 1, Secretary’s Staff Meetings. Secret. Kissinger chaired the meeting, which was attended by all the principal officers of the Department or their designated alternates.
  2. The notetaker was unsure of the third name that Kissinger mentioned. Kissinger was likely referring to Qiao Guanhua.