51. Memorandum of Conversation, Beijing, October 24, 1971, 10:28 a.m.-1:55 p.m.1 2

[Page 1]



  • Prime Minister Chou En-lai, People’s Republic of China
  • Chi P’eng-fei, Acting PRC Foreign Minister
  • Hsuing Hsiang-hui, Secretary to the Prime Minister
  • Tang Wen-sheng and Chi Chao-chu, Chinese Interpreters
  • Notetaker
  • Dr. Henry A. Kissinger, Assistant to the President for National Security Affairs
  • Winston Lord, Senior Staff Member, NSC

PLACE: Government Guest House, Peking

DATE & TIME: October 24, 1971, 10:28 a.m. - 1:55 p.m.


  • General Philosophy and Principles, Communique
  • Dr. Kissinger: You can make decisions by a 2/3 vote.
  • PM Chou: That will not be done.

Dr. Kissinger: One point about the visit I would like to bring to the Prime Minister’s attention. The Prime Minister may be aware of the fact that he (the President) will announce another statement about Vietnam around the 15th of November on troop withdrawals.

PM Chou: We heard about such an announcement before but nothing recently.

Dr. Kissinger: The statement will probably be made around November 8. We have not yet told our Cabinet.

[Page 2]

PM Chou: Before it was to be held the 15th of November and now it will be before that, around the 8th or 10th?

Dr. Kissinger: About the 8th; we are not certain yet. That’s why we wanted the announcement about the visit around the 20th, so that the two wouldn’t seem related.

PM Chou: As for the announcement on withdrawal from Vietnam, that has been decided also?

Dr. Kissinger: It will be another increment.

PM Chou: It is not an announcement for the final date for total withdrawal.

Dr. Kissinger: We are hoping to negotiate that on the 1st or 8th, as I told the Prime Minister.

PM Chou: The 1st or 8th.

Dr. Kissinger: We have suggested the first, and I have been told that we will receive word whether the 1st or 8th is acceptable.

PM Chou: You mean that if an agreement is reached in your meeting about the total withdrawal of United States troops in Vietnam, then the President will announce that but if not, he will anyway announce a number of troops from Vietnam?

Dr. Kissinger: Yes. I do not believe we can settle negotiations by November 8, but it is my judgment that if negotiations can succeed at all they should do so before the end of this year.

PM Chou: We hope that you will be able to succeed in the talks.

Dr. Kissinger: So do we.

PM Chou: It’s a most urgent issue relating to easing tensions in the Far East.

Dr. Kissinger: We understand.

[Page 3]

PM Chou: After you gave us the draft communique for the President’s visit, we thought of various ways of dealing with it. One is to give you our draft. But there was also another idea because according to your original draft communique we saw you tried your best to speak in general terms and use as much common terms as possible. On the concrete matters you only dealt with bilateral relations, and you left off other items for the development of events.

During your President’s visit, as I have said, we believe the main talks will be with Chairman Mao Tsetung. And as for what you put in your draft communique on the exchange of views between Chairman Mao Tsetung and President Nixon and the explanation of their stands and points of view, and as you put in your draft communique on world affairs too, that will have to be left to be seen. In this aspect the two leaders have not yet met and have not had contact yet either.

As for between us two, there have been a lot of exchanges both on your last visit and your present visit. And there is no question that no doubt on the matter of specific issues we have both made an exposition of our own points of view and stated our own positions. Of course, we have also found some common ground.

Therefore, the result is that our ideas regarding the joint communique for the President’s visit is different from yours, opposite. We would like to put forward a position on specific issues. As for the general exposition of our views on international affairs and the international situation, and our stand and views and so on, if these are to be written in a joint communique then there is the question that the leaders, that is Chairman Mao Tsetung and President Nixon, have not met. But we can think of some possibilities now.

So after going back yesterday and studying your draft and also after reporting to Mao Tsetung, we feel there are difficulties in drafting such a communique at the present time. For instance, in your original draft there also were some general principles. In your draft we found there were some general principles and in this aspect we found you tried to put in common points, but we found that in reality there were some points in which we would not agree.

[Page 4]

And we also found that there were some points in the draft communique, in the part on general principles, that we think when President Nixon comes to visit China he will have quite full discussions with Chairman Mao Tsetung on. During your previous visit I said something in regard to these aspects, but during this visit I have not said much about it.

Dr. Kissinger: What aspects?

PM Chou: The general approach to the international situation. (Kissinger nods) You used of course some of our terms, but the prospects for the future and the explanations for these terms are, of course, entirely different. Of course, in your draft you also used some of our terms, that is that “turmoil still exists in many parts of the world,” and that “the danger of military conflict remains.” But not only the danger of military conflict, but military conflict and wars exist in the world today. And your way of resolving this is to do it in accordance with general principles which you enumerate in the draft, to take steps to eliminate their causes, that is the causes of military conflict and turmoil. Last time when we met I mentioned that point, that there is great chaos in the world.

Dr. Kissinger: I remember very well.

