55. Memorandum of Conversation, Beijing, October 26, 1971, 5:30-8:10 p.m.1 2

[Page 1]



  • Prime Minister Chou En-lai, People’s Republic of China
  • Chi P’eng-fei, Acting PRC Foreign Minister
  • Chang Wen-chin, Director, Western Europe and American Department, PRC Ministry of Foreign Affairs
  • Hsuing Hsiang-hui, Secretary to the Prime Minister
  • Wang Hai-jung, Deputy Chief of Protocol, PRC
  • Tang Wen-sheng and Chi Chao-chu, Chinese Interpreters and Chinese Notetaker
  • Dr. Henry A. Kissinger, Assistant to the President for National Security Affairs
  • Winston Lord, Senior Staff Member, NSC

PLACE: Government Guest House

DATE & TIME: October 26, 1971; 5:30 - 8:10 a.m.


  • Communique, Prisoners, Announcements of Trips, Technical Matters

Dr. Kissinger: We, of course, have not had the time to study this (the third Chinese draft attached at Tab A) in all its details, but let me give you a quick reaction. I recognize what you have attempted to do here, and I think it is in a positive direction.

I have made two attempts, Mr. Prime Minister. One is to shorten somewhat the statement of our differences for the reasons that I have already given you. And the second is to attempt a redraft of the Taiwan section which, however, puts me into the difficulty that the Prime Minister must understand that I am literally operating on my own. And I do not want to mislead him. I am 95 percent sure that I can convince the President of the formulation I gave you. I am less sure of my ability to convince him of what I will discuss with you now, and if under these circumstances the Prime Minister will not discuss it, I will have to stick with the old formulation of the Taiwan issue, just on my new paragraph on Taiwan.

[Page 2]

PM Chou: Since you have not been authorized to make any changes on the Taiwan formulation, then will you bring back our formulation and ask for the views of the President on that, or ask somebody to come back before the President does with your views, or wait until the President comes?

Dr. Kissinger: Let me do this. Let me show the Prime Minister what I have done here and see what the Prime Minister thinks of this, because I know that your formulation will not be acceptable.

PM Chou: I don’t know whether your new formulation is more or less like your old one or close to ours.

Dr. Kissinger: It’s an attempt to incorporate what I think may have a possibility of being accepted in Washington. Why don’t I read it to you?

PM Chou: Let us try.

Dr. Kissinger: Shall we do that first before we go to the other part? (Chou nods.)

“The United States side acknowledges that all Chinese on either side of the Taiwan Straits maintain there is but one China and that Taiwan is a province of China. (That’s your sentence.) The United States Government does not challenge that position. It emphasizes its view that the Chinese people should realize their objective by peaceful negotiation. It will support peaceful efforts to reach a resolution of the problem, and will not use its military presence in the Taiwan Straits to produce additional obstacles to a peaceful solution. The United States accepts the ultimate objective of the withdrawal of its forces from the Taiwan Straits, and pending that will progressively reduce them as tensions diminish.”

PM Chou: You mean withdraw its forces from the Taiwan Straits?

Dr. Kissinger: Yes.

PM Chou: Just the Taiwan Straits?

Dr. Kissinger: Oh, no, from Taiwan. That is the early hours that produced that. No devious desire in mind. I would be prepared to discuss this with the President if the Prime Minister thinks it has more merit than the draft I discussed with him yesterday.

[Page 3]

PM Chou: May I see it?

Dr. Kissinger: Excuse the typing. (Hands it over)

I don’t care about this clause, “additional obstacles.” This is a formula to find a way to take care of two Chinas and to take care of Japan.

I have delayed my departure for an hour, incidentally.

PM Chou: It appears to be necessary. Would you also put forward your other views?

Dr. Kissinger: Yes. The other views are really fairly simple. Where it says “in the area” to make it consistent, why don’t we say “as tensions in Asia diminish?” Then you and I know we are talking about Vietnam.

Interpreter: (Repeats what Dr. Kissinger just said.)

Dr. Kissinger: Yes, because then the Prime Minister will understand what this refers to. This is our way of understanding what we have said on Vietnam. Now, the rest of my changes, Mr. Prime Minister, are an attempt to shorten somewhat the contentious part of the material. I can accept your page two. I propose deleting the sentence that starts at the bottom of page two with the word “the”, up to “all foreign troops.”

Chou’s Interpreter: What line please?

Dr. Kissinger: Seven, through “subversion.”

Interpreter: To delete that?

Dr. Kissinger: It repeats a point you have already made on the previous page. I am proposing a similar cut in our section for symmetry. The only other deletion I would urge is where it deals with Vietnam, that is to say, that “China expressed its firm support to the seven-point program” and to omit the phrase “its firm support to the struggle.”

In this connection, I might tell the Prime Minister for his own personal information that I have just received word from the North Vietnamese that we are going to resume negotiations toward the middle of November in our secret channel, with Le Duc Tho, and maybe this whole thing will then no longer be necessary.

