129. Telegram From the Department of State to the Liaison Office in China1

208649. For Ambassador Woodcock. Subject: Ambassador Chai’s Call on Assistant Secretary Holbrooke.

1. Newly arrived PRC Liaison Office Chief Chai Tse-min paid a fifty minute courtesy call on Assistant Secretary Holbrooke August 16. Following is a summary of the principal subjects discussed.

2. Courtesy calls—Holbrooke noted that Chai has gotten off to a good start on his courtesy calls and would be seeing Energy Secretary Schlesinger and Treasury Secretary Blumenthal later that day. He said that Chai would see the President in the near future and commented that it was important to meet as many senior officials as possible.2 Holbrooke particularly emphasized the importance of developing contacts with Congress, a task that Ambassador Han Hsu has done extremely well. Chai noted that the President planned to take a vacation and asked if he would see him before or after the vacation. Holbrooke responded that it seemed likely Chai’s meeting with the President would take place after the vacation, but this would be useful because Chai by then would have had an opportunity to meet all of the other high-level [Page 515] officials prior to his meeting with the President. Deputy Assistant Secretary Sullivan noted that we were also arranging appointments with congressional leaders based on a request received from PRCLO, but that most of these appointments would be for after the Labor Day recess.

3. Holbrooke commented that Vice Premier Teng’s meeting with Congressman Wolff’s delegation in Peking was extremely useful in furthering understanding of the PRC’s position on normalization. In response to Chai’s question concerning the reaction of the Wolff Codel, Holbrooke replied that every member seemed more strongly in favor of normalization after the trip.3 However, there is still concern about Taiwan (especially the Defense Treaty) and not all are convinced of our position. Holbrooke noted that in his congressional calls Chai should be sure to call on Senator John Glenn, who replaced Senator Mansfield as Chairman of the Asia Subcommittee of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.

4. Normalization—Ambassador Chai asked about Holbrooke’s impressions from his New York trip last weekend. Holbrooke replied that in New York he had seen influential editors and businessmen to talk about the importance of our relationship with the PRC. He noted that some with whom he spoke feared that the US position worldwide would be weakened if we take action to sever our ties with Taiwan. Holbrooke said that in such meetings he attempts to explain to these opinion leaders our continued commitment to normalization, while stressing that no timetable has been set. Although he did not discuss matters taken up privately in conversations with the PRC, Holbrooke said, he did state that we believe that normalization can be accomplished while we continue to attach high importance to the future of the people on Taiwan.

5. Holbrooke noted that our two countries are now in a very important phase of our relations. Because of the nature of our governmental system, the President can only achieve our goals if there is broad understanding on the part of the people. While he recognized that this is our problem, Holbrooke noted that what is said to Americans visiting China will continue to have a great deal of importance. Holbrooke noted Ambassador Han Hsu’s speech in Illinois as an example of another good means of communicating the PRC’s views to Americans.4 The fact that the speech was given in the Mid-West was [Page 516] particularly important since that area of our country needs more exposure to the importance of the relationship between our two great countries. He added that the visit to the Mid-West by the PRC agricultural delegation is also important as is the visit by the delegation from the New China News Agency.

6. Chai responded that both sides are very concerned about normalization because it has great world importance. As regards normalization, China’s view is “the sooner the better” because it would be beneficial for our “common battle.” Chai said that although the President faced certain difficulties, the crux of the matter is for him to make a decision. He pointed out that during Brzezinski’s visit to Peking the Chinese position was explained very clearly by Foreign Minister Huang Hua, Teng Hsiao-ping, and Hua Kuo-feng. He said he hoped the American Government would deal sincerely and seriously with this matter.