PM Chou: And that since the Second World War local and regional wars have not ceased, and especially in the Far East, the situation in the Far East proves the situation. Why are there differences in our views in relation to this matter? Last time after you left, President Nixon made a statement in which he admitted the changes in the world. That is, before you came last time, your President made a statement in which he admitted changes in the world, and before you came this time, he made another speech in which he reiterated his views in his inauguration speech on a “generation of peace.”

What is the real situation? What does a generation of peace mean? Maybe it is like what Dr. Kissinger wrote about in a certain book which we know you are interested in, and that is the span of time of peace by Metternich. Of course, we notice you have not mentioned this for a long time. But that has made me go back to review the history of the French Revolution and the history of the American War of Independence. [Page 5] That was a time of great revolutions when feudal rulers were being swept away and the world was entering a time of bourgeois democracy. Of course, you are all very familiar with the American War of Independence. In that time three million soldiers in the United States under Washington resisted the British colonial policy and embarked on a war of independence. The war lasted eight years, and those were pioneers in independence, although the British at that time had a great empire and the sun never set on the British flag. At that time the British Empire was most proud, believing itself in a Victorian Age.

At that time there was only one country, France, and not even the strength of the whole country of France but only the part with Layfayette, who went to the United States to assist the revolution. And it was only because of this war of revolution that the United States made such great strides towards development in the 20th Century. Of course there was the Civil War which was before the developments of the 20th Century. This proves that a minority can be victorious over the majority and the weak over the strong and the little over the big.

But the present population of Cambodia is even more than the population of the United States in Washington’s time, three million only. Why was it possible for the Americans in that time to be victorious? Because there was a new emerging force. And it applied tactics that were of a guerrilla style, which we mentioned last time. We mentioned last time that it was George Washington who had initial guerrilla warfare. Chairman Mao and the Vietnamese people had not appeared then. The Americans were the first to employ guerrilla warfare and be victorious in it, and this is a very good lesson to the people of the world.

We know that you wish that your President continue to be President of the United States to preside over the 200th Anniversary of America. If it should be said by a President that it was not easy for Washington at that time to win victory, and this is worth the pride of the people of America, then the many people in the world at present who wish to win liberation could also win on that example, to rely on one’s strength. There is no reason why you should say it should not be done; and they should be supported. The last instance was the French Revolution.

[Page 6]

The American Revolution was a war against colonialism while the French Revolution was against the oppressors of that time. The present national day of France is exactly the day when the Bastille —

Dr. Kissinger: I know.

PM Chou: During which the domestic oppressive rulers were over thrown. At that time Louis the XVI had strong military forces. The strength of the revolutionary fighters came from all parts of the country including the south, and their weapons were backward, but the result was that the Bastille was stormed successfully, that was on July 14, 1789. The results were great victories that began the French Revolution. And although during his later days Napoleon restored the Empire and met defeat following that on the battlefields of Spain and Moscow, the great victories of the French Revolution have become a brilliant page of victory in history.

And these two examples have been two examples acknowledged by all in regard to the history of the peoples of the world to win independence, not to mention the victories of the Paris Commune and the October revolution which furthered victories for the peoples of the world. But I only speak of the first two examples, of bourgeois revolutions, one against foreign aggression and the other against domestic oppression. Was Metternich able to obstruct all these developments? To speak of the factor of time, Metternich, we think, was only to maintain the role, indeed able to maintain office, for only 39 years. I’m not speaking of the time as Foreign Minister. As Prime Minister his period was only 27 years. He organized the Holly Alliance after the collapse of the Napoleonic Empire. From 1815 he began the Holy Alliance. The main three components of the Holy Alliance were Austria, Prussia and Russia. The great majority of all the feudal countries of Europe of that time joined in that Holy Alliance.

But by 1830 revolutions in Europe had begun to arise and the Holy Alliance in Europe had started to crumble. So by the time of 1848 revolutions in Europe had risen up in a great degree to effect the complete disintegration of the Holy Alliance.

No matter whether it was maintained for 15 years or 33 years, it was not able to destruct (obstruct) the development of revolution in Europe. It was the revolutions that promoted the progress in Europe. The result was [Page 7] that the western countries, in comparison to countries in the east, were able to make great progress in that era, while the Holy Alliance maintained by Metternich was only able to remain for 15 - 33 years. Of course, that may also be considered a generation of peace, but that peace was not dependable because the times were advancing.

As we are now discussing the present situation I would say that the turmoil in the world today was greater than after the collapse of Napoleon’s Empire and after the French Revolution. That time it was only Europe. Of course, at that time Metternich by his policies had attempted to oppress the revolutions in Latin America to an extent, but now the turmoil is of a major character. At the present time, it is not only the people of Europe but Asia, Africa, Japan and America itself that have reason to ask for reform.

One instance that is different from that time—there are now nuclear weapons that didn’t exist at that time, but nuclear weapons cannot be called an isolated era in itself. But isn’t it the era of the people? Because without people nothing can be accomplished, and now hundreds of millions upon millions of people are awakening.

