23. Memorandum of Conversation, Paris, September 3, 1971, 11 a.m.1 2

On September 3, 1971 in pursuance of instructions received during the night, I called at the Chinese Embassy in Paris at 1100. As usual I was received at the gate by Wei, (dressed for the first time in Mao uniform with Red Mao badge with profile in gold of the great one), and at the entrance to the building by Tsao. I was led into the living room and after about two minutes Ambassador Huang Chen joined us. On the table there was the inevitable jasmine tea, preserved apples and Lichee nuts.

I then delivered my message regarding the forthcoming negotiations between the Soviet Union and ourselves in an effort to reach an agreement to prevent incidents at sea. I said this was desirable because of the proximity of Soviet ships to ours. The Ambassador grinned and said he hoped that there would be no collisions. I said that I understood that this was the purpose of the forthcoming negotiations. He then asked at what level the negotiations would be held and I replied that I did not know (which was not true) but my personal guess was that it would be at Asst Secretary of the Navy level.

The Ambassador then abruptly brought up the population problem, saying that Khruschev had once said that a Czechoslovakia (17 million) was born every year in China. The Chinese felt this could be a problem and were endeavoring by education, not coercion to reduce their birth rate. This was difficult to do in a country where large families had always been considered desirable. Still their efforts had borne fruit and the population increase was down to about 10 million a year.

Amb. Huang Chen then pressed more tea and preserved apples on me, and asked whether I had seen the French television show on Chinese anaesthesia by acupuncture (needles). I said that I had and he added that this was a great Chinese dicovery that would be of benefit to all humanity. About two years ago they had discovered that it was possible to anaesthetize in this way thus avoiding the shock of anaesthesia by conventional means that was often dangerous to patients with heart trouble. This technique was now widely practiced throughout China, at least in the great cities like Shanghai and Canton. The Chinese had made another great discovery recently and this was the cure of polio victims through acupuncture. We had found a vaccine but they had discovered a cure which enables victims to walk again. What a difference this would have made to President Franklin Roosevelt who had had great prestige throughout the world. He then said that James Reston had written very objectively about his stay in China. I asked “about everything?” He grinned and said “At least about his medical treatment.” He then said that the Chinese were quite prepared to exchange these techniques for others developed by the United States and other countries for the benefit of mankind.

They were grateful for the news I brought, though not effusively so. This time there was no trace of the embarrassment that I had noted on my last call on them. This time I again noted strongly the desire to keep me as long as possible. The atmosphere could not have been more cordial. The Ambassador said I would have a chance to see all this when I went to China. He said that he had already transmitted to Peking the messages I had previously given him and as soon as he had an answer he would be in touch with me. They took careful notes while I was delivering the message about the negotiations, but took no notes during the subsequent chit chat.

After 4 cups of Jasmine tea, three slices of preserved apples and no lichee nuts. I was most cordially escorted by all to the door.

  1. Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Box 849, President’s File-China Trip, China Exchanges, July 1971-Oct 20, 1971. A handwritten notation reads: “Secret/Sensitive.” The meeting was held at the Chinese Embassy.
  2. Military Attaché Walters and Chinese Ambassador to France Huang Chen discussed the negotiations between the Soviet Union and the United States aimed at preventing incidents at sea.