67. Memorandum From Richard H. Solomon of the National Security Council Staff to Secretary of State Kissinger 1

SUBJECT

  • Confucius and the State Governors’ China Trip: Is Peking Debating Foreign Policy?

PRC Liaison Office personnel called on me yesterday to report no progress in our efforts to set a date for the state governors’ visit. Several weeks ago Jim Falk of the Domestic Council and I initiated efforts through the National Governors’ Conference to form a delegation, based on the agreement in principle of November that a group could visit the PRC by June of this year. We subsequently presented the Liaison Office a list of the likely members of the delegation, and indicated that mid-May would be the most convenient time for the governors. We also gave the Chinese a draft press release patterned on the previous Congressional releases, and requested their comments. During yesterday’s call, the PRC officials said that they had been instructed by Peking to inform us that the draft press release was inappropriate, both because it implied too much of an official exchange—rather than people-to-people contact—and because no time for the visit has as yet been set. In short, we were told that the PRC is not prepared at this time to move ahead with semi-official exchanges.2 (For this reason I have not initiated any planning activity for the next Congressional visit, also agreed to in principle during your last trip to Peking.)

This development is but one of a range of indicators that our bilateral relations with Peking are immobilized: Other facilitated cultural and scientific exchanges are in abeyance; USLO has had turn-downs of eight applications for visas for U.S. officials—including Ambassador Ingersoll;3 and the Chinese appear to be delaying a response to your latest proposal for settlement of the claims/blocked assets problem. What is going on in Peking?

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Have the Chinese Been Debating Foreign Policy?

Press material is now coming available which suggests that foreign policy has been actively debated by the leadership in Peking—thus leading to a stand-down of our bilateral contacts with the PRC. A Red Flag article of November which has just been translated suggests—in the Aesopian language of the on-going polemic on Confucius—that the military in China have questioned the policy of rapprochement with the U.S. The most significant passage states that the Chou figure in the historical debate criticized his opponents,

“for advocating the policy of ‘making friends with neighboring countries [i.e., the Soviets] and attacking the distant ones’ [the U.S.] in order to preserve their own hereditary prerogatives, and went further in putting forward the policy of ‘making friends with distant countries and attacking the neighboring ones.’ San Sui’s [Chou’s] line won the approval of King Chao [Mao],” and he was accordingly appointed as a guest minister in charge of military affairs.

“However, although San Sui [Chou] had become Prime Minister, he was actually perched on the top of the crater of a volcano that could erupt at any time. In the Chu state the power of the old aristocrats [the regional military commanders?] was still rather powerful.”

Subsequent to the publication of this article, China’s regional military commanders were shuffled around, suggesting that Chou’s “volcano” did not explode under him.4

More recently, a January Red Flag article entitled “Confucius in Moscow” implies by historical analogy that leaders within China are cooperating with the Soviets to attack Mao/Chou policies. The article even asserts that the “Soviet social imperialists” are supporting Confucius together with the “Kuomintang reactionaries on Taiwan.” (Perhaps Peking has already received word of the Soviet approach to the Nationalists via the Chinese professor they invited to Moscow in December, although the timing of the article’s publication would not be strong evidence in this direction.)5 The article concludes that, “The farce in Moscow of worshipping Confucius has merely drawn a calm response [in Peking],” and asserts that the Soviets will get nowhere in their effort to find supporters in China. The recent expulsion from Peking of five Soviet diplomats on charges of spying seems to add [Page 457]weight to the interpretation that the dominant leadership in Peking is concerned about Soviet game-playing within China—or at least wants to make a visible point that the Russians are still the primary enemy.

By all evidence, Premier Chou appears to be in the dominant position in Peking, although the continuing signs of debate in the press suggest that he is having to defend his policies against on-going criticism. Given these recent indications that foreign policy has been at issue, our present interpretation is that the lack of PRC responsiveness to us on bilateral issues reflects the Premier’s desire not to give his challengers the added ammunition that would come with a more visible relationship. If the present signs of Chou consolidating his position persist, however, one would anticipate some further movement in U.S.–PRC relations, such as a favorable decision on the claims settlement and more receptivity to exchanges and official travel. My present guess is that the current state of immobilism will persist well into the first half of 1974, at least until a National People’s Congress has been convened to give further institutional legitimacy to the Premier’s policies and supporters.

  1. Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Box 528, Country Files, Far East, People’s Republic of China, Vol. 9, Jan 1, 1974–. Secret; Sensitive. Sent for information. Kissinger initialed this memorandum at the time, and later quoted it in his memoir, Years of Upheaval, p. 680. All brackets are in the original.
  2. In telegram 17433 to Beijing, January 25, the Department reported on the visit that Chi Ch’ao-Chu and Hsu Hsin-Hsi of the PRC Liaison Office paid to Solomon. (National Archives, RG 59, Central Foreign Policy Files, 1974)
  3. On January 12, the Liaison Office informed the Chinese Foreign Ministry that since it had received no response to its request for a visa, Assistant Secretary Ingersoll was regretfully canceling the Beijing stop of his tour of East Asia. (Telegram 67 from Beijing, January 12; ibid.)
  4. A briefing memorandum from David Mark of INR to the Acting Secretary of State, January 2, reported that the Chinese Government had abruptly shifted command in eight of China’s eleven military regions, thus culminating “a long effort to reassert central and civilian authority.” (Ibid., Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Kissinger Office Files, Box 87, Country Files, Far East, China—Reports Sensitive)
  5. On December 31, 1973, Jiang Jingguo informed McConaughy that the Soviet Union had approached a ROC citizen about the future of Taiwanese-Soviet relations. (Memorandum from Smyser to Kissinger, January 10; ibid., Box 524, Country Files, Far East, China, Vol. XII, Oct 25, 1973–)