This awakening consciousness of the people is promoting changes in the world, or we might call it turmoil. And the oppressed nations, no matter where they may be, wish to win liberation as the American people did during its independence war. While the local strength is weak, they will inevitably become strong. For instance, how can it be conceived that the people in Angola, Mozambique, South Africa and Southwest Africa and Namibia are being enslaved and cannot win while the others’ forces have the backing of NATO? But these people are bound to win liberation as the American people won several years ago.

That is not to mention other countries in Asia, Africa, and Latin America in which nations are oppressed and submerged and their internal affairs interfered in. There the current of national liberation cannot be obstructed. It is also true that such liberation must be won by the people of that place and not by foreign forces. Although Layfayette assisted with a small force the American people won the war of independence through their own efforts. Of course, there was great moral support but the American people relied mainly on direct struggle. That is one current.

[Page 8]

Another international current is the struggle against domestic oppressors, like the French people who opposed Louis the XVI at that time because while there is oppression there will be the struggle against oppression. Just like the French people, who had very poor weapons, were able to storm successfully the Bastille which was defended by armies of Louis the XVI who had strong weapons.

And for an example during the latter part of the 20th Century we can count China among them. Other instances involving the United States during the latter part of the 20th Century would be the peoples of Indochina—the peoples of Vietnam. I don’t think that those lessons of history that have been taught us need be repeated, but they should be taken as reference. And therefore if the U.S. wishes to ease tension in the Far East, we should also take as reference these two instances. That is to return to the question of old friends. If too much account is taken of those, the old friends, then the course Metternich embarked on is bound to be repeated. Why did I say this today? Because since we are exchanging opinions it is better to be more straightforward. Because otherwise if the old friend, Chiang Kai-shek, is to be discarded then the next day will be Nguyen Van Thieu, and then next Park, Lon Nol/Sirik Matak, and Sato. These people will be chased off the stage of history by their own peoples. And if the hope of easing tension in the Far East is to be placed on such people, there will be no hope of easing tension because such people want to oppress the people where they are and expand to other regions. Because although your President may arm your partners through the Nixon Doctrine, the factor of weapons is only a temporary factor which can be used for a future period of time but those people will be inevitably defeated through the struggle of the people where they dominate. Even though the turmoil and danger of military conflict will be attempted to be eliminated in our formulation, that is the five principles of peaceful co-existence, and though the subjective attempt may be to establish a peaceful region or an era of peace, I don’t think that will be possible, because, as I said last time and would like to reaffirm today, the oppressed nations want liberation and the view of history of the United States, it is, we believe, that people should be allowed to win liberation through their own efforts.

[Page 9]

Of course, as I mentioned, I believe on the first or second day of your arrival here, when we say “down with imperialism” that is only an empty cannon. For our part it is an empty cannon but it also has a rallying effect. Of course, when we mention imperialism now it has a double character—not only the old but the new social imperialism. But if the nations of those areas wish to arise and drive out foreign oppressors then no one can obstruct that development. The more the oppression, the more the aggression and armed subversion, the more stiring of the people. They are bound to rise up and overthrow the foreign aggressors.

I also mentioned during our talks that we must thank after all first Japanese imperialism and then United States imperialism for the liberation of China. Because they gave impetus to the awakening conscience of the Chinese people, to their taking action and being unified on a broader scale than before.

What about the domestic oppressors, like those who oppressed the French people in the age of the French Revolution? I believe that the present awakening of the conscience of the people of the world is of a world character, that is broader than during the French Revolution in Europe. And if all those domestic local oppressors are considered old friends, then they will have to be discarded one after the other. And if President Nixon finds it difficult to believe after the Second World War that prestige should be at such a low level 25 years afterwards, then if support is to be given to such old friends, then 20-25 years from now there will be none in sight and defeat will be even more disastrous.

I believe in our talks Dr. Kissinger has mentioned a truce, that is that after the United States troops have withdrawn from Indochina they would pay no attention to what evolutions will take place there after they withdraw. Of course, that is done in a passive spirit, that you would no longer be able to pay attention to control of that area. You mentioned this time Indochina in a slightly different way, that is if agreement could be reached between the United States and Indochinese people, then beginning at the time when the peace was signed new elections would be held six months thereafter, and one month before that the local rulers would resign and elections would be held in accordance with the people of that area. That was slightly different from the original plan.

[Page 10]

But there is one thing I cannot say anything about in a detailed way because you didn’t give me the whole picture. We can say there are three possibilities. One is Vietnamization, that is if the aim of the peace that is signed is to continue to rearm the forces of Thieu.

Dr. Kissinger: I understand.

PM Chou: And if although the U.S. forces have been withdrawn the result of the elections is still Nguyen Van Thieu or his representative, then after a number of years revolution will arise again and the second question will arise—shall or shall not the United States go there to support its new friends? And the question will again arise of intervention in the affairs of others.

