94. Memorandum of Conversation, Beijing, February 24, 1972, 3 p.m.1 2

Memorandum of Conversation

DATE: February 24, 1972, 3:00 p.m.


  • Counterpart Meeting III


  • Chinese
  • Foreign Minister Chi P’eng-fei
  • Hsiung Hsiang-hui, Secretary to the Premier, Foreign Affairs
  • Wang Chen, Deputy Director, Information Department
  • Ch’ien Ta-yung, Deputy Director, West European, American and Australasian Affairs
  • Li Tsung-ying, Leading Member, Research Group
  • Ting Yuan-hung, Member, Delegation to the UNGA
  • SHEN JO-YUN, Interpreter
  • Hu Fang Hsien, Stenographer
  • US
  • Secretary of State William P. Rogers
  • Assistant Secretary of State Marshall Green
  • Ron Ziegler, Press Secretary to the President
  • John Scali, Speciail Consultant to the President
  • Alfred le S. Jenkins, Director for Asian Communist Affairs
  • Nicholas Platt, Assistant to the Secretary
  • Commander John Howe, National Security Council Staff
  • Charles W. Freeman, Jr., Interpreter
  • Calvin Mehlert, Interpreter

PLACE: Sinkiang Room, Great Hall of the People, Peking


White House - Dr. Kissinger

[Page 2]

At our suggestion, the Foreign minister opened with a review of the international situation from the PRC point of view, which, he observed, can be learned from PRC newspapers.

Foreign Minister Chi noted first that great changes had occurred in the international situation in the over 20 years since the end of World War II, changes to which President Nixon had referred in his Foreign Policy Report of July 6, 1971. The most dominant characteristic of the world in this period is its untranquil nature. Although there has been no new world war, local wars have never ceased. The civil conflict in China, the Korean War and the Viet-Nam war are examples. Now the India-Pakistan war has added a third war in this area, sharpening contradictions and making the situation in South Asia more unstable and uncertain. The Middle East is in the midst of recurrent war crises, with the ever-present possibility of war on a larger scale.

Causes of Turmoil

What are the causes of this lack of tranquility? Frankly speaking, they cannot be separated from the post World War II policies of Presidents Truman, Kennedy and Johnson. Thus, in the 1950’s the economic and military strengths of the US expanded enormously. In the words of the 1971 Foreign Policy Report, the US had “indisputable superiority in strategic strength.” As a result the US stretched out its hands too far and attempted to gain too much control. Tension grew in many areas as a result. Witness the civil war in China, the Korean War and Viet-Nam.

The Soviet Union and the US

In the 1960’s, another big power has attempted to slip into your shoes and to control the affairs of other countries. It wants to intervene in Europe, the Middle East, the Mediterranean and also in South Asia. Its purpose is to establish hegemony in the Indian Ocean and to dominate everyone else, as the US Foreign Policy Report noted. President Nixon has noted also that US-USSR relations are “dominated by incessant and dangerous conflict.” Thus, how can the international situation be other than dangerous? Furthermore, the situation will become increasingly hostile.

[Page 3]

Reaction to US Policy of Domination China and Viet-Nam

What was the result of the US policy to dominate all, the Foreign Minister asked. President Nixon himself noted in the July 1971 Foreign Policy Report that the US was no longer in a position of “complete predominance” and “has a challenge such as we did not even dream of.” Mr. Secretary is no doubt familiar with our views that where there is oppression there will be resistance. President Truman spent billions to engage in the Chinese civil war, but what was the result? We are all clear about that and no details are needed. Then you began throwing more billions as well as your own troops into the Indochinese War, bringing disaster to the people of Indochina. Now it is certain that the US will not be able to win this war.

The Crux of the World Situation

The crux of the situation in the world is that aggression and oppression are unpopular and can only arouse the resistance of the people. (The Foreign Minister then drew a parallel with the US war of independence.)

In the view of the PRC, despite upheavals, the trend is progressive, and is reflected in the post-war antiimperialist and anti-colonialist struggles in Asia which have brought independence to many countries. In Africa and Latin America the struggle against colonialism and imperialism has spread and countries are becoming independent one after another. President Nixon also has noted the strong desire for change in Latin America.

