99. Memorandum of Conversation1


  • Ch’iao Kuan-hua, Minister of Foreign Affairs
  • Wang Hai-jung, Vice Minister of Foreign Affairs
  • Lin Ping, Director, Department of American and Oceanic Affairs, Ministry of Foreign Affairs
  • T’ang Wen-sheng, Deputy Director, Department of American and Oceanic Affairs, Ministry of Foreign Affairs
  • Notetaker
  • Dr. Henry A. Kissinger, Secretary of State and Assistant to the President for National Security Affairs
  • Donald Rumsfeld, Assistant to the President
  • Amb. George Bush, Chief, USLO Peking
  • Winston Lord, Director, Policy Planning Staff
  • Philip C. Habib, Assistant Secretary for East Asian and Pacific Affairs
  • Lora D. Simkus, Notetaker


  • Drafting of Communiqué of Visit

Kissinger: You are outnumbered tonight.

Ch’iao Kuan-hua: But we have 800 million.

Kissinger: But if they are not here, you are outnumbered.

Ch’iao Kuan-hua: This morning I told you about our basic thinking. And our thinking is to try our best to avoid superfluous words and to inquire and to put main things in the most prominent place. Of course, our assessment of these talks is they have been very beneficial. [Page 637] This wide range of exchange of views has been very good. That is one thing. And, of course, the important substantial part of what you will want to say is that both sides have decided that your President will visit China.

Kissinger: This is what we did in July, 1971.

Ch’iao Kuan-hua: So we made up a few words. It took me a whole day to compose three sentences! It shows that our effectiveness is very low. But because this morning you insisted I make a try, I could only do so.

So the three items we will be thinking of putting into the announcement would be three main thoughts:

The Secretary of State visited certain places from when to when—the two sides had pleasant talks. The formal wording is:

“Dr. Henry A. Kissinger, U.S. Secretary of State and Assistant to the President for National Security Affairs, visited the People’s Republic of China from November 25 through November 29, 1974. The Chinese and U.S. sides held friendly and useful talks. Knowing of the expressed desire of President Gerald R. Ford to visit China, the Government of the People’s Republic of China has extended an invitation to President Ford to visit China in 1975. President Ford has accepted this invitation with pleasure.”

Kissinger: At any rate … well, for one thing, I don’t know whether President Ford had expressed a desire that you could know of to visit the People’s Republic of China.

Ch’iao Kuan-hua: Through you.

Kissinger: I think, frankly, we should use a frankly different formulation from the 1971 communiqué.2 This quite candidly is my view on the subject. I have two suggestions. I have no great … One is—and I have to do it in light of our opinion—to say only that in two previous visits we accomplished two pages on the talks and to deal with these four days with six or seven words is going to be noticed. I think we should at least say, “and reaffirmed the principles of the previous communiqués” or something like this. Now, as far as the invitation is concerned … this point can be made with an additional sentence. It does not require a paragraph. With respect to the invitation, I think it would be best to relate it to the statement in our communiqué last year of the desirability of frequent exchanges at authoritative levels. And say, “in the light of the decisions in the year 1973 of the desirability of [Page 638] frequency of exchanges, the Government has extended an invitation to President Ford.” Those are may two suggestions except to express protest for my associates whose names are not being mentioned. But that is a question of internal policy.

Ch’iao Kuan-hua: There is no question the names have been published in the Chinese press numerous times.

Kissinger: I am sure Rumsfeld’s wife has read it in the People’s Daily.

Those are my two suggestions.

Ch’iao Kuan-hua: Now on the first point, our idea is that since during this visit of yours, both of us have made two speeches respectively, so I think we have said quite a lot. So we don’t think it necessary to keep on repeating the same words. Of course, you told me about your thinking this morning. Nevertheless, we would still be willing to see the sentence you would be willing to produce. That is one thing. And the second point which I think all the friends here on your side know is that the actual sequence of events was our side first invited your Secretary of Defense, Mr. Schlesinger, and your side suggested President Ford.

