147. Memorandum From the President’s Assistant for National Security Affairs (Kissinger) to President Nixon, Washington, June 27, 19721 2



  • Henry A. Kissinger


  • My Trip to Peking, June 19-21


June 27, 1972

The Sequence

At a time when we are blockading and bombing China’s socialist ally, and ten days after several transgressions of the PRC’s borders, I had in many respects my most extensive talks ever with Chou En-lai, and our party had in most respects the most cordial reception.

In three working days I held seventeen hours of formal meetings with the Chinese, almost fourteen with Chou and one special two and a half hour session with the next most powerful leader and the top military man, Vice Chairman Yeh Chien-ying. In addition, Chou and I had about six hours of informal, but generally substantive, conversations at two banquets, car rides, and on a boat cruise at the Summer Palace. Others in my party spent four and a half hours with Chinese officials on bilateral matters, such as exchanges and trade.

Briefly our scenario ran as follows:

  • — After dinner on the first night—within an hour of our arrival—Chou came to the Guest House for a general plenary session followed by almost an hour’s private meeting on Vietnam, Japan, US-PRC bilateral contacts, and the agenda for the visit.
  • — On June 20, we toured the Forbidden City in the morning; I spent four hours with Chou at the Great Hall of the People on the Soviet Union and Vietnam; and attended a banquet hosted by Chou where Chou, in front of the top leadership, proposed a toast affirming that normalization of relations would continue.
  • — On June 21, I had almost three hours with Marshal Yeh; talked for three and a half hours with Chou on the Soviet Union and Vietnam again; and attended a performance of the Peking opera with the Foreign Minister.
  • — On June 22, the Minister of Sports guided us through an Athletic Academy; Chou and I discussed the global situation and individual Asian and European problems on a wide scale from mid-afternoon at the Guest House through a cruise and dinner at the Summer Palace; and we held a final two-hour session late in the evening at the Guest House, including Vietnam, miscellaneous other topics and the final announcement.

Both in the variety of subjects covered and the fact that for once Chou stated rather fully Chinese intentions, these talks were broader in scope than on my two previous visits. As indicated above, essentially they fell under three headings:

  • — Vietnam, the only issue that significantly hinders our bilateral relations;
  • — The Soviet Union, China’s main preoccupation and principal motive for moving ahead with us; and
  • — A general assessment of global events, on which it was striking how far the Chinese had moved in the past year from an adversary posture to one which can only be described as tacit ally.

Following are the highlights of our substantive discussion. I am sending you a separate memorandum on the atmospherics of the visit.


This was the predominant issue and was treated in almost all of our discussions. There were three strands that were consistently woven into Chou’s presentations:

  • — The personal sympathy of Chou and other Chinese leaders for the North Vietnamese on revolutionary and historical grounds. The struggle of Ho Chi Minh and his followers obviously strikes a strong emotional response in those who have been fifty years on their Long March.
  • — The political and ideological obligations of the People’s Republic of China to support Hanoi and to make a clear record on, and for, their behalf.
  • — The practical requirements of Chinese national policy which are often inconsistent with the first two elements.

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Chou spoke often and with warmth of his kinship with the suffering North Vietnamese. And he made an extensive record of official support. But the essential fact of his presentations was a hands-off attitude on both military and negotiating questions: China will not intervene directly and will be happy with whatever we and Hanoi can work out at the conference table. And the essential tenor of his verbal support for their allies was unemotional, desultory, almost apologetic at times. Thus the imperatives of PRC national policy so far have kept the personal and ideological impulses in bounds.

Our conversation constituted the first really detailed discussion of Vietnam that we have had with the Chinese. We moved beyond historical recitation and formal positions to rather precise exchanges on a solution to the war and its aftermath.

Chou’s approach provided an interesting contrast with the Soviet technique:

  • — He was more interested in the general outcome and evolution of events in Indochina whereas Brezhnev, and especially Gromyko, concentrated on the tactical questions at the conference table. Chou showed interest in U.S. intentions and regional role after a settlement, while the Russians zeroed in on specific elements of a deal.
  • Chou’s support of Hanoi and criticism of our military actions was much less harsh than the Dacha attacks, although one senses a much greater emotional affinity to the Struggling North Vietnamese on the part of the Chinese revolutionary leaders than the second generation, more “bourgeois” Soviet leadership.
  • Chou showed more understanding of—and asked more questions about—a military solution only, while the Soviets probed hard on political elements.
  • — While both Peking and Moscow are not letting Vietnam block our bilateral relations, I believe the more “principled” Chinese approach means that they will be less willing than the Russians to exert actual pressure on Hanoi to be reasonable.

