96. Memorandum of Conversation1


  • Teng Hsiao-p’ing, Vice Premier of the State Council, People’s Republic of China
  • Ch’iao Kuan-hua, Minister of Foreign Affairs
  • Ambassador Huang Chen, Chief of the PRC Liaison Office, Washington
  • Wang Hai-jung, Vice Minister of Foreign Affairs
  • T’ang Wen-sheng, Deputy Director, Department of American and Oceanic Affairs, Ministry of Foreign Affairs
  • Tsien Ta-yung, Counselor, PRC Liaison Office, Washington
  • Ting Yuan-hung, Director, United States Office, Department of American and Oceanic Affairs, Ministry of Foreign Affairs
  • Chang Han-chih, Translator
  • Lien Cheng-pao, Notetaker
  • Dr. Henry A. Kissinger, Secretary of State and Assistant to the President for National Security Affairs
  • Ambassador George Bush, Chief of the United States Liaison Office, Peking
  • Ambassador Robert Anderson, Special Assistant to the Secretary of State for Press Relations
  • Winston Lord, Director, Policy Planning Staff, Department of State
  • Philip C. Habib, Assistant Secretary of State for East Asian and Pacific Affairs
  • William H. Gleysteen, Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for East Asian and Pacific Affairs
  • Richard H. Solomon, Senior Staff Member, National Security Council
  • Bonnie Andrews, Notetaker


  • Sino-Soviet Relations; Europe

Vice Premier Teng: This evening I invite you to a Peking meal.

Secretary Kissinger: Thank you.

Vice Premier Teng: Mr. Bush has had it [this type of meal].

Ambassador Bush: In Peking and in Canton!

Vice Premier Teng: But Peking—there are two best meals here. One is Peking Duck, and the other is the Hot Pot.

Secretary Kissinger: I have never had a Peking Hot Pot before. I look forward to it very much. Thank you very much. Did you say in a restaurant?

Vice Premier Teng: Yes, it is tasteless anywhere else.

[Page 602]

Secretary Kissinger: I have never had a meal in a restaurant here.

Vice Premier Teng: Then tonight we invite you to a restaurant.

Secretary Kissinger: Yo? know I remember receiving a call after one of my trips here. A singer wanted to perform in a night club [in Peking]. I told her there were none. She couldn’t belive it. Now I turn these calls over to the Ambassador [Huang Chen]. He convinces them there is no China. [Laughter]

Vice Premier Teng: Shall we continue? We would like to thank the Doctor for telling us about your global trips—or, to use a Chinese phrase, about your “travels to various lands.”

I would like to give a brief summary of our understanding of some issues. I should think the first matter that the Doctor would be concerned about is the Soviet Union and Sino-Soviet relations.

Secretary Kissinger: I will adopt your method and say it is up to you. [Laughter]

Vice Premier Teng: You know that the differences between the Soviet Union and China are profound. And you know that after Brezhnev left Vladivostok, he flew to Ulan Bator to attend the anniversary of the People’s Republic of Mongolia, and he made a speech. I read the press reports—the part relating to Sino-Soviet relations, and he was boasting a little about the agreements you reached in Vladivostok.

Secretary Kissinger: I explained those to you.

Vice Premier Teng: He still repeated the old words about China and the Soviet Union. The most important [of these] was that he said between China and the Soviet Union there does not exist any border dispute. And by “disputed area” he wasn’t even speaking of the larger part—the one and one-half million kilometers. He only mentioned the smaller, spotted area along the border. So the content of the so-called “non-aggression” treaty, non-use-of-force, doesn’t even include the essence of the border dispute.

Secretary Kissinger: Our analysis is the same. I noticed he praised the Foreign Minister. This I approve of highly.

Vice Premier Teng: Which one?