[Page 4]

That is the only suggestion I have in the statement of your principles. The rest is acceptable. Then, on page four, from the point of view of symmetry, I would propose deleting the second sentence, the one that begins with “The United States side believes” through “or misunderstanding.” The sentence that begins with “The United States believes that the effort to reduce tension is served” through “misunderstanding.” And on the next page—I am trying to shorten our statement a little bit—where we talk about Indochina, we can leave out the phrase “to which end it had made a series of proposals.” In other words we would just say its primary objective has been a negotiated solution, but just leave out the next line where it says that it had made a series of proposals. This is to shorten it and also to remove any suspicion on the part of Hanoi that you have taken a position on the secret negotiations.

The only other suggestion I have is that you have inadvertently dropped one sentence from our position, which you had in the previous draft: “The relation between the United States and the Republic of Korea was freely. entered into by both sides, and the existing commitments would be honored.” This is a statement of our view. It was on page 5 of your old draft.

These are all my changes. We can accept the remainder.

PM Chou: What you have posed before us is a difficult subject. Because in the statements of the two sides we have maintained the principal contents of the American statement, such as “peaceful competition,” “individual freedom,” and you put in the American way of putting it about striving for freedom and progress which is different from our interpretation of it, and we didn’t make any objection to it. There is no question but that our two sides have very deep differences on the interpretation of these conceptions. And then in the part about the peoples and nations, in the first part, you agreed that we may say “where there is oppression, there is resistance” and you agreed to our formulation of struggling for freedom and liberty. But then when we express our support for this, you do not agree. It is hard to understand.

Dr. Kissinger: I am really trying to shorten the document. If the Prime Minister wants to maintain that sentence which I have to tell you will be extremely annoying to most Americans, but if he wants to maintain it, then the alternative is to take out the sentence which begins with “it must be recognized” up through “impermissible.” My primary concern is to shorten it a little bit; and that is repeated anyway.

[Page 5]

PM Chou: Well, actually, in the morning, this is yesterday morning, in the discussion of this, one of the sentences you suggested to be deleted was this. Originally your version was different.

Dr. Kissinger: If you want to keep this sentence, let us propose dropping the other sentence. I am not dropping both, just one or the other to shorten it somewhat. And I have tried to take out an equivalent amount of our own position.

PM Chou: This is only a very initial draft, and just before you leave to continue to consider the various wordings is rather difficult. I think there shouldn’t be much difficulty here because they are of the same nature. I don’t know about the number of words, but as for the Chinese, the American statement is longer than the Chinese.

Dr. Kissinger: I am also cutting the American statement. I am trying to cut the statement of differences. I am not saying you are unfair; I am saying the whole document gives an overwhelming impression of enormous differences and if we can both take out half a page between us of sentences that are repeated, it would help the balance of the document.

PM Chou: Well, as for possible repetitions of wordings, that I admit. There are such repetitions. But in the American statement also there are a number of repetitions.

Dr. Kissinger: That’s why I’m trying to cut it.

PM Chou: If we were to rewrite the whole document we could make it more concise. But that is not the main point. We have proposed in the documents places of common ground, and where there is no common ground we keep in the Chinese statement that which you can’t accept and you keep in the American statement that which we can’t accept. As for the number of words in the actual Chinese text, the American statement is still longer.

Dr. Kissinger: That doesn’t bother me. For instance, the sentence I am now proposing to delete, “the people” through “impermissible”—that doesn’t bother us. It’s no problem to us from a substantive point of view. And it is, in any event, repeated by the next sentence, that all nations “should be equal,” and by the sentence that says that the Chinese side supports the struggle of “oppressed people” for “freedom and liberation.”

[Page 6]

What I am trying to avoid is that out of a nine-page document, the first five pages are disagreement. And therefore, I have taken out some lines from yours and some lines from our side.

PM Chou: That is the first part. In the second part, concerning the question of Indochina, in our draft we have two sentences, and you have three; then you remove one of them, one sentence which we think is correct (to delete) because we did not take part in the Vietnam negotiations.

Dr. Kissinger: I accept this, and I am willing to remove our part if you remove the part that bothers us.

PM Chou: But if we remove our wording to reaffirm support for the people of Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia in their struggle to realize their goals, then it will not be possible to express a relaxation of tension in the Far East. We had already deleted that part about supporting to the end the struggles of the Indochinese people, because we hope before your President comes we will have settled the war in Vietnam, and even if it had not been settled, we hope that it would be substantially settled.

Dr. Kissinger: I happen to know what the Declaration of the Joint Summit Conference of the Indochinese people says, and if you are supporting this, you are supporting their struggle.

PM Chou: Well, from that point of view, that is indeed so.

Then, with respect to your reference about the Republic of Korea, that was not a matter of inadvertence on our part. We deliberately deleted that because to our people it would be quite irritating to have that there.

Dr. Kissinger: Yes but … we don’t insist that we say anything about Korea on either side.

PM Chou: But that’s not possible, because you know we bear certain responsibility in being a member of the negotiating patties in the Korea question.

Dr. Kissinger: Well, we can drop in our statement about the relations between the United States and the Republic of Korea the fact that they were freely entered into, and simply say that the existing commitments would [Page 7] be honored. But if you support the eight-point proposal, we have to say something. But we can leave out the phrase “they were freely entered into” which I can understand is irritating.

PM Chou: Dr. Kissinger still wants to try to arrive at an initial agreement today.

Dr. Kissinger: No, no, but if the Prime Minister feels that he must express his views on his side, we must be free to express our views on our side. If the Chinese side expresses support of the eight points of the Democratic Republic of Korea we have to say something about our relationship to the Republic of Korea.

