145. Memorandum of Conversation, Beijing, June 22, 1972, 7:10-7:45 p.m.1 2


  • Prime Minister Chou En-lai
  • Ch’iao Kuan-hua, Vice Foreign Minister
  • Chang Wen-chin, Assistant Foreign Minister
  • Tang Wen-sheng, Interpreter
  • Dr. Henry A. Kissinger, Assistant to the President for National Security Affairs
  • Winston Lord, NSC Staff
  • Jonathan T. Howe, NSC Staff


DATE & TIME: Thursday, June 22, 1972; 7:10-7:45 p.m.

PLACE: Boat on Lake at Summer Palace, Peking

(The talks on the boat consisted of small talk about the surrounding scene, etc. interlaced with substantive and semi-substantive conversation. Points of substantive interest follow, with the small talk omitted.)

* * *

Dr. Kissinger: It’s [Camp David] much simpler than the dacha of the Soviet leaders.

Prime Minister Chou: And it’s not possible for correspondents to go there.

Dr. Kissinger: Impossible. It’s the one place they cannot follow the President. That’s why if your Vice Foreign Minister ever wants to get away from New York we can take him up there and no one can follow him. That is, only if he doesn’t concentrate his torment on us.

Prime Minister Chou: How far is it—Camp David—from New York?

[Page 2]

Dr. Kissinger: By helicopter—we usually go by helicopter—half an hour. About 80 kilometers.

* * *

Prime Minister Chou: (pointing to hillside) This was the earth that came out of the lake.

Dr. Kissinger: The mountain?

Prime Minister Chou: They dug the lake and piled the dirt into a hill. The Dowager Empress had that done. And she used more than half of the navy budget to build this summer palace.

Dr. Kissinger: It’s a good way to get disarmament.

Prime Minister Chou: And finally in 1894 she was defeated in war and in that way Taiwan and China were divided for the first time. But there also was a good point because that defeat also gave rise to the Chinese peoples’ awakening. Otherwise, the Chinese empire was so proud and arrogant that it thought it could do anything and no one could do anything to her. Even the Chinese people at that time were not thoroughly awakened, so that proves the point you just now mentioned that one cannot be tempered without being defeated in battle.

Dr. Kissinger: No, without suffering in battle. Suffering is enough—not defeat. I just wanted to be sure the Prime Minister in his usual thoughtfulness didn’t overarrange this for us.

Prime Minister Chou: But it was true that China was defeated in that war.

Dr. Kissinger: Yes.

Prime Minister Chou: During the second war we suffered, that was during the Russo-Japanese war. The two foreign countries were fighting on Chinese land and that time we suffered.

Dr. Kissinger: In Port Arthur, yes.

[Page 3]

Prime Minister Chou: Yes, and in between was the invasion of the eight powers, including the United States, of course, but it was led by a German general.

Dr. Kissinger: And I was just going to say the German empire was particularly expansionist. (laughter)

Prime Minister Chou: All the colonial countries joined in that invasion actually. Even Portugal gained a morsel and Spain, Holland, and Belgium, Austria…

Dr. Kissinger: Austria too?

Prime Minister Chou: Yes, and they had a concession in Tientsin.

[Page 4]

Dr. Kissinger: But it was amazing that China, weakened as it was, pursued its independence.

Prime Minister Chou: Of course, on the one hand it was because of the strong desire for unity. On the other, so many countries were trying to get something out of China, other countries couldn’t control it.

Dr. Kissinger: But they might have divided it up. Your diplomats very skillfully played them off against each other.

Prime Minister Chou: There were contradictions among them. But on the other hand, China was not like the former Africa that was carved up like a melon. What happened in China was the division of spheres of influence. That’s why we have an Anti-Imperialist Road in China. It used to be called Legation Street. That was a funny name. Just south of Trinamen Square. It used to be a very privileged area, with embassies and foreigners who had privileges; and the Chinese there were submitted to everything. There is a hospital now called the Peking Hospital that used to be a German hospital. But it was not a place people would go for treatment. It was a place where foreign officials went to play cards and smoke opium.