At the outset of our discussions Chou pursued a discussion of a possible ceasefire. He posed a series of detailed questions concerning the duration of a ceasefire before fighting might resume among the Vietnamese themselves. He was interested in what the US role would be if the conflict erupted again after we had completed our withdrawal.

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Chou went on officially to support the North Vietnamese position that a settlement include political as well as military issues, but he made clear this was their position. He pointedly noted that not even McGovern would be able to replace Thieu. His comments reflected a recognition of the difficult straits in which Hanoi finds itself. He cautioned us not to “corner” the North Vietnamese or try to defeat them. And he somewhat mildly called for an ending of bombing and blockading of the North, saying this would have a beneficial impact on negotiations.

His only real warmth, however, came in his protesting of our alleged recent air intrusions of their territory, i.e., when the PRC is directly challenged. He had charts and photographs to bolster their case that our planes had violated their territory on several occasions and had actually dropped two bombs inside their border on June 10. He went over the detailed plots of our alleged intrusions with us and displayed the navy bomb cannisters that he said were dropped by our planes.

I rejoined by saying that we obviously had no interest in challenging the PRC directly and that any intrusions were unauthorized or accidental. I recounted the various investigations and responses we had made to their delegation and went over the most recent report by Secretary Laird which cited several instances where our findings did not confirm their allegations. In any event, we had instituted new procedures which would create a larger buffer zone from PRC territory for our aircraft and which should have ended these incidents once and for all. Chou confirmed that there had been no intrusions since these procedures took effect on June 12.

In laying out Chinese positions, Chou made clear that he was not issuing any threats. For example, when I asked him whether his reference to the PRC’s “gritting its teeth” implied direct military support, and I warned him about it, he emphasized that the Chinese would not intervene unless directly attacked; he was referring only to making sure supplies reached North Vietnam. At the end of one session, he stressed that if the war persists our two countries must nevertheless continue to attempt to relax tensions. And at another session, he said that there was an impasse and asked what we should do about the Indochina situation. He even agreed with my suggestion that at some point in the future the US might be aiding Hanoi against outside pressures.

Furthermore, at times Chou was somewhat defensive about the Chinese role. He strenuously denied the Chinese had anything to do with the North Vietnamese offensive, or indeed would have advised if it asked, a change I told him we [Page 5] had heard from the Soviets and East Europeans. Marshal Yeh volunteered these points emphatically as well. Chou pointed out that our aid to the GVN greatly exceeded theirs to the DRV. He also indicated that after a settlement, China would reduce military aid to the DRV, e.g., no more provision of MIG-19’s.

Throughout I maintained our general themes that we have been playing with the Chinese: It is the Soviets and the Indians, not the US, that have longterm designs on Southeast Asia; our policies are not those of the 1950’s; you will resolutely pursue your course; we will never make peace by betraying an ally; and a military solution (ceasefire, withdrawal, prisoner release) is the quickest way to end the conflict, leaving the political process to the Vietnamese.

All this culminated in Chou’s closing presentation on Vietnam the last evening, which went as follows:

  • — The US should leave Vietnam and let the Vietnamese solve their problems without outside interference, fighting behind “closed doors.”
  • — The Chinese communists had the courage to live with a ceasefire with Chiang Kai-shek after Japan’s defeat, knowing they would eventually prevail. If China were fighting it would accept your May 8 proposal but China could not impose it on North Vietnam.
  • — A ceasefire that lasted only a month after our withdrawal would be too short. This period could be extended, but the Chinese could not dictate this to their ally, any more than they would fight for them.
  • — The North Vietnamese think a political solution should be part of a settlement; and a tripartite government would have many forces and would not necessarily be communist-controlled or hostile to us.
  • — The PRC would approve the course of action your May 8 speech suggests, i.e., ceasefire, withdrawal, prisoner release and leaving the political solution to the Vietnamese alone. The Chinese understand this policy but Vietnam is reluctant to rely upon it.
  • — The PRC hopes we will solve Vietnam through negotiations, but won’t meddle. It is up to us and Hanoi.