Kissinger: Were you very surprised?

Ch’iao Kuan-hua: Were you surprised?

Kissinger: I was surprised by the invitation to Schlesinger, but I understand its significance. [Laughter]

Ch’iao Kuan-hua: And on our side, of course, we believe that your proposal of President Ford’s visit is very important, too, but to be frank, perhaps we weren’t so surprised as you to the previous invitation to the Secretary of Defense.

Kissinger: Since you made it, you should not be surprised.

Ch’iao Kuan-hua: My surprise did not equal your surprise. [Laughter] But I must remind you that the invitation stands—it is a standing one.

Kissinger: I know. That is understood.

Ch’iao Kuan-hua: Actually, the 1973 statement was a redirection of the Shanghai Communiqué about the authoritative levels.

Kissinger: [To Mr. Lord] Have we got the Shanghai Communiqué here? [Mr. Lord produces a copy.]

Ch’iao Kuan-hua: Because in …

Kissinger: We can refer to the Shanghai Communiqué, too. The 1973 communiqué—the Shanghai Communiqué—says they will stay in contact. “The two sides agreed that they will stay in contact through various channels, including the sending of a senior U.S. representative to Peking from time to time.” In the [November] 1973 communiqué we said, “The two sides agreed that in present circumstances it is of [Page 639] particular importance to maintain frequent contact at authoritative levels in order to exchange views.” It is a better formulation.

Ch’iao Kuan-hua: But I should think the basic thinking is consistent.

Kissinger: Oh, yes, it is consistent.

Ch’iao Kuan-hua: But the sequence of events was we first invite your Secretary of Defense and then you proposed inviting your President. Do you have any wording?

Kissinger: We could say the Chinese invited the Secretary of Defense to the United States. [Laughter]

Ch’iao Kuan-hua: I agree. My idea was we don’t on this issue—we would not need to quote any communiqué, because you are authoritative, too. Isn’t that true?

Kissinger: You knew you would get me at my weak point. I want to thank you on behalf of my father for mentioning me first here tonight. [Laughter]

We could use a more neutral formulation. For example, I don’t have the exact … Let me give you the idea.

Ch’iao Kuan-hua: So maybe for your convenience, we could have a short break and you could discuss it and then you could give us your wording.

Kissinger: Why don’t we have 15 minutes? Will you be in this building? Will you stay here?

Ch’iao Kuan-hua: You can drive us off—out of this room. [Laughter]

Kissinger: There are more of us.

Ch’iao Kuan-hua: [Turns back as he leaves room] Including both of your points?

Kissinger: Yes. It will be about two pages, but only four sentences. I will draft it in German. [Laughter]

Ch’iao Kuan-hua: If so, are you going to change Soochow to Hangchow? [Laughter]

[There was a break between 10:02 p.m. and 10:21 p.m., during which the new draft communiqué was typed.]

Kissinger: We have … Why don’t I give it to you? We have added one sentence and changed one a little bit. We picked up the adjectives you had used and mentioned the atmosphere because it was mentioned in every previous communiqué and should be noted.

Ch’iao Kuan-hua: So my initial reaction beginning from the end … shall we work from the end upwards?

Kissinger: I think you accept the first sentence.

Ch’iao Kuan-hua: Our feeling is that the phrase “to deepen contacts at authoritative levels” would, quite on the contrary, lower the [Page 640] importance of President Ford’s visit, because I recall when I was in New York and we toasted each of you, we specifically mentioned President Ford, and when you met with the Premier at the hospital, he asked you to give his regards; and in this evening’s toast, we also mentioned President Ford.

Kissinger: We can take that out. We don’t need that sentence. You are saying something extremely offensive—you know that. You have said I am an authoritative level and by mentioning the President at my level, we are lowering it. Old friends can speak frankly.

Ch’iao Kuan-hua: It is a good thing knowing each other for a long time.

Kissinger: Let’s take it out.