Dr. Kissinger: When did it become a hospital?

Prime Minister Chou: It was always called a hospital.

Dr. Kissinger: But it wasn’t used, was it?

Prime Minister Chou: They used it to cover up their nefarious deeds. And the street that leads to the Soviet Embassy, during the Cultural Revolution the name of the street was changed into Anti-Revisionist Road. And there was a ceremony to celebrate the changing of the name, a ceremony that lasted ten days and a lot of people participated.

Dr. Kissinger: Like what—two million?

Prime Minister Chou: Maybe. (Laughter) But it was very orderly. Something might have happened, but nothing happened. At the beginning of the Cultural Revolution it was very orderly. All the students and youths were very orderly. Later on, because of the bad elements, there was a period of confusion. So you know…if things get out of hand…

Dr. Kissinger: It’s very difficult to keep a revolution in balance.

Prime Minister Chou: And you have to go through many twists and turns, but the good thing is the bad elements get exposed or drop out of their own accord.

Dr. Kissinger: I was always very interested in the study of revolution, and tried to study it, but I don’t know of any other revolution that was led by the government against its bureaucracy.

Prime Minister Chou: Against its bureaucracy, and the people in authority taking the capitalist road, and revisionists. You don’t have time now, but maybe after the election you can get a vacation from your job and come here, and we will talk about these things and you can bring two stenographers.

Dr. Kissinger: After the election actually would be a good time to have more talks.

Prime Minister Chou: Yes, that will depend on your efforts.

Dr. Kissinger: In the election?

Prime Minister Chou: Including that…I had a double meaning. One is that you should make your efforts to get your President re-elected. The [Page 5] second is your efforts to normalize relations between China and the United States. Because if you consistently refuse to normalize relations and then if I follow you at the Palace, the masses will be cursing me—they won’t applaud me when I come if that happens. You understand, of course, the sentiments of the people.

Dr. Kissinger: Oh, yes, but I think we are making major efforts to normalize relations.

Prime Minister Chou: Yes, but they haven’t been enough yet.

[Prime Minister Chou then switched the discussion to the scenery there and in Hangchow.]

* * *

Dr. Kissinger: They [newsmen] have one story that I went straight to the Great Hall of the People and spent three hours with you.

Prime Minister Chou: And also that there were quite a number of Red Flag limousines.

Dr. Kissinger: I know the Soviet Ambassador is probably sitting in my waiting room now.

Prime Minister Chou: He will probably pay a call on you when you return.

Dr. Kissinger: The only question is whether he will be in my office when I return. And if I tell him that there weren’t that many meetings, and no meetings in the middle of the night, he will know there is some devilish plot.

Prime Minister Chou: Yes, probably so, and if you tell him you got a good chance to get some sound sleep, he probably won’t believe you.

Dr. Kissinger: He’d never believe it. I had better confirm everything he’s heard.

* * *

[Page 6]

Dr. Kissinger: I don’t envy anybody in China who is trying to get information you don’t want him to have, and this applies to ambassadors also. Sometimes we see reports that ambassadors stationed here write, and they are fantastic.

Prime Minister Chou: They probably can only do some guesswork and then talk to each other about things that might only exist in their minds.

Dr. Kissinger: Exactly.

Prime Minister Chou: And they take in each other’s information.

Dr. Kissinger: If I don’t appear for a few days they start guessing.

  1. Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Kissinger Office Files, Box 97, Country Files, Far East, China, Dr. Kissinger’s Visit, June 1972 Memcons (Originals). Top Secret; Sensitive; Exclusively Eyes Only. Brackets in the source text. The meeting was held on a boat on a lake at the Summer Palace. No drafting information appears on the memorandum; presumably drafted by either Lord or Howe.
  2. President’s Assistant for National Security Affairs Kissinger and Chinese Premier Chou En-lai discussed foreign intervention in China during the late 19th and early 20th centuries and their hopes for continued normalization of relations.