But I do admit the more we can settle today, the better it will be. It will be harder next time I am here, and it’s complex through Paris.

PM Chou: But some can be done through Paris.

Dr. Kissinger: Yes, but on this one, this is not negotiable for us …

PM Chou: Then maybe we can …

Dr. Kissinger: … this one sentence about the Republic of Korea.

PM Chou: … on the document as a whole. I wonder if it is possible for Dr. Kissinger to come again, or to wait for settlement when the President comes?

Dr. Kissinger: If I come once again, there is going to be the most unbelievable speculation.

PM Chou: But you know, as you will be leaving China precisely at the time when the vote on Chinese representation is being taken in the United Nations, there will also be difficulties for us with the countries that are supporting us.

Dr. Kissinger: Mr. Prime Minister, do you know that I have been accused of exactly the same thing on our side?

PM Chou: That is precisely why I say that if we are to solve this question about the initial draft of the communique we must put ourselves in the shoes of the other. Of course, this will still be only an initial draft. And even if we do agree, when your President comes we will still be able to make changes.

[Page 8]

Dr. Kissinger: Oh yes, this is without question.

PM Chou: That will be because the situation has changed. If it has not, for any of us to say there must be changes, that will be to create deliberate trouble.

Dr. Kissinger: Of course, as far as we are concerned, no one outside the White House will know that such a draft exists, much less that we discussed it, and we have never had a leak from the White House. So, as far as our bureaucracy is concerned, we would simply pretend that this is going to be done when we come here.

PM Chou: As for your formulation of the Taiwan question, there is still some distance from our stand. Your wording on the Taiwan formulation is not as explicit as our formulation.

Dr. Kissinger: No.

PM Chou: But even ours wouldn’t express time limits.

Dr. Kissinger: But it attempts to move from our formulation to your direction.

PM Chou: You are quite clear about the explicitness of our formulation on Taiwan.

Dr. Kissinger: Oh, yes.

PM Chou: Of course, your authorization is limited on this question; you may not be able to decide on it now.

Dr. Kissinger: On your formulation?

PM Chou: Yes.

Dr. Kissinger: But it is my firm conviction, apart from my authorization, that it is extremely unlikely that it will be accepted.

PM Chou: But you know that the crucial question of the normalization of relations between China and the United States is on this Taiwan question, so if we do not make clear the future of this, how can we begin normalization? So then the whole question begins again.

[Page 9]

Dr. Kissinger: The Prime Minister knows what we would do, and I have the impression this is considered by him to be in a positive direction. Therefore our problem is to find a formulation which enables us to navigate between our various necessities, domestic and international.

PM Chou: For instance, on your formulation there are some superfluous words which complicate the situation.

Dr. Kissinger: Like what?

PM Chou: I cannot give you a very affirmative commentary …

Dr. Kissinger: I understand.

PM Chou: But just to make some comments. You say, “The United States Government emphasized its view …”

Dr. Kissinger: “Stated?”

PM Chou: That is to say, your side “emphasized its view that the Chinese people should realize, etc… .” If you changed the word “objective” to “position” … And the second sentence, there is no need for it,“… and will not use its military presence in the Taiwan Straits, etc.”

Dr. Kissinger: This was done to meet a point of the Prime Minister’s.

PM Chou: That means not to participate in any activities aimed at separating Taiwan from the mainland.

Dr. Kissinger: Nor to encourage any activities to separate Taiwan from mainland. And also to meet the point the Prime Minister made so eloquently last night that our forces are a guarantee against the introduction of Japanese forces. But I am prepared to drop the sentence if the Prime Minister would like it dropped.

PM Chou: As for the sentence before that, “it emphasized its view… etc.” If you change the word “objective” to “position” that will make things clear.

Dr. Kissinger: It’s bad English, but if it pleases you … “objective” is a better word in English than “position,” but it’s no problem for me. I don’t mind being accused of using bad grammar. It’s no problem.

[Page 10]

PM Chou: We had that thought for quite some time on our formulation of the Taiwan question. And …

Dr. Kissinger: I could … excuse me. Why don’t you finish.

PM Chou: That is, “it hopes the settlement of the Taiwan question consistent with this position will be achieved through peaceful negotiations.” Of course, that is then more clear, though it is not saying the whole thing out, yet it expresses in a more clear way the hope of the American government and grammatically it’s better.

Dr. Kissinger: The trouble is that we disagree, not that we don’t understand each other. We understand each other very well. The Prime Minister seeks clarity, and I am trying to achieve ambiguity.

PM Chou: But the Chinese people will be dissatisfied with something that is ambiguous.

Dr. Kissinger: And we have got trouble if it is too clear.

PM Chou: Actually, our wording is not so different from yours; actually our versions are not already so clear. Please think it over.

Dr. Kissinger: Mr. Prime Minister, if we complete everything else, we can leave the Taiwan thing for the other channel. We could simply send you a paragraph. I speak to you more frankly than to any other foreign leader. For us, no agreement on Taiwan is going to do any good for large elements of our bureaucracy, and our public will oppose it. Therefore, it requires careful management on our side. What is particularly difficult in your formulation—because I notice in many regards it’s quite close to what I gave you—is the phrase “finally withdraw.”

