75. Backchannel Message From the President’s Deputy Assistant for National Security Affairs (Haig) to the President’s Assistant for National Security Affairs (Kissinger), Beijing, January 4, 19721 2

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January, 4, 1971 Peking #2



Following my initial interim report, we were suddenly informed that we would be expected in the Great Hall for a meeting with the Acting Foreign Minister, to be followed by a banquet hosted by him. Upon arrival at the Great Hall, we were led into a room containing at least thirty PRC officials. As soon as we were seated, the Acting Foreign Minister entered and he immediately launched into a propagandistic pitch about the differences between our systems. He also questioned our ability to be able to work with a Socialist Regime and concluded with the standard confessional of PRC shortcomings, past mistakes and limited ability to cope with our technology.

I put him down rather abruptly and nothing more of the propaganda line was heard. During the banquet, the Acting Foreign Minister who lacks anything of the skill or grace of our other hosts gave a warmly written toast (he did read it) and I followed. All in all, the meeting and banquet were highly successful and seemed to dispose of all preliminary modalities. I then went to my room (we are staying in hotel, not guest house). At 2345 hours, as I was about to fall asleep, [Page 2] Mr. Han Su, the Protocol Chief, arrived and informed me I was to meet with the Prime Minister immediately. He informed me, contrary to my earlier request, that others would be present. Upon arriving at the Great Hall at midnight, flanked only by Muriel, I was greeted by Chou with Acting Foreign Minister Fei, the Vice Foreign Minister, Director Chang and Protocol Chief Han Su. Nancy Tang served as interpreter. At this point, it was obvious that Chou had no intention of meeting alone with me. Therefore, for better or worse, I proceeded after an exchange of pleasantries, to deliver the points we discussed at Key Biscayne. Because of the audience, I was slightly more circumspect on several minor points. Nevertheless, I adhered religiously to the substance we discussed. Throughout, Chou listened intently, nodding agreement on most issues and correcting Nancy’s Chinese when she failed to precisely translate a particular phrase or sentence. All this took about an hour and one half and interruptions were very few. Then Chou lucidly replied in an objective and friendly style. Verbatim text follows:

“C: I thank you for your rather clear notification. Of course, you have said you have not gone into great detail but we understand the general idea. And, of course, we must report this to Chairman Mao Tse-tung and also must consult with other colleagues. Therefore, I am not able to [Page 3] give an official reply. However, I would like to comment on what you have said. The first thing is just as you mentioned that the coming together of our two countries would be beneficial to the promotion of the normalization of relations between our two countries and also to the relaxation of tension in the Far East. We believe this will not only be beneficial to the U.S. but also to the People’s Republic of China and also to the peoples of our two countries and to the people in the Far East.

“The second point is that Soviet meddling in the South Asian subcontinent and in Indochina, in my opinion, is not due to a change in the strategic policies of the Soviet Union but rather a necessary consequence of reaction on the part of the Soviet Union toward the coming closer between China and the United States. And I mentioned this to Dr. Kissinger during his first visit to China—that we were anticipating to shoulder, to bear the consequences of this coming together of U.S. and China and that we were prepared for this and we do not, therefore, find it to be unexpected. For instance, the question of the subcontinent. It was because the Sino-American Communique of July 15—the first announcement of July 15th, your time, was published that the Soviet-Indian Treaty, a so-called treaty which was actually a military alliance, came into being after having been delayed for two years. It was finally signed in Delhi in August and it [Page 4] can be said that Pakistan did not deal with that very earnestly at that time.

“Of course, this is not something that either China or the United States could do for them as their friend. And, therefore, when later on in December, the situation had already become rather urgent, when we heard of Dr. Kissinger’s information about the policy as adopted by the United States, we considered that although it was rather late at that time already, we considered that that was the only possible policy that could be adopted at that time. Of course, now, the question of the subcontinent has become complicated. And we believe that it will continue to develop. And if the United States Government has any other new further opinion with regard to this situation, we are willing to hear it. Because the obstruction of India’s advance toward West Pakistan is only a temporary phenomenon. And with the development of the already complex situation on the subcontinent, will undergo still more changes. And, therefore, if the interim period from now until the visit of your President to China, if the U.S. Government has any new information it would like to convey, we are willing to exchange opinions on the situation in the area.

“I would like to say also, very frankly, that our opinions differ from yours on Vietnam. We believe that it was not necessary for the U.S. Government to bomb North Vietnam in such a way as [Page 5] President Nixon has never done since he has taken office, as he did around Christmas last year. And, in addition, this action was taken after President Nixon had withdrawn I believe around 400,000 troops from South Vietnam, and, therefore, this action made it even more unacceptable to the people of the world, including the people of the United States and this was also reflected in the press of the United States. And this also occurred at precisely the time when President Nixon declared to the world around Christmas that he wised to move toward relaxation of tension and toward peace in the world. And if we should say that Soviet forces in the Indian Ocean and in the South Asian subcontinent have increased, we should say that the Soviet Union was given an opportunity to increase its influence and its force in the Democratic Republic of Vietnam then we should say that it was assisted by the recent action of the United States. Because as I remember, when Dr. Kissinger was here discussing things with us, he expressed particular admiration and appreciation of the fifth point put forth by Madame Binh of the Republic of Vietnam. The basic spirit of that clause was to change South Vietnam and Indochina into a non-allied area, ie.e, an area which would maintain peaceful and friendly relations with all sides. And this would be beneficial to [Page 6] the relaxation of tension in Southeast Asia. It would also be beneficial to the improvement of relations between the United States and China. However, now the U.S. bombing has increased the Soviet influence and tension in this area. Of course, this is not of great consequence to us but it is quite bad for the local area. It will make the situation in all of Southeast Asia tense and it will also be a matter of great concern to the people of the U.S. and the world and it will not be favorable toward the ending of the war in that area.

