29. Memorandum for the Record, Paris, October 2, 19711 2

4 October 1971


As agreed at our meeting on September 29, 1971, I proceeded on 2 October to the Chinese Embassy Residence in Neuilly and was met as usual by Wei and Tsao and ushered into the living room where we were joined almost immediately by Ambassador Huang. He looked at me quizzically and said, “Shall we talk or do business first?” I said that I was his guest and would do as he wished. He said that in China they always acceded to the guest’s wishes. I then said that Americans were generally direct and I would do business first. He was obviously anxious to know what I had to say. I then read the oral note to him contained in my written instructions regarding the President and Dr. Kissinger’s talks with Soviet Foreign Minister Gromyko as well as the fact that Dr. Kissinger would be prepared to give Prime Minister Chou En-lai a rundown on these. I then informed him concerning the Soviet invitation to the President. He nodded without comment and asked to make sure that this visit would not take place before the President’s visit to China. I assured him that this was the case, as Dr. Kissinger had told him previously. He seemed pleased.

Food was then brought in. First, stuffed pastries, stuffed round patties, fried shrimp and, finally, soup. Large quantities of all of these were heaped on my plate at regular intervals. All of this was washed down with a perfumed red wine and a colorless liquid that must have been related to 110 octane gas. Inasmuch as the smell of shrimp alone nauseates me, I had to drown it in soy sauce. He noted approvingly that I could eat with chopsticks. Each sip of the colorless liquid gave me the impression that the lining of my throat had been removed but then, unfortunately, the fishiness of the shrimp proved that this was not the case. I was very cautious with the strong beverage, raising it many times to my lips but drinking very little, both to avoid getting drunk and to save my alimentary tract. There was long chit chat about Chinese cooking at those times when I could speak.

Ambassador Huang told me he was from Peking and had been on the long March to Yenan. He had known Chairman Mao for forty years. In return I confided to him that when I had read him our oral note, it was the first time in my life I had told a non-American the contents of a Top Secret paper. He slapped me on the back and said that they too would keep it top secret. He then said that he was a soldier who [Page 2] had fought for his country for many years but he had come to the conclusion that we must coexist together peacefully despite the differences in our social systems. The American people and the Chinese people were both great peoples each seeking their happiness in their own way.

The Ambassador then asked what I thought of the Soviet invitation that Gromyko would certainly convey to the President. I said that I was not a diplomat but that it was ironic that they came in with it after the Chinese invitation. He then said that the Soviets were pragmatic and selfish. They did things only when they thought they were in their own self interest, but the Russian people were a good and great people who had warm fraternal sentiments towards the Chinese people. (I did not disabuse him.)

He then said that the visit of Chinese Foreign Trade Minister Pai was going well. Trade and cultural relations with France were growing. He commented, however, that Mr. Pompidou had not been as well briefed on China as he should. The French President had overestimated China’s population by a hundred million. It was only 750 million, not 850 as Mr. Pompidou had said.

He then came back to plane, travel time and commented that it only took 7 hours to the U.S. but 22 hours to Peking. He added wryly that it was six hours shorter via Moscow but then you had to go to Moscow.

The Ambassador then said that he had had 1700 people to the Oct 1 reception at the Chinese Embassy the day before. He had invited them in two sets—1730 to 1930 and 1930 to 2130.

I then told him that with Dr. Kissinger there would be Winston Lord (he remembered him), a middle level State Dept official, and two secretaries. I hoped to have these names and passports for him later. He then commented that I was not going with Dr. Kissinger. He hoped I would go with the President or after that. I thanked him.

I explained that in our country for things like these visits we needed time for preparations and had to work under the searchlight of the press. He nodded, I felt, compassionately. I then asked if I should interpret the Chinese view as agreement with the lists I had presented. He said he would let me know.

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He then asked me whether the U.S. would announce an invitation from Gromyko and, if so, when. I said that I presumed it would eventually be announced but I really did not know when. He then said he was sure all such details would be worked out between Dr. Kissinger and the Prime Minister during the former’s visit to China.

Ambassador Huang then commented that Mr. Nixon was a courageous man. It had taken courage to open the dialogue with China. I agreed and said that I personally had had first hand knowledge of the President’s courage. I had been with him in the car in Caracas in 1957 when the car had been attacked by demonstrators and was left without police protection. Mr. Nixon had told the Secret Service agent who wanted to use his pistol, “Put that back in your pocket. When they drag me out of the car, then if I tell you, but only if I tell you can you use it.” Then I cited an incident in Rome last year when the President had stopped his car and gotten out to take a petition from a man who had nearly fallen under the car, even though this man might have had hostile intent. The Italian crowd had seen the President’s gesture and cheered. He nodded approvingly and said that this courage on the President’s part did not surprise him. (I told both stories in more detail than is recorded here.)

Ambassador Huang then asked me when I expected to leave Paris. I said that I had been due to leave Paris some time ago but now probably would remain for some time. He said that he hoped so as I had helped open a door that had been shut for many years. Whenever I left, he hoped relations between our countries would have been normalized as he wished to give a dinner for me, a real dinner, what we had just had was just a “tea.” I thanked him saying that I would fast for ten days before the dinner. He liked this.

I was seen out in the usual sequence with a squeeze of the arm and a number of friendly taps from the Ambassador. He spoke more frankly on political matters at this meeting than any other I can recollect. He promised to communicate further with me when he received additional messages.

The lunch and talk lasted almost two hours. It was my eleventh meeting with them.

Major General, USA
  1. Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Box 849, President’s File-China Trip, China Exchanges, July 1971-Oct 20, 1971. Secret; Sensitive; Exclusively Eyes Only. Drafted by Walters on October 4. The lunchtime meeting was held at Chen’s residence in Neuilly. The precise time of the conversation is not indicated on the memorandum.
  2. Military Attaché Walters orally delivered a message to Chinese Ambassador to France Huang Chen regarding President Nixon and his Assistant for National Security Affairs Kissinger’s meeting with Soviet Foreign Minister Gromyko and Gromyko’s probable invitation for Nixon to visit the Soviet Union. The two also discussed the probability of a trip by Nixon to China and Nixon’s personal and political courageousness.