PM Chou: But isn’t that saying in your version, “ultimate objective of the withdrawal of its forces”?

Dr. Kissinger: There’s a nuanced difference.

PM Chou: You are bound to withdraw in the end; otherwise how can it return to the Motherland? Think it over. And what is more, we said that you will progressively reduce and finally withdraw, and there is no [Page 11] time limit to it. And I believe that when your President comes, if he undertakes such an obligation, it will have a very favorable effect for the political future of your President, not a bad one. Because, as you said, this was something created by Truman, not something of your President or his party.

Dr. Kissinger: Yes, but as I said yesterday, that is not the problem. The problem is the combination of various forces that are looking for a symbol around which to rally.

PM Chou: Well, suppose you bring your formulation back with you. When the President comes, there will be seven days, and he will meet Chaiiman Mao twice, and I am sure in the meeting it will not be difficult to settle it when it comes to a matter of a few words. We spent almost one hour trying to find a formulation.

Dr. Kissinger: It would be good negotiating tactics, Mr. Prime Minister, to say that you are being unreasonable, but I realize that is not true. I realize you have made major efforts to take our concerns into account. You have behaved toward us with great honor. But those of my colleagues in America who have not had the privilege of meeting you, and those who have a vested interest in destroying our policy, will look at it with a different perspective than I who has had an opportunity to hear your position.

But we can probably not settle the Taiwan draft now. Let me take this back. You have one suggested alternative which you can perhaps think about. I will work with the President to see whether we can come up with a draft either accepting this or modifying it, and we will attempt to treat you with the same honor with which you have treated us. We can pass some drafts back and forth through our channel. Of course, we are already coming closer. And then if it isn’t settled, we can settle it perhaps when the President comes here.

PM Chou: Yes, I believe that if it cannot be settled, then by the time the President comes it could be, because we have to take into consideration your various difficulties. On the sentence before that (the first sentence on page 8 of Tab A), we fully agree to it. There is no question about that, that is on the formulation that “the United States acknowledged that all Chinese on either side of the Taiwan Straits maintain there is but one China and that Taiwan is a province of China.” That solves the question [Page 12] of a split, because Chiang Kai-shek on the other side of the Taiwan Straits also considers there is only one China.

And then the second part of it is you express the hope the settlement of the Taiwan question consistent with this position will be achieved through peaceful negotiations. So in this way you are not restricted by any specific condition, such as that we will have to liberate Taiwan by suchand-such a date. We don’t say that.

And so, as for the part on the withdrawal of the United States armed forces, we originally mentioned the forces will be withdrawn after you had withdrawn all your forces from Indochina. That is what you told us. But now we don’t mention it. So in the formulation there is no time limit, and of course this will be connected with relaxation of tension in the Far East. But we don’t put this explicitly down. So we took into account your difficulties by not making a clear time limit. So this formulation has taken into account difficulties on both sides, especially yours.

Dr. Kissinger: Again, I recognize that you have attempted to be just, and I said to my colleague last night that if you could convince your colleagues in Hanoi to approach us with your spirit, we could settle the war in two afternoons.

PM Chou: But it cannot be so, because every country has their own characteristics.

Dr. Kissinger: I understand.

PM Chou: And that is why I appreciate the sentence that suggests that neither side will negotiate on behalf of any third party. And then you deleted that part of your formulation about having made a series of proposals to that end. You did right that way.

Dr. Kissinger: Yes, because we have no interest in complicating your position.

PM Chou: So as for the formulation on Taiwan, suppose you bring it back and discuss it with your President, and if there are no big differences between your views and our formulation then it might not be necessary to communicate on it through our channels before the President comes.

[Page 13]

Dr. Kissinger: One point I have never raised is that we need a peg to hang on this statement of withdrawal. We can do it by saying, “as tensions in Asia diminish”. Another is if you state unilaterally, not as a joint statement, your intention to settle this question peacefully. Then we can say that “in view of this statement” the U.S. will progressively reduce its forces.

PM Chou: That’s a thing of the future.

Dr. Kissinger: What do you mean?

PM Chou: Because at the present time the Taiwan regime is still usurping our seat in the United Nations. They claim to represent it now.

Dr. Kissinger: But I don’t understand what that has to do with it.

PM Chou: It is related. Think it over. How would they approve of us declaring that we want to effect the peaceful liberation of Taiwan?

Dr. Kissinger: How would Taiwan … ?

PM Chou: Chiang Kai-shek.

Dr. Kissinger: He won’t approve anything you do anyway.

PM Chou: But particularly if we were to say that this formulation is better—it’s more or less like yours.

Dr. Kissinger: Well, I think I understand your point of view. It’s too important an issue to be settled here at the table. I will take it back. You have two versions of our position. We have your version which we can study. I will either tell you through our channel that things are fairly close and we will settle it when the President comes, or I will send you another formulation through the channel, or I will send a formulation with General Haig. And let’s leave it at that. Or if everything fails, maybe I will come back a few weeks before the President comes because we really should avoid too much controversy while he is here.

PM Chou: We persist in our formulation. So when you … it is not possible to reach an agreement here today. When you go back, please report to your President our view, and the situation that only such a formulation is acceptable.

[Page 14]

Dr. Kissinger: That I have to understand clearly. You are saying it is either this formulation or nothing else?