Secretary Kissinger: His, and ours! [Laughter]

Vice Premier Teng: That means that the very issue the two sides are negotiating about doesn’t exist at all. That means also that the provisional agreement reached by the Prime Ministers, reached between our two countries in 1969, is gone with the wind. It also means that the words they mouth about improvements in relations are all empty. Of course, they pay lip service to “improving relations.” And over the years the postures they have struck have many aspects, varied forms, including mediation by the Cubans and the Romanians. I recall that Chairman Mao discussed this with you. And you will also recall that [Page 603] Chairman Mao made the concessions of 2,000 years and said that no further concession would be made.

Secretary Kissinger: We will explain that to our Ambassador. It will give him courage. (The Secretary quietly explains the story to Ambassador Bush.)

Vice Premier Teng: So we can see from that that the recent talk about the publicization of the telegram we sent to the Soviet Union on its National Day is not quite in accord with facts.

Secretary Kissinger: Did you publish it, or did they?

Vice Premier Teng: We did not. But they deleted a bit [from the Chinese text] when they did. Actually, we put congratulations in the cable, we put in just the content of the agreement reached between the two Premiers in 1969, we just mentioned the essence of the agreement between the two Premiers: that we should maintain the status quo on the border; prevent armed conflict and avoid clashes on the border; and it has what they put forward about an agreement on non aggression and non-use-of-force.

Secretary Kissinger: This is new?

Vice Premier Teng: It is not new. It was also part of the understanding of 1969.

Secretary Kissinger: But if they should succeed—it will be the first such non-aggression treaty among allies.

Vice Premier Teng: Their proposals were put forward under the circumstances that the treaty still exists, our treaty of mutual assistance still exists. So it seems that the Soviet policy of hostility against China has not changed. And, of course, this doesn’t exclude more tricks, such as asking this person or that person to come and mediate, but it doesn’t change the essence [of China’s dispute with the Soviets]. The methods that they continue to use are military threat and subversion. And they will continue their tricks such as the Asian Collective Security system. That also was something mentioned [by Brezhnev] in Ulan Bator.

Secretary Kissinger: Apparently, he discussed that with Bhutto, but he rejected it. Brezhnev also discussed it with the Shah in Moscow.

Vice Premier Teng: It was the same old theme. Others expressed a certain degree of favor for it, but—

Secretary Kissinger: The Shah will not go along with it.

Vice Premier Teng: That is also our opinion. Even India hasn’t dared to openly accept it. Actually the Asian Collective Security system, although in name is directed against China, it is really aimed at dividing and controlling the countries of the area. This is the same [tactic] as the European Security Conference. It is to help Soviet forces [gain access] into the Indian Ocean and Pacific.

[Page 604]

Secretary Kissinger: I think by now the Soviets—the European Security Conference is ridiculous. It can no longer achieve anything significant.

Vice Premier Teng: And the Chairman asked Mr. Heath when he was in China if he thought the European Security Conference would be a success. He replied that rather than ask if it would be successful one should ask “when will it be finished?” What is your assessment of the conference? Will it be a success, or will it be concluded?

Secretary Kissinger: It cannot be a success. Our view is that it should be concluded. We feel that if it goes on it will create the impression of success, which is not warranted. This should be avoided. There will be no substantive agreement of any kind. They are discussing principles—one of the issues they are now debating is about the peaceful change of frontiers. The Soviets want to say that frontiers are inviolable. The Germans want to say that frontiers can be changed only by peaceful means.

The other issue is that the Soviets say that all principles should be equally applied. The Germans want to say that all [principles] have equal validity. I have tried to explain the difference [between these two formulations] to the President, but I do not understand it myself. This is the sort of thing they are discussing at the Security Conference right now.

Vice Premier Teng: It is very confusing to me.

Secretary Kissinger: The instructions to the members of our delegation are to stay out of such things. For this, one must have a German or Soviet mind.

Vice Premier Teng: One can probably only write this now in German.

Secretary Kissinger: That is right. But there is no possible conclusion now that can be called a success. You cannot change history by sentences in a treaty! However, I think it will be finished in the early part of next year.