Ch’iao Kuan-hua: And as for the formation of the rest of the sentence, we would also suggest some changes. That is …

Kissinger: We can take the word “President Ford” out. [Laughter]

Ch’iao Kuan-hua: That is what you said.

Kissinger: [Referring to Rumsfeld] He is not used to this method of negotiation.

Ch’iao Kuan-hua: We think it might be better to say the two sides agree that President Ford would visit the People’s Republic of China in 1975.” In Chinese, it wouldn’t seem useful to mention it more.

Kissinger: What adjective would be useful?

Ch’iao Kuan-hua: Because to us the visit of such a person of high rank as the President to the People’s Republic of China would be a very important event, and to characterize it as being of use or not of use is not the question.

Kissinger: I would say this. In English, to say President Ford would visit the People’s Republic of China in 1975 is too stark. Can we say “to deepen contacts—and leave out authoritative—President Ford will visit the People’s Republic of China in 1975.”

Ch’iao Kuan-hua: It also would give the impression that the purpose of the President’s visit would be merely for the sake of deepening contacts.

Kissinger: It is a good point.

Ch’iao Kuan-hua: My school of thinking is it would be better to say less than to say too much.

Kissinger: I understand your point. I just don’t want to make you overconfident. [Laughter]

Let me provisionally accept it. Let’s see what else we have got.

Ch’iao Kuan-hua: So, let’s go up a sentence. So my view of the Shanghai Communiqué and subsequent joint statements is that between parent and child. So, in both your toast and mine, we only mentioned [Page 641] the Shanghai Communiqué. That is a well-known document in the world.

Kissinger: You want to drop the word “subsequent?”

Ch’iao Kuan-hua: So perhaps for the sake of brevity we could just mention the Shanghai Communiqué.

Kissinger: I would like to see an artist at work. Now that you knocked out the end of the sentence, are you going to take out the beginning? [Laughter]

All right. Shall we go up one more? All right, we will take it out. We have agreed on the word “Announcement” though? [Laughter]

Ch’iao Kuan-hua: We are working from the bottom up. [Laughter]

Kissinger: This is nothing … the Shanghai Communiqué was negotiated in Chinese. I never saw the English text.

Ch’iao Kuan-hua: But later on, they were all published in both.

Kissinger: I have to say something to you that impressed us very much. We trusted you to produce the Shanghai Communiqué. Wherever you had a choice, you picked the Chinese word that we used on the draft that gave us a slight advantage.

We accept that sentence.

Ch’iao Kuan-hua: The term “wide-ranging” …

Kissinger: That was last year; in a conversation with Chairman Mao this word was used.

Ch’iao Kuan-hua: We can consider characterizing the talks as frank, wide-ranging and beneficial. As for the atmosphere, I don’t think it was used in any other communiqué. That was in the press release.

Kissinger: It was … Here it is with the Chairman.

Ch’iao Kuan-hua: But that was just the news.

Kissinger: And in 1973, we said “in an unconstrained atmosphere.” The danger of eliminating it makes, in reality … We know what occurred. It is because the two previous communiqués had this reference.

Ch’iao Kuan-hua: Perhaps I could explain it a bit. Because the meeting with the Chairman would be one meeting in itself. So the atmosphere characterized the atmosphere of that meeting. This here would characterize the whole set of talks.

Kissinger: You don’t think they were friendly? [Laughter]

Ch’iao Kuan-hua: Would that indicate that all of the words used to characterize the talks did not happen? So, frankly, my views are that the question of whether or what the atmosphere was like—actually, the characterizing of atmospheres in communiqués is a foreign influence and we don’t think it is very necessary. So our thinking is to conduct it in a more straightforward way. Atmospheric things are not substantial.

[Page 642]

Kissinger: Could we say “in a straightforward atmosphere?” In 1973, I want to point out, we said all these talks were conducted in an unconstrained atmosphere. Frankly, I don’t think what we say about atmosphere … For example, I don’t think The New York Times would say the talks in Peking were conducted in a friendly atmosphere. It is simply that the China watchers will notice there was an unconstrained atmosphere in 1973, then there was a friendly atmosphere, and now nothing. That is the only point.