PM Chou: When we compare it with your formulation, yours is not so clear. For us it is not so completely clear either. Although the direction is clear, the time has not been limited. So when you go back, if it’s only a matter of one or two words, then that can be done through our channel. Otherwise, it would be better for Your Excellency to come again, or wait for your President to come.

Dr. Kissinger: You don’t want to discuss this in the channel?

PM Chou: As you said, in a complicated matter like this we couldn’t make ourselves clear through our channel. It would be much better for you to come back, because we have dealt with the backgrounds of our two sides, and all this background knowledge is known by you and by us, but not by the other diplomats.

Dr. Kissinger: Right. All right.

PM Chou: For us we are also running a risk here. That is, we are placing our reliance on your President, continuing to remain in office, and Your Excellency continuing to be his assistant. But we cannot speak on behalf of the American people. We don’t know whether they will choose you or not. So even after your President comes, and even if he undertakes such an obligation, if he is not voted into office for the next term, we don’t know whether it will be put into implementation.

As I told you last night, when Chairman Mao spoke to Edgar Snow, he was sure your President will be able to resolve this question. And Life Magazine made that quite clear in the article written by Mr. Snow, and that was quite authoritative. And yesterday we were discussing the Taiwan question. We have already told you all of our thinking on this matter.

Dr. Kissinger: I know.

PM Chou: If we are to wait another six years, we may wait another six years, but then we will liberate by another means, not this means. You understand.

Dr. Kissinger: We are not asking you to wait six years.

[Page 15]

PM Chou: Precisely because we have confidence in your taking a responsible position.

Dr. Kissinger: I think you believe we are serious about that which we said we would do. Our problem domestically is as follows: If we accept a formulation that has the consequence of exciting all the traditional supporters of the President, and if as a result of that he is defeated, and if therefore the China lobby has proved its political strength, then it will not be possible to carry out what we have told you we will carry out, and what we will carry out.

PM Chou: The China lobby is of no great strength now. It is different from what it was ten years ago.

Dr. Kissinger: Not by itself, but the combination of the conservative element and them is of some strength.

PM Chou: But the crucial question here is not our problem, but the problem of Indochina, the question of the withdrawal of troops from Vietnam.

Dr. Kissinger: But that we can handle.

PM Chou: If you can handle that question, then the Taiwan question is a small matter.

Dr. Kissinger: No, not domestically. I have not haggled with you about the substance of what we are going to do. It is odd that we should spend so little time on substance, and so much time on words. We do not differ in substance.

PM Chou: Precisely because both sides have their difficulties with regard to the wording which is to be used. That’s why we must be careful, and we have been taking into account your difficulties on the wording.

Dr. Kissinger: If I were bargaining, I wouldn’t keep saying you have been fair. We have an objective problem here. But I think we cannot go further today. I will take this back. If we have a concrete formulation I may ask General Haig to bring it. He has my complete confidence. You may not want to discuss it with him, but he can at least bring it to you. And he knows about this, but not, of course, in the detail you and I do. And if [Page 16] we have not agreed before the President comes, then maybe I will find some way of coming for a day or two, two or three weeks before he comes.

PM Chou: So let us put it at that then.

Dr. Kissinger: But we will approach it with the attitude of having a constructive outcome.

Now, let me go back to the rest of the document. It is probably impossible for you to believe how hard it is for Americans to understand your particular approach to problems. I understand it. But when we prepared our technical presentation, for example, all my colleagues thought I was mad because I said, “give the Chinese all the facts of our internal considerations and give them a minimum position and they will treat you fairly.” All my colleagues said let’s give them a maximum position, and then compromise; let us not give them anything in writing; and let us then just start talking to them. (Chou laughs.) I had to go to the very top to get an order that everybody had to put his requests in writing so we could let you study everything we knew.

Therefore, I understand that your approach is principled. When I was recommending some cuts in the beginning, it wasn’t in order to make a substantive point. It is really that I am afraid that when the President reads this document and sees the first five pages list nothing but disagreements he will say, “what is it really that we are trying to do here?” He has never seen a document like this before. This is why I recommended some cuts on your side and on our side, leaving aside the Vietnam sentences because that may be taken care of anyway. We can wait and it may be settled, or we can do it when we come. But if we could cut one of the sentences, either on page two or three, plus our sentence on page four, so to compress it.

PM Chou: Well, I will then suggest a formulation for the linking of these two sentences. You suggested that “It must be recognized… , etc.”, that sentence be deleted?

Dr. Kissinger: Yes.

PM Chou: And then this is maintained, that is “the Chinese side stated that it firmly supports the struggles of all the oppressed peoples and [Page 17] nations for freedom and liberation”, and then following after that would be “and that the people of all countries have the right to choose their social systems according to their own wishes and have the right to safeguard the independence, sovereignty, and territorial integrity of their own countries and oppose foreign aggression, interference, control and subversion.” Let’s put these two sentences together in order to prevent repetition.

Dr. Kissinger: How will that save space?

PM Chou: It does save space.

Dr. Kissinger: Will you read the sentence?

Interpreter: “The Chinese side stated that it firmly supports the struggles of all the oppressed peoples and nations for freedom and liberation and that the people of all countries…”

Dr. Kissinger: Oh.