The third choice would be, in foresight of these events, to act in accordance with the fifth point of the seven put forward by Madame Binh, and for which you expressed appreciation last time. If that would be so, we would be able to make new progress and this new friend made under these circumstances would be more reliable.

If you take China as a case, the lesson of China is worth remembering. That is if Truman had at that time not taken measures to blockade the Taiwan Straits with the 7th Fleet, and not given military assistance to Chiang Kai-shek, but had continued the former policy, that is no interest in Taiwan territories, then Sino-U.S. relations might have been completely different these past 22 years.

Why am I mentioning this? Because we have a common point in wishing to ease tension in the Far East which will be conducive to peace in the whole world. And that will involve this matter: shall this generation of peace be based on hopes for the future or on old friends? This is a point of fundamental difference between us.

There is the possibility that after a lot of discussion you will maintain your position and I will maintain ours. And there also is the possibility that when your President comes to talk with Chairman Mao they will discuss more profoundly and with more foresight, but the conclusions will be the same. Of course, Sino-American relations are bound to be improved, but that will only be temporary and after a period of time with events the situation will change, maybe after 10-20 years, like the [Page 11] Metternich generation of peace. What good will come of that? In that we have not given impetus to the progress of the world. Of course, perhaps limited by your system, you are unable to make any greater changes while we, due to our philosophy, foresee such a thing.

And therefore if new events are to occur then new tensions will also arise.

For instance, as I mentioned in Indochina, if the United States forces and the other forces that followed it into Indochina do not withdraw completely, we will, of course, support the peoples of Indochina to pursue in their war of resistance to the end, and the result of that will be new tensions.

So with regard to this question, that is the question of the evaluation of the situation, if we do not put this clearly but fuss over it in ambiguous terms, we should say that the fundamental differences have not been stated clearly. That is if the draft communique is to be written as you have it, (reading from 1st draft at Tab A) that is:

“The two leaders acknowledged that the long-standing differences between the two countries not only in their bilateral relations but in their perspective of international problems would not quickly or easily be resolved. At the same time, the two sides agreed that the visit of President Nixon to China and the hospitable reception accorded him demonstrate that countries, irrespective of their social systems, can work together toward resolution of differences in the interest of international peace and security.”

Then the impression that is given to other people of the world will not be an honest one and we cannot agree. The Soviet Union would agree to such terms but not put it into effect. But on our side if we agree to do something we will truly do it.

Therefore we think that we should take this problem seriously and state clearly the fundamental differences between us because otherwise if we used such wording it would give an untruthful appearance to the world. We cited just now two instances, one is the war of independence which is [Page 12] war against foreign aggressors. That is one kind. One is resistance against domestic oppressors, like the French Revolution. The third, which was not mentioned and which we would like to put forward in our draft, is resistance to racial discrimination.

We have also thought of the matter that if we do not first state this to you clearly and just hand over a draft it will not be easy to reach agreement orally. I said I would like to have the Acting Foreign Minister discuss the draft with you, but because of these reasons I was compelled to come myself. Of course, what you say we think to be subversion, you think of as revolution. Our stands and explanations also differ. But the objective trend of the development of events is indestructible. It cannot be altered by the subjective will of men. And if we wish to ease the tension in the Far East we think this fundamental issue should be dealt with in clear terms.

Dr. Kissinger: Which fundamental issues?

PM Chou: The three instances I mentioned.

Dr. Kissinger: I understand. What does the Prime Minister mean by racial discrimination?

PM Chou: For example, Africa. As also the untouchables in India. That is also a form of racial discrimination. And also in America in the past there has been discrimination against colored people and in such matters, of course, we always sympathize with the oppressed.

Dr. Kissinger: But the Prime Minister, is under no illusion that we will tolerate any discussion of our domestic situation in a communique, no matter what he thinks of it?

PM Chou: But I don’t think we should not oppose in general terms racial discrimination.

Dr. Kissinger: I will have to see your draft.

PM Chou: Of course, I have not dealt with the question of racial discrimination in detail today. I have only gone into detail on the first two instances. Therefore in the presentations of such views we think it is not possible to let our views with regard to easing of tensions in the Far East go unclear.

[Page 13]

And so in view of such matters, if we were to put forward a draft communique at the present time the end result will be endless discussion or disputes. That is why I have come myself to discuss the fundamental issues, that is the assessment of the situation. Therefore, we think it is rather difficult to confirm a common draft on which we can agree. Therefore, rather than you and the Acting Foreign Minister going on in endless disputes, I thought it would be better for me to come to give you the fundamental issues myself.

Dr. Kissinger: Are you finished?

PM Chou: I am finished with this part dealing with the situation and prospects for the future, because you mentioned in the draft the review of world affairs between the President and Chairman Mao Tsetung.

Dr. Kissinger: You have raised two problems. The first is what we believe and the second is what can be said after the President’s visit.