Ch’iao Kuan-hua: But “frank” also is an atmosphere. Only friends can talk very frankly.

Kissinger: In that case, let’s drop “frank.” [Laughter]

Ch’iao Kuan-hua: But if we are ready to talk about atmosphere, it might be more accurate to characterize these talks as being frank and unconstrained.

Kissinger: Why don’t we say frank, unconstrained, wide-ranging and mutually beneficial? [Laughter]

Ch’iao Kuan-hua: And add “constructive.”

Kissinger: Let’s leave out the word “atmosphere.”

Ch’iao Kuan-hua: Shall we conclude an agreement that we will never talk about atmosphere in the future? [Laughter]

Kissinger: I think that would be tremendous news all over the world.

Ch’iao Kuan-hua: I would like now to solicit your opinion as to whether we should cut off the head of the announcement?

Kissinger: You mean the word “Announcement?” [Laughter]

Ch’iao Kuan-hua: No, the first sentence.

Kissinger: My father wouldn’t stand for that. [Laughter] I will leave the heading to you.

Ch’iao Kuan-hua: It doesn’t really matter.

Kissinger: We don’t really need a heading.

Ch’iao Kuan-hua: We can cut off the head; that is the “announcement.” We will not be cutting the head—we will refrain from discussing the questions of outer space.

Kissinger: You just don’t call it anything?

Ch’iao Kuan-hua: Call it a News Release or a Press Release?

Kissinger: There are three options: To say nothing and just put it out—it speaks for itself—or, call it a Communiqué, or call it an Announcement. If we give the heading in English, “Communiqué” or “Joint Statement” is better.

Ch’iao Kuan-hua: “Communiqué” would also be accepted.

Kissinger: We will call it “Communiqué.” Are we then agreed on the heading?

[Page 643]

Ch’iao Kuan-hua: So let’s read it again.

Kissinger: “Dr. Henry A. Kissinger, the U.S. Secretary of State and Assistant to the President for National Security Affairs, visited the People’s Republic of China from November 25 through November 29, 1974. The Chinese and U.S. sides held frank, wide-ranging and mutually beneficial talks. They reaffirmed their unchanged commitments to the principles of the Shanghai Communiqué. The two sides agreed that President Gerald R. Ford would visit the People’s Republic of China in 1975.”

Ch’iao Kuan-hua: Actually, you don’t need in the final sentence: “The two sides have agreed.”

Kissinger: If we played chess with each other, it would be an interesting game. Because I can predict your moves. It looks better in English to have it in. However, it is improbable that we would come here without an invitation and technically extremely difficult.

Ch’iao Kuan-hua: But you, yourself, come here for the seventh time. Everytime the announcement of your visit is “Both sides have agreed …”

Kissinger: But I am only an authoritative level. We don’t consider it appropriate for our President to travel without an invitation.

Ch’iao Kuan-hua: But it actually would be an agreement between the two sides where they consulted with each other and agreed upon the following. Of course, we had also thought it possible to say, “The two sides agreed through consultation.”

Kissinger: Oh, unanimously! [Laughter] We went through this in July 1971. It is a little bit embarrassing for me to sort of say I make President Ford come to China, which is the implication, and therefore we would like some implication of decision by him. That is why we wanted the word “accepted.”

Ch’iao Kuan-hua: Then what about “The two governments agreed …” or “the Government of the People’s Republic of China and the Government of the United States agreed,” to avoid the impression that you were the one who decided the matter. It doesn’t stand very logically as it is now: “The two sides agreed …” Of course, when the President comes, it will be on invitation. That is normal procedure. This is just an agreement now.

Kissinger: Okay, we will accept it. It doesn’t make any difference.

