136. Memorandum From the President’s Assistant for National Security Affairs (Brzezinski) to President Carter1


  • Cabinet Officials’ Travel to China

With the Schlesinger and Bergland trips as examples, Cabinet Secretaries are demonstrating eagerness to beat a path to Peking. Several have approached the Chinese directly requesting invitations. Others have gone to Holbrooke requesting his patronage. One senses the beginning of jealousies as to who goes next.

To nip this problem in the bud, I recommend that you take this issue up at the next Cabinet meeting. Here are the talking points I recommend:

—You welcome the forthcoming trips by Schlesinger and Bergland to China. They are part of our burgeoning relationship with the People’s Republic, which has your support.

—You can see some merit in considering additional Cabinet-level visits to China, either singly or perhaps joint trips of more than one Secretary at one time.

—However, until one can assess the value of the Schlesinger and Bergland trips, it is premature to schedule dates. Until we have a clearer sense of the direction of our China policy, it is premature to think about the timing and sequence of such visits.

—Moreover, our policy interests are not well served by individual Cabinet members approaching the Chinese either directly or indirectly.

—Therefore, you request all Cabinet members to hold any plans for travel to China in abeyance until after the Schlesinger and Bergland trips.

—Anyone wishing to go, or invited, should check first with NSC (Zbig) which will coordinate with State.

  1. Source: Carter Library, National Security Affairs, Staff Material, Far East, Oksenberg Subject File, Box 27, Brzezinski: 9–12/78. Confidential. Sent for action. At the top of the page, Carter wrote, “Zbig—Jack Watson. I agree with this. Implement. J.” Sent to Brezezinski under a September 22 covering memorandum from Oksenberg. (Ibid.)