With respect to the first problem, the Prime Minister has expressed himself with his characteristic clarity, and it contained no surprises. I am fully aware of your point of view. You stated it eloquently the last time and you have repeated it in greater detail today. We respect you as a man of principle and we have gone to considerable lengths not to cooperate in any design that would create doubts about your basic positions. We have done nothing that would leave doubts about your basic positions.

Now I will not comment about the policies of Metternich. I have trouble enough discussing American foreign policy without discussing the foreign policy of the Austro-Hungarian Empire with the Prime Minister. (laughter)

PM Chou: That is also an historical lesson that is worth reviewing.

Dr. Kissinger: The lesson of history is that no peace is every permanent and no social system has ever lasted.

PM Chou: That’s right. That’s quite in accordance with our principles also.

Dr. Kissinger: Change seems to be the law of life.

[Page 14]

PM Chou: The question is whether the changes will be in a forward or backward manner.

Dr. Kissinger: They have to be based on reality and that will define their permanent character.

PM Chou: That is, it will decide, in our view, the matter—decide whether it is forward looking or backward.

Dr. Kissinger: I agree with that as an abstract proposition. The only thing is that one country should not say that by definition everything it does is forward looking and everything the other country does is backward looking, because that would be conducting foreign policy like professors.

PM Chou: It is decided by whether the majority of the people support or do not support the policy.

Dr. Kissinger: I agree with that.

PM Chou: For instance, the war in Indochina is not supported by the majority, but the improvement of Sino-American relations is supported by the majority although there is a minority against it.

Dr. Kissinger: It is obvious that on many important points we have a different world outlook. As I told you at our first meeting, we are prepared to submit this difference to the judgment of the majority and future majorities.

PM Chou: Yes, both history and the press are merciless.

Dr. Kissinger: That is correct. Nor do I have trouble understanding that revolutions are always started by minorities nor do I have trouble understanding that the superiority of revolutions at the beginning is psychological, not physical.

PM Chou: That is, the aspect?

Dr. Kissinger: Correct. When the Prime Minister asked what do we mean by a generation of peace I would reply that we think peace has two aspects at least: a sense of participation by the people concerned so that they think the peace is just, and secondly, a sense of security so that they do not believe the peace is oppressive. It may be that you [Page 15] and we—it is a case that you and we have different views on different parts of the world on how to bring this about. I can only repeat that we are prepared to submit this difference to the judgment of history and we will not use force to settle it. We will treat you with respect and on the basis of equality.

PM Chou: I believe that will be so between our two countries. But the matter is that with regard to all countries we should not intervene in their affairs and we should support the national liberation of all peoples and not interfere, whether the country is big or small. Big countries should especially not interfere in the affairs of small countries. Especially, as put in your draft, no country should make efforts to establish hegemony and no major power should collude with any country, and we think that is especially true.

Dr. Kissinger: The Prime Minister claims his side is serious and does what it says. We claim the same thing for ourselves, and if we put something on paper it is with the intention of keeping it. I have tried to explain to the Prime Minister in the many meetings we have been privileged to have that on a number of issues he raised we were prepared to let the historical evolution be the ultimate judge. This is a professorial way of stating the doctrine of non-intervention.

At the same time it is not acceptable for us to be told that we must give up immediately all old friends. It cannot be abasis for a sound foreign policy that we begin our new relationship with you with acts of betrayal. You could not respect us for that. The Prime Minister knows very well, and his subtle understanding of history will no doubt make clear, that what has already started between us has unleashed forces in Japan, Taiwan and Korea that have their own momentum, and we were not naive to think this would not happen. We did this in full consciousness of what would happen.

What I have appreciated about our conversations until now is that between you and us we seem to understand what can be done immediately, what can be done over a longer period of tine, and that we would work within that spirit. We have paid a price already with many of our friends, and we know what the impact of what you and, I are talking about will be on many of our friends. We do not give them a veto over our policies, and we will not maintain them against the forces of history. But at the same time you could not respect us if we found this easy, and you must not attempt to push the process beyond what is possible.

[Page 16]

Now the Prime Minister has pointed out the failings of our friends. And I have indicated that we have been prepared to separate ourselves from them on many important issues. We have never asked anything from you with respect to your friends. [to the interpreter—“Did you translate that we have never asked you to separate yourselves from your friends?” The interpreter further translates]. But it would be an amazing occurrence in history if your friends claimed for themselves what the Pope has for himself, namely, total infallibility.

PM Chou: We have never believed that. Even in our own ranks there is no one who has committed no mistakes.

Dr. Kissinger: And therefore while we have not asked you to do this and while we do not ask you if you have done this, we still believe some personal advice to your friends, at least with respect to your judgment of our sincerity, might accelerate the process which we both desire. The reason why the relationship between our two people has seemed to me so important is precisely because I respect your moral force. But also because our two peoples have it in their hands to contribute to the peace in the Pacific and in the world.

PM Chou: I would like to add something here. Although we do not wish to impose our views on others, we can as you just now mentioned, by our own action and influence, affect our friends around us. That is, by our own action and influence we can affect friends around us not to go to certain extremes. That’s one point. The second is that we can through our own influence not allow another still greater power far away to feel easy in coming into the Far East for hegemony. But of course we cannot do anything about Japan, say, or the Indian Ocean because those are places where you are in control.