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Thus Chou admitted that our approach to a settlement is reasonable and underlined this by his comments that neither McGovern nor anyone else could actually proceed to overthrow the Thieu Government. But one of his major themes was that North Vietnam could not be expected to have China’s perspective. It is a much smaller country: the two zones of Vietnam have only 30 million people and the twenty-seven year old struggle is their only issue while China, with 750 million people, can wait on the question of Taiwan.

In short, we cannot expect to solve the Vietnam issue in Peking, anymore than we can solve it in Moscow. But our dealings with both capitals are strengthening our hand. For we have two objectives with the Chinese and Russians concerning Vietnam:

  • — As a minimum, their acquiescence in what we are doing, i.e., their willingness to put their other concerns with us above the local concern of their ally.
  • — If possible, their exercise of pressure on Hanoi to come to a reasonable settlement of the war.

We can be reasonably sure that the Chinese will continue to practice the first of these two, though they will remain very sensitive to direct challenges such as border violations or embarrassing them in our public statements. And the visible record of their dealings with us—my visit, the announcements pertaining to it, our front page treatment in the People’s Daily—must deepen the North Vietnamese sense of isolation.

As for the second objective, if Chou talks to North Vietnamese leaders along lines even remotely akin to his presentation to us, this cannot help but add to the cumulative pressures on Hanoi.

The Soviet Union

One cannot exaggerate the Chinese disquiet over the Soviet Union. Chou’s preoccupation with the “new Czars” was a constant theme throughout our conversations, and became increasingly explicit. He punctuated this concern with biting historical references to past Soviet misdeeds, critical descriptions of Soviet intentions and policies, sardonic references to Soviet style. As seen once again from Peking, as from Moscow, the Sino-Soviet rift is deep and almost certainly won’t be mended by the present leaderships.

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Chou’s analysis of Moscow’s motivations was strikingly similar to that of the Shah of Iran. The Soviets are trying to free their rear in Europe so as to outflank us in the Middle East, using the radical Arab states on one side and India on the other. They are spreading into Southeast Asia, not only through their support of Hanoi, but also through Indian policies. All the while they are maintaining their pressures on China’s northern borders. As Marshal Yeh put it, the Soviets are “fanatic expansionists.”

In this context their major potential ally is the United States and both Chou and Marshal Yeh made obvious their desire for the U.S. to maintain unimpaired strength. They asked a series of leading questions on our military posture designed to reassure themselves of our power vis-a-vis the Soviet Union. Thus Chou stressed on a couple of occasions that disarmament is is impossible, that the SALT or other agreements might limit arms in certain fields, but there would be increases in others. He noted that the MIG-21s were of poor quality and that our F-4s were superior. He and the Marshal asked about our nuclear technology, our strategic posture versus Moscow in various categories as a result of SALT, our future deployments in Europe, etc. They wanted to make sure that our nuclear weapons technology remained ahead of that of the Soviets, that our overall defense position would counter the Russians, that MBFR would not go too far, etc. Chou openly admired Laird’s outspokenness on the need for a strong defense, making that point several times.

Chou’s presentations were sprinkled with cynical comments on the Soviet Union:

  • — The Soviets had made certain feelers toward Peking for better relations, but Peking was rejecting them. The Sino-Soviet border talks were getting nowhere; after three years the Russians wouldn’t even agree to codify agreed-upon working principles.
  • — The Chinese would never borrow from Moscow again.
  • — When dealing with the Soviets, one should have documents carefully prepared ahead of time.
  • — In contrast to Peking’s restraint, Moscow was heaping abuse on the PRC for dealing with the U.S. while the Vietnam war continued. It was clear that the Soviets wouldn’t attempt to get supplies to the DRV (i.e., through our blockade).
  • — The Soviet Union always wants to exceed the U.S. in military terms. Under the present leadership they would never agree to cut back armaments.
  • Chou was content to hear (from me) that the Soviets disliked him and were fast moving him up in their pantheon of enemies.
  • — There was no question of the existence of Soviet global ambitions. The question was whether and how these would be manifested. The PRC would continue to watch developments closely.