Interpreter:“… have the right to choose their social systems according to their own wishes, and the right to safeguard the independence, sovereignty, and territorial integrity of their own countries and oppose foreign aggression, interference, control and subversion.”

Dr. Kissinger: That’s all right. Will you get one of your genius interpreters to put that into good English. I find it depressing that your interpreters write better English than English writers. These documents are beautifully written—I don’t mean it as a joke—with great clarity. I will delete in our section the sentence on page four which begins with “The U.S. side believes”, through “misunderstanding.” This is just to save space; I don’t object to it.

PM Chou: We don’t either. It has little to do with us. It has to do with your relations with the Soviet Union. So you may either put it in or not; we don’t care.

Dr. Kissinger: Let me discuss it with the President. I will delete on the Indochinese question the phrase “to which end it had made a series of proposals.” Will just say its “primary objective has been a negotiated solution.”

[Page 18]

PM Chou: Then we must—here you have three sentences concerning Indochina—we must maintain our sentence of support for the peoples of Vietnam, Laos, and Cambodia …

Dr. Kissinger: I will take out the sentence, then, that “its primary objective has been a negotiated solution.”

PM Chou: That is, you hope that we will not use the sentence to support the struggle of the people of Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia to attain their goal?

Dr. Kissinger: Yes.

PM Chou: You are placing some difficulties before us. Do you think it will be good to let that northern neighbor of ours stick their hands into this situation? Isn’t that so?

Dr. Kissinger: I understand your problem and your desires. I believe you genuinely want a peaceful settlement of the war.

PM Chou: Yes.

Dr. Kissinger: You don’t think you are expressing support in supporting the Joint Declaration of the Summit Conference of the Indochinese Peoples?

PM Chou: Yes, but there is still a shortcoming there, because in general terms it is necessary for us to express our support to the peoples of the three countries of Indochina. I suggest for, the sake of deleting some words to delete the seven-point proposal for the peaceful settlement of the Vietnam question. Let us just say the seven-point proposal put forward by the Provisional Revolutionary Government of the Republic of South Vietnam. Because this is clear, and words will be saved. We would hope you will settle it. We would hope you will be able to settle your problems with Vietnam.

Dr. Kissinger: Why don’t we leave this open, seeing how the negotiations go? For example, it may be totally irrelevant for you to support the seven-point proposal by the time the President gets here.

PM Chou: But the sentence before that will still be of use.

[Page 19]

Dr. Kissinger: If we have an agreement in principle with Hanoi, then the sentence before that is no problem to us. The sentence before that is a problem to us if American prisoners of war are still being held in large numbers in Vietnam, if American soldiers are still being killed, and if an American President has to come 12,000 miles to be told that they are supporting this, even if they are doing so.

PM Chou: But your President is not to be held responsible for the beginning of that war. Your President is to put an end to that war.

Dr. Kissinger: I know, but it has become a very emotional problem, which goes beyond rational discussion in America at this moment.

PM Chou: Well then, suppose we just say “firm support to the struggle of the peoples of Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia” and stop there, and leave out the words “for the attainment of their goal.”

Dr. Kissinger: Well, that will help a little. It’s the “struggle” part that is the problem.

PM Chou: (laughs) There is this question; you don’t like the word “struggle.” We don’t believe in the word “peace” so very much, but there are a lot of words “peace” in this document. We don’t believe that it will be so easy to attain world peace. But we do admit that the sentiments of the people of the world want peace if they are not oppressed. Yet, at the duck dinner the day before yesterday, I explained why we went to Chungking for the negotiations after the war.

Dr. Kissinger: I read the essay of Chairman Mao on the Chungking negotiations with great care.

PM Chou: So, although we don’t believe it is so easy to attain world peace, nevertheless … in fact, we often say we struggle for peace. It’s our philosophy of struggle.

Dr. Kissinger: As a philosopher, I agree more with you than with the sentimentalists who use peace as a slogan. Few great changes of history have occurred on the basis of abstract argument. So if we were discussing world outlooks, I would have no problem with that point of view. [Page 20] The problem here is a serious domestic one, which is for the President to answer the question of what were you doing going 12,000 miles to be told, if the war is still going on, to be told this. If it is not, you believe the struggle will continue. I believe it too, but the domestic question for us will be quite difficult.

PM Chou: Let us for the time being delete the words “for the attainment of their goal” and still keep the word “struggle” and then see what we do about it when the President comes.

Dr. Kissinger: If the Prime Minister can find a word like “progress” which substituted for “revolution.”

PM Chou: We must think it over. Put it there for the time being.

Dr. Kissinger: For example, for the “aspirations.”

PM Chou: You mean “the aspirations …” To use that word, people may know it was your word, to take care of some necessities.

Dr. Kissinger: Maybe here, but not in America.

PM Chou: You have too low an estimate of the American people.

Dr. Kissinger: No, but they don’t know your particular vocabulary. And they have never had to struggle as you have had to.

PM Chou: (laughs) They are engaged in struggles.

Dr. Kissinger: Yes, but not of the same character.

PM Chou: Mr. Chang suggests another word—that is support for the “efforts.” That might be better?

Dr. Kissinger: Yes. He hasn’t wasted his time in England.

PM Chou: He also spent some time in the United States, so he knows your thinking.