Vice Premier Teng: As for the Soviet threat, as we have said many times, we don’t pay much attention. We don’t think those one million troops can be of much consequence. The Soviet military strength in the East is not just directed against China. It is also directed against Japan and your Seventh Fleet, your air and naval force?. And if they are going to attack China, as the Chairman has discussed [with you], it will be impossible to take over China with just one million troops. They will have to increase their troops by one million, and even that would not be sufficient because if they are going to make up their minds to fight with China, they will have to make up their minds to fight for 20 years. The Chinese have no great virtue, but they do have [the virtue of] patience.

[Page 605]

Secretary Kissinger: They have a few other virtues.

Vice Premier Teng: They also have “millet plus rifles”—and tunnels.

Secretary Kissinger: I have never seen the tunnels.

Vice Premier Teng: Hasn’t Ambassador Bush done this for you? He is shirking his responsibilities.

Ambassador Bush: Not yet. I am delighted to know that I can see them.

Vice Premier Teng: The next time you can write a report to the Doctor about the tunnels.

Secretary Kissinger: Don’t encourage him.2 Between him and the Ambassador in India [Patrick Moynihan] I have nothing to do but read cables—although the Ambassador in India publishes his in the newspapers.

Vice Premier Teng: So that is the order of relations between the Soviet Union and China. As for the strategic emphasis of the Soviet Union, we see it as “a feint toward the East to attack in the West”—to attack in Europe. It doesn’t matter if we have different views, we can see what happens.

Secretary Kissinger: I think the strategic situation is the same. If they attack in the East it will be a threat to the West, and if they attack in the West it will be a threat to the East. The danger is the same either way. We don’t need to decide this abstractly.

Vice Premier Teng: But this strategic assessment has its practical side, especially with the Western European countries. We have exchanged views on this many times.

Secretary Kissinger: I don’t believe Europe could be indifferent to an attack in the East. I don’t believe you could be indifferent to an attack in the West.

Vice Premier Teng: We agree to this view. An attack in any quarter is of significance to other areas too. But to establish a strategic point of view and preparations will be of significant importance, especially to your allies in Europe. Because without [these preparations], they will suffer. When we say the emphasis is in the West, it does not mean we will ignore our own defenses.

Secretary Kissinger: We agree, and we will add to our preparations too. Unfortunately, as you know, some of the leaders in Europe are not [Page 606] the most heroic right now. You have met them and can form your own opinions. But we will do our best.

I might add something about the oil problem: The U.S. has two options. Economically, we can deal with the problem on our own better than in cooperation with others. But the reason I have made several specific suggestions and proposals is because I believe if Europe continues to suffer a balance of payments drain, they will lose so much confidence that they will not be able to resist Soviet pressures. And if they take money from countries like Libya and Algeria, this will continue the process of their political demoralization. So you should understand that the proposals I have made, and our policies, have nothing to do with economic considerations, because economically we would be better off making bilateral agreements with the Saudis, and we could leave Europe alone. We do this because we feel the defense of the West will be weakened if these countries are demoralized by their economic condition.

Vice Premier Teng: So, I think we spent quite a lot of time this morning. We must have something to eat, otherwise our stomachs will make revolution. Shall we meet again at 3:30 p.m. in the Great Hall of the People? In the Original Hall. All right?

Secretary Kissinger: I don’t know what the Original Hall is, but I am sure someone will take us there.

Vice Premier Teng: It is the Sinkiang Room.

Secretary Kissinger: Thank you.

[The meeting adjourned at 12:20 p.m.]

  1. Source: Ford Library, National Security Adviser, Kissinger Reports on USSR, China, and Middle East Discussions, Box 2, China Memcons and Reports, November 25–29, 1974, Kissinger’s Trip. Top Secret; Sensitive; Exclusively Eyes Only. The meeting took place at Government Guest House 18. All brackets are in the original.
  2. At a meeting with Ford and Scowcroft on November 11, Kissinger said, “We will have to slow George Bush down. We need to keep things quiet there—he is saying we have been neglecting the Chinese.” (Memorandum of conversation, November 11; ibid., Memoranda of Conversation, Box 7, October–December 1974)