The Competition of the “Super Powers”

In the world today, the Foreign Minister continued, there are one or two super-powers who, no matter how wild their ambitions, cannot monopolize world affairs. The middle and smaller powers demand a voice. This trend is being expressed in international bodies like the U.N. Our outlook is optimistic: countries want independence; nations want liberation; and people want revolution. This is an irresistible trend.

[Page 4]

President Nixon has said that he wants a relaxation of international tension. But the people of the world see that the US and the USSR are rivals for world hegemony; anxious to divide between themselves spheres of influence; and deeply involved in a nuclear arms race, in what you call “global strategic competition.” You emphasize the need to enhance your position of strength, to create an “adequate nuclear deterrent” and to spend billions for this. How can this be conducive to peace and to relaxation of tensions? It is already many years since the end of World War II, but the US still maintains many troops and bass overseas.

The US and its “Old Friends,” or a New Policy

The US says that it will not abandon its old friends and will faithfully observe its treaty commitments. What does this mean in fact? In fact, you have no intention of withdrawing troops from overseas, or of giving up control over and interference in other countries.

How then can the US contribute to a relaxation of tensions? Premier Chou En-lai told Dr. Kissinger last October that “if we are to enter a new era, it will be necessary to change some relations, If there is no change, then life can only go on as before.”

If you maintain all old relations, you won’t “abandon old friends;” how can you adapt to a new era? I discussed this problem with the Secretary on our trip to the Great Wall. What about Ngo Ding Diem and Syngman Rhee? Were they not “old friends” in their time? It is clear to everyone what end they met. Why are you so reluctant to part with unpopular “old friends.” In our view we must march forward to adapt to a new era. We cannot stand still.

PRO Solution for Peace and Its Own Role in International Relations

If we are to ease international tension and attain peace then all must respect the five principles of peaceful coexistence. Every country must be free to choose its own social system without outside interference. Otherwise the world will only see even greater upheavals.

[Page 5]

For over a century the Foreign Minister continued, the Chinese people have suffered from foreign aggression and oppression. Therefore, the Chinese people of course sympathize with and firmly support the just struggle of all oppressed peoples. I think you know that our support is primarily political and moral although we give some material support to friendly countries.

On the basis of the five principles, we have established and developed relations of friendship and cooperation with many countries. Even with these countries with whom we have differences of principle, we have established normal relations on the basis of the five principles. The old China once bullied neighbor countries, and then itself was subjected to bullying. This kind of injustice still exists today with the large bullying the small and the strong bullying the weak. Our experience has shown that big power chauvinism is undesirable. All countries, large and small, should be equal. International matters should be settled by consultation of all countries and not by the super-powers. We believe that peaceful consultation should be used to settle problems and not force or the threat of force. Troops should be withdrawn from foreign territory.

Prospects for Peace in Asia

While we favor a reduction of tension in the Far East, we take a realistic view of the complicated situation in that area. We hope for peace but we have no illusions about the ease with which peace may be attained. We hope for a reduction of tensions, but we are not afraid of tension. We are accustomed to tension on our borders. In fact, tensions are not harmful to us, but rather have the effect of educating and mobilizing our people.

I must tell you frankly that we have made preparation against all kinds of eventualities. I believe that you must be clear about all these.

Foreign Minister Chi concluded this presentation by suggesting that certain questions touched on only briefly, such as those concerning Indochina, Japan and Korea, could be dealt with separately later on.

[Page 6]

The Secretary opened by commenting that the Foreign minister’s presentation showed so many obvious misconceptions of US policy and world affairs that he had difficulty knowing where to begin.


It is difficult, he continued, for the American people to accept the PRO’s simplistic division of the world into oppressors and oppressed, into aggressors and those aggressed against. It is also impossible, based on observable fact, to imply that the US is an oppressor and thus unpopular in the world. That is a total fallacy. If one travels extensively, as I have, one can see clearly that what you say is entirely wrong, although isolation from the real world may cause some people to think this way. I remarked to you on our way to the Great Wall that I personally, as Secretary of State, have been well received in almost every country I have visited, about 45 in all.

Our people are free to leave the US to go anywhere they want. We have no problem of citizens who want to escape. Rather, our problem is that we have so many people who want to come to the US that we must have restrictions on immigration. Many Chinese live in the US, and more want to come. If the US was, as you seem to imply, an “aggressor and oppressor,” then there would not be this considerable desire to come to the US.