Dr. Kissinger: The Prime Minister has not dealt lately with the Indians or he would not say we are in complete control.

PM Chou: True indeed, and precisely we have no influence in that place. We cannot do anything about it. Nor do we approve of contending for hegemony in that area. Nor do we wish to join in that game. We are opposed to power politics and to superpowers. Of course, you can reply to us that you are not the only one. If you were the only one, no such question would arise.

[Page 17]

Dr. Kissinger: In the Indian Ocean, Mr. Prime Minister, we suffer the illusion that we are supporting one of your friends against one of your neighbors that is attempting to achieve hegemony.

PM Chou: It is also your friend.

Dr. Kissinger: True, but we have many offers from India to contend with you and your neighbor and that is recommended by most of the bureaucracy, If we wanted domination on the Indian subcontinent, we would not support Pakistan because Pakistan cannot dominate the Indian subcontinent, as you well know.

PM Chou: Indeed, it is impossible for Pakistan to do so but it is also impossible for India to do that. What India wants to do as I have said last time during your visit is to get two big powers to contend for it in the Indian Ocean so it can make use of both. That’s a most stupid policy.

Dr. Kissinger: But we are not participating in that. If any country achieves hegemony there other than India, it will be your neighbor and not the United States. (laughter)

PM Chou: We are clear about that.

Dr. Kissinger: To get back to the immediate point, and we can discuss India-Pakistan later.

We believe that the visit of President Nixon can be an historic occasion. But he is not coming here to be put into the dock and to be accused of a whole series of American misdeeds. That is not possible. “In dock” means in court. Mr. Lord thought it meant in ships.

PM Chou: We will not put him in ships.

Dr. Kissinger: But you cannot put him in court either.

PM Chou: Some believe two devils will meet. That is the view of some. And neither of them will be able to administer judgment on the other.

Dr. Kissinger: What is more important is that neither should attempt to make judgment on the other.

[Page 18]

PM Chou: So if a trial is impossible, it is even more impossible to pass a judgment. The important thing is because our world outlooks are obviously different, the important thing is to exchange different views on the world and prospects. This is not a judgment on anyone, to make these views clear. There is no question that we would also be willing to hear your views on various matters.

Dr. Kissinger: We understand that Chairman Mao did not fight for 50 years to change his opinions because an American President is visiting China for six or seven days.

PM Chou: True. We want an exchange of opinions.

Dr. Kissinger: And we want an exchange of opinions that looks to the future.

PM Chou: So precisely because of that historical lessons should not go unheeded.

Dr. Kissinger: You can be sure we know your views already. We know that there are other countries with whom it is easier to draft communiques, though they do not always publish the same text. (laughter)

PM Chou: But it is easier to reach abstract agreements that will not be put into force.

Dr. Kissinger: That’s exactly right, and that’s why what we say will be more important than what may be said at other meetings that will take place during the next year. Let me say something about the communique.

PM Chou: Please.

Dr. Kissinger: On most of our visits we publish no communique at all. On this occasion we think it is desirable because there are many people who are hoping that our relationship will fail. I recognize that it is inconsistent with your position to publish a series of banalities that can be interpreted by everyone in his own way. We do not object, and I recognize that some of the drafting that was done in our proposal has than tendency.

Interpreter: Which tendency?

Dr. Kissinger: Towards the banal. We therefore do not object to your stating your view and we stating our view.

[Page 19]

PM Chou: Then we can find some common points.

Dr. Kissinger: But it would be highly undesirable if the communique could be read as simply a vehicle for you to indict our position. If after the President comes back to America it can be said that he was humiliated by going to China, it will affect your relationship not only with this President but also with any possible successor. And therefore it is necessary that the theme of the communique be: here are two great countries with differences in their points of view and here is what they can do together or in parallel, or what they can agree on.

Now the question is how do we express it and when do we work on it? It is true that our two leaders have not met. But it is also true that the Prime Minister reflects the views of the Chairman and I reflect the views of the President. My concern is that if we wait until after they have met the pressure of the events that take place during that week, with 80 American newsmen constantly asking questions and various members of the bureaucracy present with their own suggestions, we will not be able to work as substantially as we can now when we can still speak openly and with plenty of time.

PM Chou: Yes, yesterday we heard you were chased twice by correspondents. Once in the Summer Palace, a North Vietnamese correspondent took quite a lot of pictures. We didn’t pay attention at that time.

Dr. Kissinger: At the Summer Palace?

PM Chou: You probably thought he was Chinese, and we thought he was Chinese, but when we inquired we found out he was a photographer of North Vietnam. Then later in the afternoon you went shopping…

Dr. Kissinger: I foresaw what would happen and I left after five minutes.

PM Chou: I heard about that. It was proved later on that the foreigners in the store immediately mobilized the foreign correspondents in Peking.