Dr. Kissinger: Let us take this tentatively and reconsider it when the President comes here, or if I come here, in light of my negotiations with the North Vietnamese. But tentatively, let us say “efforts.”

[Page 21]

Then the only other thing left is that we have to say something about existing commitments to the Republic of Korea. We will delete the phrase “were freely entered into” which we understand is difficult. This is just our statement.

PM Chou: That’s all right.

Dr. Kissinger: Now, just to make sure we understand each other, should I ask to have typed up what we understand the correct version to be so there is no misunderstanding?

PM Chou: Would you kindly read out again that part on the Republic of Korea.

Dr. Kissinger: (referring to page five of Tab A and earlier U.S. draft) “The existing commitments between the United States and the Republic of Korea would be honored.” We leave: this in the sentence: “The United States would support all efforts of the Republic of Korea to seek a relaxation of the tension and increased communication in the Korean peninsula.” The one that says, “were freely entered into by both sides” is deleted. Now, if the Prime Minister is agreeable … Oh, I need his (interpreter’s) version of that other sentence. May I raise a number of other … . You have your own problems?

PM Chou: No, it is all settled.

Dr. Kissinger: So we will just give you the text, leaving the one paragraph on Taiwan in your formulation, but we will underline it to say it must be discussed with the President. It’s not agreed.

PM Chou: That is so.

Dr. Kissinger: I have convinced your interpreter.

PM Chou: There are several sitting here who were in the United States.

Dr. Kissinger: He was a fellow chemistry student. I studied chemistry. I got brilliant grades and understood nothing. I did it by memory.

PM Chou: That is one of the troubles of schools sometimes.

Dr. Kissinger: I never understood why things happened. Can I raise some of the practical problems?

[Page 22]

PM Chou: Yes.

Dr. Kissinger: We have to change the date of the announcement we can release tomorrow; we have to say from October 20 to October “26”, rather than October “25.”

PM Chou: That’s right.

Dr. Kissinger: So we will do this and have to make sure you do this too.

PM Chou: Your visit was from the 20th to the 26th.

Dr. Kissinger: To the 26th. Otherwise everything stays the same.

PM Chou: The time of the announcement will still be the same?

Dr. Kissinger: The 27th at 4:00 Washington time in the afternoon. Again, just to confirm, you will announce today that I have left?

PM Chou: This evening, but only a simple release, saying that you viewed some places of interest, not saying where you went. You can disclose that after you go back to the United States, cite those places that you visited.

Dr. Kissinger: No, it’s better not to. If you don’t mind, I can do it, or you could do it, after your announcement. You see, when I arrive in Washington tonight our time, I will be greeted by a lot of newsmen, and I will say I must report to the President, and I will say nothing until we release the announcement. Then I will give a background briefing at 4:00 tomorrow afternoon our time when we make the announcement, and on that occasion I might mention the places we have visited.

PM Chou: So for us, we will just release tonight something saying you have left China after engaging in some talks, and viewing some places of interest, without citing specific places. Maybe we will cite those of our people who will see you off at the airport, the Vice Chairman, the Acting Foreign Minister.

Dr. Kissinger: Certainly, that is fine.

PM Chou: And we will be sending our Acting Chief of Protocol, Mr. HAN Hsu, to accompany you to Shanghai together with our navigator and interpreter so as to help at the refueling in Shanghai.

[Page 23]

Dr. Kissinger: You are very courteous.

When I am asked tomorrow what we discussed, what does the Prime Minister recommend that I say?

PM Chou: It is better for you to decide that. Think it over yourself on what you think you should say. We had talks, that is certain.

Dr. Kissinger: I will say that we discussed technical arrangements, and we began discussing in a general way the agenda.

PM Chou: All right.

Dr. Kissinger: If they ask me was there any discussion of Japan or Taiwan or Vietnam, I will say I will not go into the substance. (Chou nods. ) And then, if I am asked about a communique, I will say that we don’t have one. And I will send you the briefing through the regular channel as soon as I can get it to Paris.

PM Chou: And then we can coordinate with you on that.

Dr. Kissinger: Right. My understanding is that we will propose to you a date for the announcement of the President’s visit, and that it will be around November 22. If the correspondents ask me when will the visit be announced, I will say in a few weeks.

PM Chou: Good.

Dr. Kissinger: But I will make a proposal to you within a week or ten days about our proposed date for the announcement which will be around November 22.

PM Chou: That’s more or less alright. Anyway, no later than the 24th.

Dr. Kissinger: Between the 20th and the 24th. But I have to check our schedules when I get back, and if it makes no difference to you, I will let you know.

PM Chou: If we find something as a reason why the dates are not convenient for us we will tell you about it.

[Page 24]

Dr. Kissinger: It is not a big problem. My understanding is that you have agreed to some of the technical people, headed by General Haig, to come after that announcement, after December 1.

PM Chou: That is so. How do you spell General Haig’s name?

Dr. Kissinger: Like the general who was so bad in World War I, H-A-I-G. But he’s very good, and he has my complete confidence. He’s less complicated than I, but he knows everything on our work.

PM Chou: And he will bring some technical people with him?

Dr. Kissinger: Yes, and he will keep them under strict control. He’s a firmer personality than I.

I wanted to raise one other question with the Prime Minister if I could, which I also did last time, which concerns the American prisoners in China.

PM Chou: Do you mean the two special agents?