7. Chai said that before he left Peking he visited USLO Chief Leonard Woodcock who shares the same feelings as Holbrooke. Noting that both sides are continuing contacts on the subject of normalization, Chai asked Holbrooke’s assessment of prospects for success. Holbrooke stressed the “utter seriousness and determination” of the President to achieve the objectives of the Shanghai Communique. He said we appreciate the historic and strategic importance of completing the process of normalization, and we are proceeding with that in mind. He concluded that he would leave it to Leonard Woodcock to address this matter officially, since he is the President’s spokesman, but he again wanted to stress the seriousness with which we address this issue.5

8. Holbrooke concluded that efforts in other fields such as the visits by Brzezinski and Frank Press6 as well as the forthcoming visits of Schlesinger and Bergland are also very important. He commented that we are studying the proposals growing out of the Press visit and have [Page 517] formed study teams that are moving forward very vigorously on the various ideas growing out of that trip.

9. Peace and Friendship Treaty—Vietnam negotiations—Holbrooke turned to the Sino-Japanese Peace and Friendship Treaty, stating that we were very pleased that China and Japan finally had reached agreement. He noted that Dr. Brzezinski told both the Chinese and Japanese that the US hoped for its success. This was in contrast to the previous administration which had taken a more neutral posture. This administration feels that the treaty is important to the peace and stability of Asia, and Brzezinski had taken steps while in Japan to help. We were very pleased at its conclusion. Holbrooke asked if Ambassador Chai had any views on the treaty. Turning to Vietnam Holbrooke noted that since coming into office this administration has consistently informed the PRC concerning our negotiations with Vietnam both preceding and after any negotiations. He said he wanted to assure Ambassador Chai that we will continue to follow the same procedure in the future. At present there are no talks scheduled with Vietnam but Holbrooke said he thought there probably will be talks in the future. He simply wanted to make clear, as Ambassador Han knew from last year, that we will continue our practice of informing the PRC on our talks.

10. Regarding the Peace and Friendship Treaty, Chai responded that he thought both the US and the Chinese side were well aware of the great importance of the treaty. He said reactions worldwide were nearly unanimous in favor with but one exception. On the question of Vietnam talks, Chai said he also hoped that we could keep in touch since it would be mutually beneficial.

  1. Source: National Archives, RG 59, Central Foreign Policy File, P840140–2320. Secret; Priority; Nodis. Drafted by Anderson, cleared by Oksenberg, and approved by Holbrooke. Repeated Priority to the White House.
  2. Chai met with Vance on August 11. Their conversation focused on events in the Middle East. A memorandum of conversation is in the Carter Library, National Security Affairs, Brzezinski Material, Country File, Box 8, China (People’s Republic of): 6–8/78.
  3. Representative Lester Wolff (D–New York) led a delegation of seven Congressmen to China July 3–13. Telegram 2085 from Beijing, July 10, contains a transcript of the meeting between Deng and the delegation. (National Archives, RG 59, Central Foreign Policy File, P840150–2616)
  4. See footnote 5, Document 122.
  5. On August 17, Chai met with Brzezinski and said, “Before I left Peking for Washington, I paid a farewell call upon Ambassador Woodcock, and we had a good talk. We share a common desire during our tenure to work together to promote the process of normalization in the spirit of the Shanghai Communiqué. Of course, it is not dependent on our desires but rather it is up to the policies of the U.S. Government.” Brzezinski later responded, “So in this spirit of cooperation and recognition of our common interests, we will work it out. I am confident that our negotiations will be successful. There may be difficult moments. That is inevitable. But they will be successful.” (Carter Library, National Security Affairs, Brzezinski Material, Subject File, Box 33, Memcons: Brzezinski: 10/77–8/78)
  6. Press headed a delegation of 15, including the Administrator of NASA, the Director of the National Institutes of Health, and the heads of major U.S. scientific and technology firms. Brzezinski recalled that sending the delegation, the “most high-powered science/technology delegation ever sent by the United States to any foreign country,” sent a “powerful signal.” (Power and Principle, p. 226) During the visit, Press met with Deng. Telegram 2110 from Beijing, July 12, transmitted an account of their conversation. (National Archives, RG 59, Central Foreign Policy File, P840150–2634)