Dr. Kissinger: That’s why I left.

PM Chou: That was a very wise move.

Dr. Kissinger: They all concentrated on Miss Pineau who is slightly more attractive than I.

[Page 20]

PM Chou: It is easier for her to deal with them. There is no way out for you.

Dr. Kissinger: That is true. Under the pressure of the visit when I must look after the President and cannot spend all my time as I can here, when there are a number of functions that must be performed and when there are others present, it will be much more difficult to do a communique that reflects our best positions than it is now when we can speak openly. Of course we understand if anything happens in the conversations between Chairman Mao and the President that we have not foreseen that everything will be changed.

Therefore, we would use the document as a general guidance only for the President and not show it to anybody except the immediate advisors of the President and no one in the bureaucracy. That is no one except in this room. And, of course, we would not tell anybody that we have a tentative working outline. That can be in nobody’s interest. But if the Prime Minister is travelling with the President it will be very difficult to arrange meetings for extended discussions and if the Foreign Minister is with the Secretary of State, it will be very difficult technically to do it while I am here next time.

But it is up to you, Mr. Prime Minister. You said to a group of Americans the other day that if the visit succeeds that is fine, and if it doesn’t that is fine also. We do not agree fully because we think it is in the interest of humanity for it to succeed. But our interest must be mutual, and there are many forces around the world who would like to see it not succeed.

PM Chou: I did not say it would be good or fine if it failed.

Dr. Kissinger: Or all right.

PM Chou: I said it would be fine if it succeeded and wouldn’t matter if it failed also. You have to be prepared for another alternative, otherwise how could one exist? You can’t just worry about success. Your President also has spoken about this eventuality.

Dr. Kissinger: We are also prepared for this alternative.

[Page 21]

PM Chou: In such a spirit it may be more possible to make progress. But just as we have put it many times and you have in the draft communique, we do not expect too great a speed in the development of our relationship. Wonders will not happen suddenly.

Dr. Kissinger: I have stated my views with the same frankness as the Prime Minister stated his, and I now wonder how he recommends we proceed?

PM Chou: Let’s take a short interval. (short break)

Dr. Kissinger: I have talked more with you on these visits than I have with my staff in two years.

PM Chou: It’s good.

Dr. Kissinger: Thank you for sending me the text of your extemporaneous remarks. I know the President will be very pleased to have it and I will show it only to him.

PM Chou: Have you seen any film?

Dr. Kissinger: No. I am still hoping to get a copy to take home.

PM Chou: We will give you a copy of both your visit last time and this time.

Dr. Kissinger: It would mean a great deal to me.

PM Chou: We will be able to give a finished copy of film for last time and for this time photographs, but the film is not completed.

Dr. Kissinger: Maybe we can get it when the President comes or you can give it to your Ambassador in Paris.

PM Chou: The cameramen probably got more this time because your stay was longer.

We have considered this matter of the communique between your President and our side when he comes, and it appears there are a lot of places where we must make changes in your draft. And we have raised [Page 22] a number of questions and also new specific questions as well on Vietnam, Taiwan, Korea, Japan, India and Pakistan. In addition to making an estimate of the general situation, there are also a number of these specific questions. We can see that there are certain differences between the two sides. On some questions the differences are quite large, and we believe we need quite some time for work in drafting this communique. Of course, as Dr. Kissinger just said, if in the future meeting between the two leaders, in their future discussions, some problems are solved and some views changed, we will need a new document, which can be done easily.

Dr. Kissinger: That is easy.

PM Chou: We need not consider that now. The question now is how to consider such a document before they have met. So this is rather a complicated matter. If we were to mention all our points of view that is also possible but will take a period of time. I could cite an example. I will not talk in general matters for the time being.

Say, for example, the Taiwan question. It is easy for us to expound our position on that because we have done so on many occasions in the past. But there are two questions which should be raised. First is something the American side should say which would be of a decisive nature for normalization of relations between China and the United States. In our present exchange of views I raised a new question on this matter, that is to say, on the international arena there have already appeared activities aimed at creating an independent Taiwan. I have discussed it with you.

Dr. Kissinger: Yes, Mr. Prime Minister.

PM Chou: And so the matter of crucial importance is for the U.S. to indicate it will not carry out or support any activities aimed at separating Taiwan from China. And then as you said, you would state that, “the United States acknowledges that all Chinese on either side of the Taiwan Straits maintain there is but one China.” You should also say that the United States would encourage the Chinese to solve this internal matter by themselves through peaceful negotiations.

Dr. Kissinger: We are saying almost that.

[Page 23]

PM Chou: If it is not solved, there is no possibility of normalization of relations.

Dr. Kissinger: We say that the United States “takes note of that position and will support efforts to reach an equitable and peaceful resolution of the ultimate relationship of Taiwan to the mainland.” We can strengthen “takes note of.” These two sentences support each other.