Dr. Kissinger: Those two and then the two pilots. But they are two separate cases.

When I was here last time, Mr. Prime Minister, I knew only that you held these prisoners, but I did not know the facts, because I could not inquire for obvious reasons. I have now inquired, and I find that Fecteau and Downey did engage in activities that would be considered illegal by any country.

PM Chou: That’s right.

Dr. Kissinger: Therefore, our plea to you has nothing to do with the justice of the case. In fact, we concede that you have a correct legal case. But if, as an act of clemency, you could consider that they have been punished sufficiently, it would make a very good impression in the United States.

[Page 25]

PM Chou: According to our legal procedures, if a criminal in our prisons behaves himself well, that is if he confesses to his crime, then we can lessen the sentence.

Dr. Kissinger: I don’t know whether they have confessed.

PM Chou: They have all confessed. And it is possible in about two months time we may consider lessening the sentences of some of them who have behaved themselves well. As for who that will be we will tell you later. In the early part of this year we already released an old man, Walsh.

Dr. Kissinger: I am aware of that. We would do our best to see to it that anyone you release would not engage in any propaganda against the People’s Republic when he returns.

PM Chou: Well, Walsh didn’t behave badly.

Dr. Kissinger: No, Walsh did not behave badly.

The two pilots, to the best of my knowledge, are victims of the war. They made an honest mistake in flying over Chinese territory, unless I am totally misinformed.

PM Chou: It is indeed true, they did fly into our air space. Otherwise, we could not have shot them down.

Dr. Kissinger: No, but to the best of my knowledge, it was unintentional and therefore is a different case from Fecteau and Downey.

PM Chou: But we have to deal with them in a different light, because the war in Vietnam has not yet ended, and if we released them before it ended, it might give some bad impressions.

So it might be possible that we could release the spies earlier, although their crimes were heavier. They have been in prison a long time. One has almost served out his sentence. Maybe first we will solve the question of one of the two.

[Page 26]

Dr. Kissinger: It would mean a great deal to the American people. And we would treat it as an act of clemency, and not as something we have a right to request, and any public explanation we would make would be in that framework.

The only other thing… I have only two other things, Mr. Prime Minister. First, I wanted to thank everybody who has made this visit so memorable and so useful.

PM Chou: That’s what they should do, and such work will still be done in the future.

Dr. Kissinger: Not only you, but all of your associates, interpreters, drivers, everybody behaved with extraordinary courtesy and efficiency. All of my doubting colleagues who questioned me before we came now know that they are dealing with men of principle. (Chou nods)

Now, I have only one other personal thing to say to you, Mr. Prime Minister. A friend of mine, who is a collector of Chinese art, before I left sent me something which he wanted me, as a token of the pleasure Chinese art has given him, to bring back something from America to China. It is something in the form of a lotus flower, which he tells me means peace and serenity in traditional China. And so I have taken the liberty of bringing this with me. It is a totally unofficial gift which indicates the feeling of the American people for what China has meant to so many of them. It is not worth a great deal, but it is a symbol of the attitude with which all of us will come on our journies next year to improve relations between our peoples and to move from hostility to friendship.

PM Chou: You friend’s name? You?

Dr. Kissinger: No. I can tell you his name. It’s Governor Rockefeller of New York, But he did not particularly want it to be from him personally.

PM Chou: Please convey our thanks to Mr. Rockefeller. It’s not possible for us to give him a return gift this time, but when General Haig comes we will ask him to take back a return gift, and since Governor Rockefeller likes Chinese art, we will select a piece of Chinese art and ask General Haig to take it back to him.

[Page 27]

Dr. Kissinger: He didn’t want me to mention his name.

PM Chou: But it is good that you did, because we know he is a friend who wants to be a friend of China.

We will have to dispense with the general meeting?

Dr. Kissinger: And to whom should we give our understanding of the communique? We will get it retyped, just so there’s no misunderstanding.

PM Chou: I think Mr. Lord can ask (one of our people) to take it for us, and we will get it.

Dr. Kissinger: All right, and if there’s any problem you could tell us before we leave, and if not, then through Paris.

PM Chou: And when will the plane be taking off?

Dr. Kissinger: We have set it for 10:00, but we had better make it 10:30.

(There were then some closing pleasantries. Both sides typed the agreed draft version and exchanged it. There were only minor typographical/punctuation discrepancies which were quickly cleaned up just before departure from the Guest House. The final agreed tentative draft is attached at Tab B.)

  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. The meeting was held at the Government Guest House, Attached at Tab A is the third Chinese draft of the communiqué. See Document 56 for text of the draft. At Tab B is the final agreed tentative draft, which is printed in Foreign Relations, 1969-1972, volume XVII, China, 1969-1972, as an attachment to Document 165. The final version of the draft is in ibid., Document 203.
  2. During the final meeting between Chinese and American officials, President’s Assistant for National Security Affairs Kissinger cautioned that he was out in front of official U.S. policy on Taiwan and could not guarantee that President Nixon would agree to the entire formulation. He agreed that the U.S. would not challenge the reality of one China and that Taiwan was a province of China. Chinese Premier Chou En-lai maintained that where there were fundamental differences, especially in the interpretation of words such as “peaceful competition” and “individual freedom,” the differences should remain in the communiqué.