The US has treaties with 45 nations. These treaties, and the mutual commitments therein, were not forced on either party. They were made with nations chosen by the people.

US Support to Independence Movements

You are aware of our strong support for the independence of African nations. I have been warmly received, in many of these countries. African nations do not want revolution, but peaceful development and peaceful change are needed. I was continually asked to provide more Americans and more US help to these countries.

[Page 7]

The situation is much the same in Latin America where, as I learned at the recent meeting of the Foreign Ministers of the Americas, more US participation in development is desired. One basic reason is that those countries know that we have no territorial ambitions nor any wish to control them.

US-PRC Agreement in Principle

We agree with you that the large and strong should not bully the small and weak. The nations with whom we have relations do not fear us on this score. There are some nations with whom we are having difficulties at the present, difficulties which are described fully in our free press.

We agree with you also that affairs should be settled by the people of the countries themselves. We agree on the principle of self-determination. In our view, this means by voting; we know of no other way.

US Armed Strength

I mentioned once in our meeting yesterday that the US had been forced into world wars two times against our will. We have since decided that we will never again be second best. And we do not intend to apologize to anyone for that. We maintain our military strength as a means to prevent another world war.

You imply that US troops are in other countries against the wishes of the people. This is not true. We maintain troops in Europe in reaction to the threat to stability posed by the Warsaw Pact and in response to the requests of the nations concerned. In fact, I don’t believe that your own government would want us to withdraw these troops. Certainly the countries concerned do not want us to do so. The world knows that US power brought victory in World War II; and that instead of dominating the vanquished we helped to rebuild them to the point where Japan is now the third most economically powerful nation, Germany the fourth and Italy prospering.

In summation, I find that the facts simply do not support your implication that the US is an oppressor nation out to dominate the world.

[Page 8]

”Old Friends” and Troop Withdrawals

You criticize us for being unwilling to abandon old friends. We say that we want to make new friends and that is why we are in the PRC today. Also, we are reducing our troop presence in this part of the world as a result of lowering tensions. We have given up Okinawa. Although I understand that there are many things you feel compelled to state publicly concerning my country and the world, I hope that you do not believe all of what you say.

Co-existence, Our Pride in Our System and Revolution

We naturally prefer our system and we are proud of the achievements which have been made, in freedom, under that system. Our achievements are based on our system but we do not insist that others accept it. We agree with you that regardless of system, all nations and peoples should get along. Perhaps in your situation, your system suits you.

Revolution, in our view, is not the wave of the future but rather peace, order, and prosperity. Where change is needed, we believe the world has reached the stage in which change can be orderly and in which force is not needed. We know your ideas differ, but, at the least, we feel if you come to the US you will understand that we are not oppressors.

Foreign Minister Chi responded that of course, differences in principle exist and we have our own views based on our own philosophy, just as you have yours.

War Preparation and Peace

We desire peace. But if one side makes preparations for war and the other also (Chi was referring to the US and the USSR) then there is danger of an arms race. The PRC will not join in an arms race, but because of world tensions it will look to its own strength. We build upon military strength for self-defense purposes; moreover, we have no soldiers stationed abroad.

[Page 9]

The Secretary replied that all nations maintain their forces are for self-defense. Again we agree on principle: we build up our strength in order to avoid trouble. Furthermore, we want to reduce the level of arms by mutual agreement with the Soviet Union reached through the SALT talks. Would you want us to disarm unilaterally in the kind of world we live in today?

Foreign Minister Chi expressed the hope that both the US and the USSR will reduce arms levels. But the “self-defense” to which you refer is different from our concept. Our self-defense is on our own soil. But for you, self-defense includes the arms race between your two countries. Suppose the Soviets refuse to reduce their armed strength, what then?

Then we will maintain our strength, the Secretary replied. If we lived in an idyllic world, then we would not need arms. Would you reduce your troops as long as the Soviets are on your border?

If they don’t attack us, we won’t attack them, Foreign Minister Chi replied.

Turmoil and Revolution in the World

Foreign Minister Chi stated that in spite of differences in social system, philosophy, principles and outlook, it is still possible to reach agreement on state relations. He commented that although the Secretary said the people of the world do not want revolution, in the Chinese view the world is in turmoil and that turmoil is good because then everyone can have their say, and everyone can go forward.