PM Chou: But if you do not make clear that you will not carry out or support any activities separating Taiwan from China, then one can have two interpretations of this sentence—“support efforts to reach an equitable and peaceful resolution of the ultimate relationship of Taiwan to the mainland.” This could be interpreted as Taiwan being returned to the Motherland or separated from China. Because if you do not say what you are opposed to, you cannot guarantee the return of Taiwan to the Motherland.

Dr. Kissinger: We have the problem of what I told the Prime Minister. What I have said to him is our policy on which he can rely, no matter what the communique says. So he can rely on the fact that we will not support an independent Taiwan. I am certain that the President will repeat this to the Prime Minister and, of course, to the Chairman.

The second question therefore is the question of the communique, which is not so much relevant for our policy but for public impression. Now we have attempted to draft this in such a way—in English these two sentences have a tendency to support each other. But we could perhaps strengthen the second section by instead of saying “takes note of that position”, saying “does not challenge that position.”

PM Chou: That’s one question of wording.

Dr. Kissinger: It makes clear that we are not opposing it.

PM Chou: And then the second question is that of the withdrawal of armed forces and military installations from Taiwan. It’s better for you to say it and not us. After you have completed your withdrawal from Indochina, you will withdraw all forces from Taiwan. If this is not said about your withdrawal, the impression among the Chinese people and the people of the world will be that the United States has invaded Chinese territory.

[Page 24]

Dr. Kissinger: Let me first make clear that the Prime Minister understands what we said we would do so that he does not misinterpret our intention, and then we will go to the communique.

What I have told him is that in a reasonable period of time after the completion of the war in Indochina, we will withdraw that part of our force in Taiwan that was put there because of the war in Indochina, which is roughly two-thirds of the force on Taiwan. The remainder, which is in any event not a combat force, would be progressively reduced over a longer period of time. This is the understanding I think I have with the Prime Minister and before we get into words I want to make sure we understand each other correctly.

PM Chou: But this understanding should find expression in the communique too, not in such specific terms but in principle that all armed forces and military establishments should be withdrawn from Taiwan. Because if that is not mentioned in the joint communique, then people will become skeptical about normalization because how could there be normalization then? If the Chinese side put that forward as a demand and the U.S. side makes no reply, that’s even worse, or if we put it forward and you do reply it would not be as good as if you put it forward on your own initiative. If this question is avoided altogether, then the broad masses of the people of the world would wonder what question has been solved after all.

Dr. Kissinger: We have two public opinions to consider next year. Yours, but in 1972—we will be frank with the Prime Minister—the only broad masses of the people of concern to the President has to be the American people. I am frank. Therefore it is difficult to be as explicit as you have in mind, though I repeat we will honor our commitment in action.

But let me see, Mr. Prime Minister, whether I can find a formulation that, without being as precise as our conversations, indicates a direction we intend to go. And maybe if we can meet again, go through other points, and I could submit it to you this afternoon for discussion, or if we take a break, after some time I will try to find a formulation that says something about U.S. military forces on Taiwan and the direction we want to go. I can see your point that without reference there might be some difficulty.

PM. Chou: Yes.

[Page 25]

Dr. Kissinger: I would have to show it to the President, of course, but I will write out two or three sentences.

PM Chou: Because if we raise this question and you give no reply it would be a very bad impression.

Dr. Kissinger: I understand.

PM Chou: You admit we are exercising great restraint on the matter of Taiwan.

Dr. Kissinger: Very much so, and I admire it.

PM Chou: And what is more, we are agreeing that for the sake of normalization of relations between the two countries, we are not demanding an immediate solution for this in all aspects but that it be solved step by step. And so from this point alone it can be shown that in solving this crucial matter we do not proceed in undue haste.

Dr. Kissinger: I recognize this.

PM Chou: And so having exchanged some preliminary views we can study whether it is possible before you leave this time, whether it is possible to arrive at some preliminary common views. Today, being the last day of your visit, it is bound to be busy. It is always the case.

Dr. Kissinger: If we had stayed three days longer, it would be the same.

PM Chou: Have lunch now and a short rest.

Dr. Kissinger: Shall we meet again this afternoon?

PM Chou: Yes. Since I came personally I could not separate myself from this job. Since I have already joined this endeavor I am tying myself on this. I had wanted to escape from it today, but it appears not possible. If we can arrive at some results this time, it will save endeavors next time.

Dr. Kissinger: If we get jammed today we can put off our departure a few hours in the morning. That is not crucial. We can decide later this afternoon.

  1. Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Box 1035, Files for the President-China Material, HAK visit to PRC, October 1971, Memcons-originals. Top Secret; Sensitive; Exclusively Eyes Only. No drafting information appears on the memorandum; presumably drafted by Lord. All brackets are in the source text. The meeting was held in the Government Guest House. Attached at Tab A but not published is the draft communiqué.
  2. After a brief mention of troop withdrawals from Vietnam, President’s Assistant for National Security Affairs Kissinger and Chinese Premier Chou En-lai discussed the joint communiqué, various historical world revolutions, the status of Taiwan, and the Indo-Pakistan conflict.