13. Memorandum of Conversation1


  • Dinner with Huang Chen, Chief, PRCLO


  • Huang Chen, Chief, PRCLO
  • Tsien Ta-yung, Counselor, PRCLO
  • Hsu Shang-wei, Third Secretary, PRCLO (Interpreter)
  • Philip C. Habib, Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs

I met Huang Chen a few evenings ago at a dinner and he indicated an interest in the Secretary’s Middle East trip.2 Following the Secretary’s instructions, I told him I would be prepared to brief him on the trip and he invited me to dinner for that purpose.

Before going in to the usual excellent dinner, I sat with Huang Chen and the others for about an hour. I gave him a briefing on the Middle East trip following the talking points laid out for such briefings and used with other Embassies in Washington. Huang listened with interest and his colleagues took careful notes.

When I had finished, he said he believed that the United States understood China’s policy on the Middle East. With regard to the principal substantive issues, China believed that the Palestinian question should be settled to the satisfaction of the Palestinians by the establishment of an independent state. They also believed that Israel should withdraw to the 1967 borders. The PRC is pleased that the United States is committed to playing a leading role in seeking an over-all Middle East settlement. This confirms the advice that Chairman Mao had given in the past which concerned the United States following a “two-handed” (even-handed) policy. If we continue to follow Mao’s advice, he was sure we could play the critical role necessary. Huang also expressed satisfaction that Soviet influence was at a low point in the Middle East. He considered this also a result of our pursuing a “two-handed” policy.

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This led Huang to a series of comments on U.S.-Soviet relations. He followed the standard approach of indicating that China was not afraid of the Soviet Union and could take care of itself in any confrontation but that the West was not sufficiently aware of the danger and not strong enough in its posture in dealing with the Soviets. He noted that Ilychev had left Peking to return to Moscow without any progress on the border issues. He said the Soviets had thought they might be able to find some opportunity for gain in these negotiations following the death of Mao, instead they had discovered that in Peking there were “real Communists” who did not abandon their principles. Nothing was accomplished during Ilychev’s recent period in Peking.

Huang said the PRC did not object to the U.S. dealing with the Soviet Union because they believe that the better we get to know the Soviets the more we would realize they could not be trusted. The Chinese had learned this by bitter experience.

He asked me if I was aware of his conversation with the President.3 I said I was and believed he had had his basic question answered in what the President had said to him. He agreed. I noted that the question of claims and assets had come up in that conversation and said we were considering that matter and intended to approach the Chinese if they were serious about making progress.4 He responded vigorously by saying they were prepared to make progress. There had been agreement at one stage, he said, but the United States had introduced extraneous considerations. It was unfortunate, he went on, that as a result benefits which would stimulate trade were denied, (MFN?), the opportunities to expand trade were thus limited, Chinese airplanes could not come to the United States, and general economic opportunities could not be pursued. I said the matters he considered to be extraneous which had been introduced could be fairly easily resolved if the Chinese would understand that our requirements had no nefarious purpose and were not directed against them but were to enable us to proceed without facing obstacles later. I said the East Asian Bureau would be in touch with his Counselor Tsien Ta-yung for further discussions on this matter. He asked if I knew of David Rockefeller’s interest in this and reminded me of the conversation Rockefeller had with Deputy Prime Minister Li in Peking.5

Following upon this, and possibly but not necessarily related to the claims issue, Huang commented that in 1972 Nixon made the move toward China. Thereafter the Soviet Union made concessions in its ne[Page 45]gotiations with the United States. The United States should take a lesson from this, he said, and realize that when it made moves toward China the Soviets became more cooperative.6 I took this as a rather open invitation either to make limited progress with the Chinese on such things as the claims issue in order to impress the Soviets or more probably that we should revive the dialogue on normalization to put pressure on the Soviets as we move into discussion of SALT and other bilateral matters.

At one point in the evening Huang mentioned that the Chinese would be inviting two delegations of Congressional visitors to the PRC this year and would inform Ambassador Gates in Peking of this within the next few weeks.

Huang was more loquacious in this conversation than any I have had with him previously. He seemed anxious to discuss issues and was genuinely appreciative of the openness with which I had discussed the Middle East trip.

  1. Source: Carter Library, National Security Affairs, Staff Material, Far East, Oksenberg Subject File, Box 42, Meetings: 1–3/77. Confidential. The dinner meeting took place in the PRC Liaison Office. An account of the meeting was sent to the Liaison Office in Beijing in telegram 53011, March 10. (National Archives, RG 59, Central Foreign Policy File, P850056–1895)
  2. Vance visited Israel, Egypt, Lebanon, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, and Syria February 15–21.
  3. See Document 5.
  4. An unknown hand underlined the last part of this sentence, beginning with “intended.”
  5. See footnote 3, Document 5.
  6. An unknown hand underlined this entire sentence.