Ch’iao Kuan-hua: What is the meaning of the agreement? It is that the two sides consulted each other. One side made a proposal, the other side accepted it and that is an agreement. In the winter of 1971—November—the announcement issued then was “The Government of the People’s Republic of China and the Government of the United [Page 644] States agreed that the visit of President Nixon would begin on the date of February ______.”3

Kissinger: Okay. We will drop the last sentence.

Ch’iao Kuan-hua: Would you want to change “the two sides” to “the two governments?” We don’t have any definite opinion on that. If you want to avoid the possible misunderstanding that you just now mentioned, you could use “the two governments.”

Kissinger: Okay. Let’s say “the two governments agreed.” Okay, you got it down to three sentences again. No, four. [Laughter]

Ch’iao Kuan-hua: So, it took you one hour to write three pages, and it took me a whole day to write three sentences. And now it took you an hour, and with your assistance, it has been increased to four sentences.

Kissinger: Now those of you present know why it took a week to do the Shanghai Communiqué. [Laughter]

Ch’iao Kuan-hua: All the new colleagues will understand. But I must also say here that I have to report this to our government first, before it can be finalized. You are very fair about our procedures.

Kissinger: Oh, yes. I am experienced.

Ch’iao Kuan-hua: And I will tell you if there are any suggested changes.

Kissinger: When will you do that?

Ch’iao Kuan-hua: Can I jump from this to the time of release? I don’t think there will be any question about that.

Kissinger: It is now short enough that President Ford could read it at the beginning of his Press Conference which is 9:00 a.m. Saturday, Peking time.

Ch’iao Kuan-hua: Well, I will give our reply on whether there are any other changes as soon as possible. But anyway, in any case, it won’t be when you are just entering your plane.

Kissinger: Tomorrow morning? Tomorrow evening? I have this practical problem. Given the differences in time now, it is still the working day in Washington. Whatever happens tomorrow, all day tomorrow is night in America. Moreover, I don’t have communications in Soochow; I won’t until I get to the plane in Shanghai. I tell you what I will do. I will send this to Washington. If I can get any changes tomorrow morning—they will not be major, I am sure—they can work with this and then we can change it. We will not consider it official until we have heard from your government.

Ch’iao Kuan-hua: And we will try to give a reply as soon as possible. If possible, tomorrow morning.

[Page 645]

Kissinger: Yes. It is not a decisive matter because we have 34 hours. I have communications on my plane so as soon as I reach Shanghai, we can make any corrections needed, and we can make preliminary arrangements on the basis of this text. I have worked with you before. Your suggestions will be mine. If you could get Mr. Lord’s name in it, his mother would appreciate it. [Laughter]

Do you wish us to type it and give you the correct version? Can you wait five minutes?

Ch’iao Kuan-hua: Yes.

[The new draft Communiqué was typed]4

Kissinger: Can we make an agreement that when President Ford is here we will not negotiate an agreement? We will do it ahead of time.

Ch’iao Kuan-hua: Of course! Otherwise, the visit would be prolonged.

Kissinger: Very long. Actually, the last time, we had two-thirds done before we came here. Three-fourths, even. All right, you let us know.

Ch’iao Kuan-hua: [As he was leaving the meeting room] Dr. Kissinger, you will visit before the President?

Kissinger: I think probably I will have to come here two months before he visits. Mr. Foreign Minister, again, thank you for your cooperation.

[The meeting concluded at 11:15 p.m.]

  1. Source: Ford Library, National Security Adviser, Kissinger Reports, Box 2, November 25–29, 1974, Kissinger’s Trip. Top Secret; Nodis. The meeting took place in the Meeting Room of Guest House Villa 18. All brackets are in the original.
  2. President Nixon read the 1971 communiqué during his televised “Remarks to the Nation Announcing Acceptance of an Invitation To Visit the People’s Republic of China.” The text is in Public Papers: Nixon 1971, pp. 819–820.
  3. Omission is in the original.
  4. For text of the joint communiqué issued on November 29, see Public Papers: Ford, 1974, p. 662.