“Originally, we were waiting to convey these views to President Nixon and Dr. Kissinger when they come alter on but since you have now mentioned, we think this is also another opportunity to advance some of our opinions. Of course, this is also just an initial exchange and I believe we will have another opportunity to exchange opinions. And, of course, as you said, this exchange is limited to us two.

“And as for the third factor, we have taken into consideration the fact that you have certain internal problems which we see from the press and also Dr. Kissinger mentioned it during his previous visits and we have also felt the three forces which you mentioned. I would also like to ask something very bluntly and to you as you are a military man. [Page 7] Is it that the Pentagon also has differing opinions?”

“H: Some elements in the Pentagon have differing opinions but those who are the most responsible and strategic thinkers are in full agreement with this initiative and the visit of the President.”

“C: As for the two questions—the two issues that Dr. Kissinger raised about the joint communique.

“The first is essentially a question of trade. We understand this proposal and we can also see from American opinion that they are also attaching importance to this question and this is also an issue that carries weight.

“The second is the suggestion you have brought from Dr. Kissinger about the wording of the part about Taiwan. In our opinion, the paragraph that we have written down—I am not speaking about the part the Chinese says but the part that the U.S. side says. We believe that in the wording of that part we have fully taken into consideration the present dilemma that you just now mentioned between the United States Government and the forces you mention from the Left and the Right because this is a force of crucial significance to the United States but since you have brought a new opinion, we would be willing to take it into consideration, because as we have mentioned before we are always [Page 8] willing to get the work done as best as possible because you must work with a view toward the future. And also Dr. Kissinger has already given some hints about this question to the press —- five points, isn’t that so?”

“H: Five points?”

“C: You have not seen them? A Minister of Japan—we found it in the Japanese press. They were representatives of the Democratic Socialist Party—the leader of that party.”

“H: He did talk to him.”

“C: And he announced these five points to the Japanese pres.”

“H: I don’t recall Dr. Kissinger using five points.”

“C: We have been trying to get a copy.”

“H: I will find out about that. I did not sit in at the meeting.”

“C: We will try to get a copy and give you an English translation. Of course, it quoted Dr. Kissinger and these words came from the Japanese. As for the specific questions you later mentioned (administrative questions), we don’t think there is any question to that because we believe during his second visit Dr. Kissinger mentioned these points. I believe we can cooperate very well on them. Of course, you can continue discussions with Acting Foreign Minister Fei, either directly or you can have separate group discussions with various other people. Of course, [Page 9] we will not do anything to embarrass you and if anything comes up at lower levels, they will not be settled there. They will be brought to you.

“As for your plans for this present visit to China, there are two suggestions. One was that you would spend a greater portion of your time in Peking and then go to Shanghai and Hangchow and come back here. In my personal opinion, it would be better to have all issues decided in Peking and then go to other places. It would be economizing on the time. But, of course, if you would like to wait for a reply from Washington before you would like to finalize certain details or if you have other political matters to discuss later on, then a return trip would be better. Either question is entirely up to you to decide.”

“H: I think, at first glance, we would favor a longer time here and then the trip to the other two locations and depart from there. I think we will know that better after we have had discussions of the schedule tomorrow morning at the plenary sessions, after which we could decide. But I believe that this would be the best way to proceed.”

“C: I am sorry to have taken up too much of your sleep.”

“H: I am honored that you have taken this time to see me.”

“C: I am also very happy to have been able to meet you. Anyway, if you are going to contact Dr. Kissinger, please send my regards to him.”

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“H: I will do so.”

From the preceding, it is clear that Chou’s assessment of South Asia is more precise but not incompatible with the one I presented. His assessment of the bombing sounded like it was mostly for the records though not altogether. He never answered the issue on why Hanoi has failed to respond to our initiative. On more positive elements to the communique, including trade, I think we can count on some movement. On Taiwan, he was less forthcoming but I believe here too we can achieve an acceptable compromise. The questions the Chinese will wish answered as soon as possible are how we should proceed during this visit on:

Further exchanges of views on South Asia. (I believe the PRC will definitely cause some trouble in East Pakistan and have now put us on notice).
Further exchange of views on Southeast Asia.
New language for the positive portions of the communique.
New language in communique on Taiwan.
Our trip schedule.

Regarding a above, you can judge better than I whether you wish to provide more views. I recommend that I merely tell PRC I have nothing further but should something develop you will send via Paris channel.

Regarding b above, recommend same as a.

Regarding c above, I believe you should consider some language changes and bring them in February. I would tell PRC that we are doing so [Page 11] and request they do likewise but hold on further exchanges of views until President’s trip.

Regarding d above, press no further since we left ad referendum new language for them to consider which they promised to do.

Regarding e above, we can best settle here based on tomorrow’s meeting and assessment of PRC’s attitude on President and Mrs. Nixon’s schedule.

After eighteen straight thrilling hours, I’m going to bed. Muriel won’t be so fortunate.

Warm regards.

  1. Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Box 1015, Haig Special File, Haig China Trip File [Haig Advance Party, Dec. 29, 1971 to Jan. 10, 1972] [1 of 2]. Top Secret; Sensitive; Eyes Only.
  2. Haig reported that Chinese Premier Chou En-lai blamed Soviet “meddling” in South Asia and Indochina on their anger at the Chinese-U.S. rapprochement and criticized Washington’s continued bombing of North Vietnam.