My basic approach was to play the ominous Soviet themes and emphasize that a strong U.S. and developing U.S.-PRC ties were the best antidotes. At the same time I left no doubt that we would continue to make agreements with Moscow that served our national interests.

I described at length our moves with Moscow since last July, with particular emphasis on my April trip, your Summit, and the various bilateral agreements we have signed. I emphasized our constant themes with the PRC, such as not joining in any agreements that might be directed against them, keeping them fully informed, and being willing to conclude any agreements with them that we do with Moscow. The Soviet strategy had been to accelerate agreements with us since last July in order, to put pressure on the PRC; in this regard I emphasized the value to the PRC of increasing its bilateral contacts in trade and exchanges with us. We will conclude agreements with Moscow in the hope of influencing them towards a peaceful route; if they turned aggressive, we would not let our agreements stop us from countering them.

Above all, I made clear your determination to maintain a strong defense and our willingness to use it if necessary to deflect pressures brought to bear on the PRC. I recalled your tough, risky moves against Moscow in last December’s South Asian crisis. As for nuclear weapons, we could not rule out first use, because there were at least two situations where they might be needed. Chou pointedly asked what these were, and I replied that I was referring to an attack on Europe or one in Asia that threatened basic forces there (i.e. the PRC). My elliptic comment was not lost upon him.

Chou repeated that they favored a relaxation of tensions between the USSR and us. I suspect this is for the record and for his pride, because in practice he is doubtful about every concrete manifestation. He indicated doubts about the European detente and concern about our credits being the [Page 9] one way the strained Soviet economy could fuel their arms buildup. He was repeatedly critical of McGovern, his obvious displeasure being keyed to the Senator’s intention to cut the defense budget by one-third; I carefully infomed him that while such a course would be disastrous, the Senator was nevertheless likely to try and carry it out. Chou Made clear that such weakening of our defense was not only impossible to implement but dangerous in its implications for the world and the PRC.

In short, Chou made no attempt to hide the Chinese preoccupation with Moscow. In this respect too, his statements have strikingly evolved since last July when this theme was generally kept below the surface. The Chinese will continue to maintain that they can take care of themselves. But their dealings with us and their obvious recognition that only a strong United States is of use to them, make clear that they welcome, indeed seek, the balance we provide.

Global Survey

For whatever reasons, the Chinese stands on various countries and regions around the world have become similar to ours in many respects. They show a much greater comprehension of the complexity of the global situation. They have come to accept our rationale and many of our assessments, and they recognize the need for joint efforts to stabilize such areas as Japan, Korea and Southeast Asia.

The overriding Chinese concern with the Soviet Union clearly colors their world outlook. They are tyring to build walls around the Soviet Union. They seek major leverage with Moscow by dealing with us. On the Soviet’s western flank they will encourage a united Europe as a counterweight to the Soviet Union and are trying to increase their own influence in Europe as well. They will probably move with Japan in the east. To the south they are trying to contain India by supporting an independent Pakistan.

In this regard Chou brought up European questions on several occasions. He believed that collectively Europe represented great potential power, but it would need strong leadership. Thus he confirmed that the PRC has changed its tack and will support the EEC and other forms of European unity.

Chou placed great stress on our maintaining our forces in Europe. He agreed with my judgment that, under your Administration, we would not substantially [Page 10] withdraw forces from Europe over the next five years. Again returning to the opposition, he said that the Democrats wouldn’t be able to withdraw our troops from Europe if they gained power. He expressed concern that mutual and balanced force reductions might go too far—I told him that I doubted they would exceed 10%-15% in the near term.

The PRC is also engaged in a deliberate strategy of giving Western European leaders the option of another communist country to deal with other than the Soviet Union. Thus Schroeder, Schuman, and Home are all coming to the PRC this year. He asked my advice at some length on how to deal with these men and requested that I tell Schroeder to speak candidly to him. Chou was especially interested in Germany and obviously hooped it would provide an effective balance to the USSR in the future. He did not want to entertain the prospect (which I held out as a possibility of West Germany’s becoming “Finlandized,” i.e. beholden to Moscow on international and even internal policies. He thought (and wished) that the basic German drive would make that nation a force to be reckoned with. As for East Germany, however, he briskly dismissed it as already being a dependency of Moscow. Chou also was skeptical (and unhappy) with my view that there were no strong leaders on the horizon in Germany. He shared my admiration for Adenauer, and recalled that Chairman Mao had once noted Adenauer’s prescient prediction of better U.S.-PRC relations.