The Secretary noted that two years ago there was much turmoil in the Middle East. Nigeria, once plagued by a most costly war, is now peaceful. Kenya is vastly more stable than some ten to fifteen years ago.

The Foreign Minister replied that although in some areas war has ceased, in others disruption and war is bound to break out. Portugal, the UK and France are all supporting disruption and subversion in Africa.

[Page 10]

The Secretary commented that France and England had been successful not only in granting independence to their former colonies in Africa but in retaining their friendship. The South African problem is another difficult problem and we all understand that. With the exclusion of the Portuguese colonies, the other nations of Africa have made significant progress. The last thing they want now is revolution. They need more education, economic development and technical assistance.

Viet-Nam and Asia

Foreign Minister Chi commented that he had spoken generally about “aggression and oppression” and that these words appeared to have made the Secretary unhappy.

The Secretary said that he was used to such words, and that if saying them made the Foreign Minister feel better, he should go right ahead.

Where there is aggression, the Foreign Minister continued, there is resistance to aggression and where there is oppression there is resistance to oppression. After President Nixon came into office, he began to withdraw troops from Asia, but we must trace out the roots of the problem. You inherited the problem and you are doing your best to extricate yourself, but you must admit there was aggression and oppression on your part. We know you are trying to settle the question of Indochina.

The Secretary responded that he did not feel it useful to get into an exchange of recriminations at this point, expressed appreciation for Chi’s comments on President Nixon and said that he thought it useful to remind ourselves that there have been recent changes.


The Secretary then raised the matter of North Vietnamese invasion of Cambodian territory. At one time Prince Sihanouk had complained publicly over the presence of NVN troops on Cambodian soil, and had made trips to Peking and Moscow in an attempt to get the NVN to leave. To the American people this seemed like a clear case of foreign troops in a country against the will of the people of that country. The new government of Cambodia maintains exactly this same position as Sihanouk once did. The US [Page 11] would like to have Cambodia free and neutral and to have f_oreign troops leave. We know your ideas are different, although both Sihanouk and now the new government agree that the North Vietnamese are invaders. It is difficult for us to understand why you feel differently. If the North Vietnamese went back to North Viet-Nam, then there would be no trouble in Cambodia. But it looks different from your point of view so these talks are useful.

Prime Minister Chi replied that the Indochinese question should be settled by the Indochinese peoples themselves.

The Secretary said that the US agreed and had advocated an Indochinese conference. Foreign Minister Chi refused to be drawn into a discussion of this, stating only that “this is not our affair. We will not intervene.”

Foreign Minister Chi said that as mutual understanding increases, reinforced by the “testimony of fact,” the views of both sides will come together. It is important, the Foreign Minister said, if we cannot find common views right away because we don’t have to be in a hurry.

The Secretary commented that there had been more agreement in principle than he had anticipated and that the main differences lay in how to implement principles and took the five principles of peaceful coexistence as an example.

The Foreign Minister concluded that relations between the two countries should be concluded on the basis of these principles, in particular those relating to non-interference in internal affairs and mutual respect for territorial sovereignty.

Just before the meeting adjourned, a discussion arose over the meanings of the words “dominance” and “predominance.” The Secretary pointed out that the Foreign Minister had mistaken the term “predominance,” as used by President Nixon, for “dominance.” The statement that the US was predominant after World War II simply meant that it was the strongest power in the world, not that the US was trying to control the world. Now, the President had pointed out, the US was no longer predominant, and that in our view, this was a natural and healthy development.

  1. Source: National Archives, RG 59, Central Files 1970-73, POL 7 US/NIXON. Secret;Nodis; Homer. Drafted by Calvin Mehlert and approved in S on March 3. Copies were sent to S, U, J, EA, S/S, and Kissinger. The meeting was held in the Sinkiang Room, Great Hall of the People. Eliot sent the memorandum to Rogers under a March 3 covering note. Rogers subsequently approved the memorandum.
  2. During the third counterpart meeting between Secretary of State Rogers and Chinese Foreign Minister Chi P’eng-fei, Chi attributed the “lack of tranquility” in the world to U.S. post-World War II policies and Soviet intervention. He stressed that easing international tensions required respect for the five principles of peaceful co-existence. Rogers, in turn, provided a different version of the world situation. The two officials also discussed Vietnam and Cambodia.