From these talks it is obvious that we will have to treat the PRC carefully with regard to our European policy. Progress toward detente on Moscow’s western front cannot please the PRC; our task in Peking is to make sure the Chinese do not suspect our motives as we contribute to this detente.

With respect to Japan, Chinese views have greatly changed from what I heard last summer and fall and you heard, to a lesser extent, in February. I believe our presentations on this area have had their impact.

Chou used to lecture us on the dangers of Japanese militarism and the undesirability of our Mutual Security Treaty. We have pointed out that the latter was the best check on the former. This time Chou did not question this perspective and did not challenge the treaty. He confined himself to inquiring whether the post-Sato leadership might want to amend the treaty; and he specifically attacked any U.S.-Japanese responsibilities for the defense of Taiwan. (Incidentally, this was one of very few references to the Taiwan issue.)

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Chou acknowledged my view that Japan was moving out in four ways: with the USSR, through Siberian development; in Southeast Asia, through its economic aggressiveness; with us, through our traditional ties; and with the PRC. He agreed that the Japanese are volatile and that neither the PRC nor we should try to inflame the situation in our dealings with Tokyo. I believe Chou appreciated the themes I struck in Japan, i.e. that we favor Sino-Japanese normalization and that we are not encouraging a Japanese military role. But I was careful not to give him too much reassurance about Tokyo’s future intentions.

In saying that we did not object to better relations between Tokyo and Peking, I emphasized that both the U.S. and PRC must show restraint vis-a-vis the Japanese. If we were to compete in Japan, the U.S. would win out in the short-term, but the eventual result would be increased nationalism. We had to keep that country in emotional balance. Chou did not demur; he stated that Japan is at a crossroads and has not decided on its future course.

Chou’s views have evolved on Korea as well. Although he maintained the principle of U.S. withdrawal, he indicated that we should keep our troops there for some time in order to keep out Japanese forces. I said that Korea was one area where Japan felt clear security implications; an aggressive North Korea was likely to stir Japanese involvement in the peninsula.

Chou and I agreed that increasing contacts between the two Koreas was a positive development and that we both should restrain our partners. He said that unification of the two Koreas should be peaceful and would take time. Despite my suggestion that we avoid public debate so as not to poison the atmosphere, between the Koreas and between the PRC and ourselves, Chou made it clear that they would push the Korean issue and the abolition of UNCURK in the UN this fall. Accordingly, I think we can expect some “cannons of rhetoric” in New York on this question.

Even in Southeast Asia, our greatest present friction point, Chou painted the possibility of converging U.S.-PRC interests. He indicated the need for tacit cooperation to counter Moscow’s and New Delhi’s pressures. Chou saw some encouraging longer-run signs such as the recent ASPAC meeting in Korea which welcomed your moves toward the PRC and suggested a willingness to break out of a narrow ideological posture. Chou urged a buffer zone of neutrality and relaxed tensions in the region; if the U.S. and PRC showed restraint and opposed outside intervention it would be difficult for other powers to intrude with outside influence. His basic [Page 12] pitch was that the Vietnam war remains the “single knot” in the region. It affects many other issues - the turmoil in Southeast Asia itself, Taiwan, Korean tensions, the future of Japan. If we could just untie this knot, he implied our two countries could play a constructive role in encouraging and safeguading a Southeast Asian zone of neutrality and independence.

I replied that we were not opposed to the concept of neutrality over the long run but the reality of this concept was crucial. There must be safeguards against hegemonial designs.

South Asia is the area where U.S. and PRC interests have been parallel since last July. The Chinese dislike for India ranks only behind the Soviet Union. While Peking cannot fear New Delhi per se, it is apprehensive about its being used as a tool of Soviet encirclement. This accounts for its consistent support of conservative military regimes in Islamabad and its opposition to Bangladesh independence where one might have expected a Chinese ideological affinity.

The U.S.-PRC convergence of interests in the subcontinent was reconfirmed in our conversations. I pointedly recalled your strong actions versus Moscow last fall when you risked a major confrontation to save West Pakistan. When I mentioned that we had expected military moves by the PRC, Chou was somewhat defensive, pointing out that poor Pakistani military strategy had crumpled East Pakistan before any outside help would have done any good. He noted that Yahya had dispersed his forces too thinly; and he revealed that two divisions of Chinese military equipment had been lost without a fight.

Against this background, Chou agreed with our view that an independent Pakistan should be supported against Indian pressures, absorbing New Delhi’s energy in the subcontinent so it couldn’t expand into Southeast Asia. New Delhi was meddling in such areas as Nepal and Ceylon, Chou said. He said that the Indians were putting out feelers for better relations which the PRC would ignore. The PRC will maintain its military aid to Islamabad; he said they could give more once the Indochina was was over. They will go very slowly on Bangladesh recognition, but saw advantages in our diplomatic relations so as not to leave the field free to Moscow and New Delhi.

I reiterated the theme of the extension of Soviet influence through New Delhi. We had and would continue to supply economic aid but because of [Page 13] Congressional problems looked to the PRC for military aid. I noted our efforts with Iran and Turkey to the same end, which Chou approved. Under your Administration, I said, our policy toward Pakistan would continue. In addition we would honor our commitments to Iran and Turkey and would welcome better relations with Ceylon (Mrs. Bandaranaike was due in Peking June 24).

In sum, I see no early change in the PRC’s policy toward South Asia. The one place that will bear watching, however, is Bangladesh,where the Chinese might ferment trouble against the present rulers.

Bilateral Contacts

There were also counterpart talks relating to bilateral exchanges and trade, conducted on our side by a State Department representative and members of the NSC staff. I set the stage for these discussions in my first meeting with Chou where I noted the Soviet strategy of signing the maximum number of agreements with us, as well as pursuing encirclement of the PRC. It was in both sides’ interest to step up U.S.-PRC contacts in order to show increasing mutual stakes in our relationship (and in their case to lessen their isolation).

At the counterpart meetings our side stated that sustained momentum in exchanges and trade, in the spirit and substance of the Shanghai Communique, would serve both countries’ interest; we were not interested in this for domestic political reasons or for the intrinsic economic value but rather because of the political and psychological dimension. We were flexible on mechanisms, but visibility was important because the American people had to be conditioned to dealings with the PRC for us to be able to take more fundamental steps at some future time.

The Chinese expressed appreciation for both the substance and the spirit of our presentation. They assured us they wanted steady movement, but it would have to be gradual at first because of their limitations both in experience and in competent personnel. Remaining political problems prevented use of certain types of mechanisms during our present stage of transition. Some exchange proposals which we made could be implemented in the near future but others would take longer. Exchanges in sports were easy. They were considering sending medical generalists and other scientists to the U.S., and, recalling your offer to Chou, cancer research was of particular interest. There were possibilities also in the fields of [Page 14] environmental control, meterology, agriculture, marine science and chemistry.

The Chinese emphasized that they wanted to avoid “accidents” in our developing relations as much as we did; thus the two governments should keep each other informed on visits of significance. They prefer to, continue direct contact with specific organizations in line with the “people-topeople” emphasis, but agreed to a helpful “sideline” role for facilitating organizations having the confidence of the U.S. Government as well as use of the Paris channel, and Washington. They assured us that their Ambassador to France, Huang Chen, who was present at social occasions, will return to Paris in July after French Foreign Minister Schuman’s visit to the PRC.

While we suggested mechanisms such as joint commissions, so as to afford greater coordination of exchanges and trade-related problems, the Chinese for political reasons are unwilling during this “transitional stage” to go that far. They want to play up the people-to-people theme, but they are now more impressed with the importance of fairly close governmental supervision. I think we can expect steady, if unspectacular, progress in implementing these aspects of the Shanghai Communique.

The American Scene

At the closing session I made our standard low-key pitch on the American prisoner, Downey. I asked for clemency, especially in view of his mother’s advanced age, while not disputing the justice of the case. Chou recalled your appeal and once again took note of our approach. He then sent out for word on Downey’s condition, and we were later informed that he is in “Good health and good spirits; no chronic diseases.” (I am calling his family.)

Chou showed considerable interest in our domestic scene; indeed he lingered on in the last evening meeting with inquiries on various American personalities and forces. Chou was never offensive, and his curosity provided me openings to make several useful points. These included repeated assurances that you would easily win reelection; that McGovern’s base was inherently limited; that other countries (including the PRC) should not meddle in our internal affairs; that we would like to see the Chinese continue their practice of not inviting opposition candidates to the PRC; that it would be helpful to keep the rhetoric down at the UN this fall; and that the conservative wings [Page 15] of the two U.S. political parties still represented a potent anti-communist force if they ever linked up.


The conversations were extremely relaxed and candid. At times Chou was asking advice in a manner that we wouldn’t even expect our allies to do. The Chinese clearly put a higher priority on their national concerns, especially over the Soviet Union, and their implications for their global policy, than their ideological brotherhood with Hanoi. However, the personal and fraternal loyalties make for sensitive nerves; we will have to be careful not to challenge Peking too directly on this issue, either with our planes or our pronouncements.

It is also abundantly clear that the PRC does not make policy on sentimental grounds. They need us. But if they become convinced that we cannot deliver what they want—a resolute counter to Moscow in strength and will—they could turn brutally against us. They would make a formidable opponent.

There are danger points. Vietnam could still get out of hand. Chou noted, for example, that Chairman Mao had ordered that their protests over intrusions be kept private so as to minimize frictions. However, the next incident would be considered a “political matter” and would be publicized. In addition, the Taiwan question might not move fast enough for them, their restraint to date notwithstanding. Incidents which seem minor to us can loom large in their perspective. A case in point is the reference to both the “People’s Republic of China” and the “Republic of China” on one page of your article in “U.S. News and World Report.” This smacks of a two-China policy to Peking, and Chou referred to the article on three or four separate occasions. A similar note was struck in their request that we change the Intelsat directory which now lists two Chinas.

Such concerns presumably prompted an interjection by Chou while we were cruising on a boat at the Summer Palace the last evening. Having just indicated an interest in my returning to the PRC, he suddenly stated that we would have “to make efforts” before such a visit were feasible. In response to my question that, he said that he meant we would have to do more to normalize our relations. This rather somber note frankly jarred with the mood of the overall visit. I take it as Chou’s reminder, which we hardly need, that we cannot take for granted their patience on fundamental issues.

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In sum, the trip was extremely useful. These direct talks with Chou are the only way really to get a feel for Chinese perspectives, intentions, and policies. Similarly, they are the only means to give him your authoritative views. We now have a better mutual appreciation of each other’s global strategy as well as tactical moves. We manageed somewhat to defuse Vietnam, where our intrusions were beginning to get under their political skin. We deepened Hanoi’s paranoia and isolation by the fact of my visit and the June 24 announcement which talks of the “usefulness” of these contacts and the “desirability” of continuing them. We have hopefully imparted some additional momentum to our exchange programs and trade. And by striking a businesslike, but not effusive tone, we have helped to keep the pressure on Moscow without alienating the Soviet Union or shocking Japan or panicking Taiwan.

  1. Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Kissinger Office Files, Box 97, Country Files, Far East, China-Dr. Kissinger’s June 1972 Visit. Top Secret; Sensitive; Exclusively Eyes Only. Sent for information. A notation on the memorandum indicates the President saw it. On page one President Nixon wrote “Superb job-Covers all the bases with expert Tactics.” On page 4, after Kissinger noted Chou’s denial that China had been involved in the recent North Vietnamese offensive, the President wrote: “He may be telling the truth. However it was in his interest to stop the Soviet Summit if possible.” On page 8, regarding Kissinger’s declaration that the U.S. would not rule out first use of nuclear weapons, the President noted: “K-The renunciation of use by Soviet & U.S. will send him up the wall.” On page 10, regarding the projected 10-15 percent Mutual and Balanced Force Reductions (MBFR), the President wrote: “a necessary limit.”
  2. Kissinger provided a summary of his recent discussions with Chinese Premier Chou En-lai, terming them “my most extensive talks ever” with the Chinese leader. Vietnam, the Soviet Union, and various global issues constituted the broad outlines of these discussions.