157. Memorandum From Secretary of Energy Schlesinger to President Carter1


  • Report on Technical Discussions on Energy Cooperation with China

This memorandum is to inform you of the results of my trip to China relating to future energy cooperation with the PRC.

I. General

During my visit to the PRC, five U.S. technical teams carried out extensive discussions with Chinese counterparts in the following areas: 1) coal, 2) hydroelectric power, 3) renewable energy, 4) oil and gas, and 5) high energy physics, nuclear physics and magnetic fusion. The purpose was to identify PRC interest in cooperative activities in those areas. These technical discussions took place in an atmosphere of enthusiasm and cooperation and resulted in successful definition of joint projects of potential PRC interest.

In discussing a framework for continuing this cooperation, we took the position that it would be necessary to agree upon an explicit mechanism for proceeding, ratified by some sort of signed agreement in those areas where the U.S. Government has primary responsibility (e.g., hydroelectric, R&D) and where the proposed collaboration is significant. The point became particularly important in the high energy physics discussions where the PRC desires a greatly expanded and significant collaborative effort; and it will become more so, if U.S. Government agencies are to proceed further, with some of the major “turn-key” hydroelectric projects the PRC broached to us.

The Chinese continued to adhere to their consistent position that they could not enter into written agreements with the United States pending normalization. The Chinese hope that cooperation can be expanded without general written agreements by dealing on an individual project basis with the relevant agency, e.g., USGS or the Corps of Engineers.2 We have not agreed with that view and the issue remains to be resolved.

[Page 604]

II. Specific Technical Discussions

1. Coal. The coal discussions focused on two areas: 1) specific projects for U.S. industry participation, and 2) areas of mutual S&T interest with the U.S. Government. The specific projects involved are included as Appendix A.3 To follow-up these discussions, it was orally agreed that a U.S. coal industry delegation should visit China, and that a PRC coal technology mission should visit the U.S., both “as soon as possible.” It was orally agreed that the subject of specific formal agreements, with appropriate organizations and staffing, could be pursued during the PRC visit to the U.S.

2. Hydroelectric Power. The PRC raised the possibility of a wide-range of cooperative projects including developing the high dam in the Yangtze Gorge, site investigation and foundation work for a new dam on the Yellow River, and planning/design for high voltage transmission lines leading to an interconnected national network after 1985. It was orally agreed to begin with a number of smaller training projects which the PRC is anxious to implement. A more detailed list of the types of cooperation envisioned is enclosed as Appendix B.4

3. Renewable Energy. Contrary to expectations, the PRC expressed a high degree of interest in the full range of renewable resource technologies. They clearly are at an early stage in this area. Preliminary agreement on specific areas of cooperation in solar, geothermal and MHD was reached easily and quickly. These are set out in Appendix C.5

4. Oil and Gas. While the Chinese expressed interest in the presentations made by the U.S. delegation concerning U.S. capabilities (particularly in oil and gas resource appraisal) this group was unique in that the PRC expressed no interest in pursuing specific areas of potential cooperation with the Department of Energy. The PRC does have some interest in limited cooperative activities with USGS and DOE Energy Technology Centers, but a distinct preference was expressed for pursuing these on an ad hoc basis as the occasion required.6

The PRC side stated that, while the PRC is interested in greatly expanding cooperation in oil and gas with the U.S., they expected that the necessary contacts would remain at the “people-to-people” level, e.g., with U.S. private industry, which the PRC hoped the U.S. Government would continue to support and facilitate.

[Page 605]

5. High Energy Physics, Nuclear Physics and Magnetically Confined Fusion. The PRC is clearly very anxious to embark now on major cooperative projects in high energy physics, nuclear physics, and magnetic fusion. The Chinese presented their proposal for a greatly expanded program of cooperation involving exchanges of scientists and technicians which would require major involvement by the U.S. The chief focus of the exchanges would be assistance to the Chinese in the design and fabrication of large, modern experimental facilities. Both sides agreed that the way to implement the interaction is by means of committees from each side, working jointly. While there was agreement on the specific activities and close but not complete agreement on mechanisms to implement the cooperation, no agreement could be reached on the instrument that would be used to formalize the cooperation. A list of contemplated exchanges is contained in Appendix D.7

6. Nuclear Energy. Side discussions were held with the PRC on nuclear energy. The PRC side stated their plan is to have one reactor operating by 1985 and 20 by 2000, although more uncertainty was expressed about the latter goal. They expressed a willingness to buy the 1985 reactor from any country and refused to accept safeguards.8 Finally, they expressed an interest in exchanging delegations on nuclear energy research and development. While the response to this last item requires careful consideration, DOE feels it should be positively pursued.

III. Conclusion

• The Chinese used these technical discussions to present a large number of energy projects that will provide potentially lucrative commercial opportunities for U.S. industry and the basis for expanded S&T cooperation with various parts of the U.S. Government.

• The number and scope of these projects is so great that the Chinese will have difficulty pursuing all of them.

• We will proceed to develop these opportunities. To ensure an effective and responsible follow-up, DOE has established a central point to coordinate cooperative activities in energy science and technology with the PRC and we will coordinate these activities in accordance with the NSC directives.

  1. Source: Carter Library, National Security Affairs, Brzezinski Material, Country File, Box 8, China (People’s Republic of): 9–11/78. Confidential.
  2. In the margin next to this sentence, Carter wrote, “I don’t like this.”
  3. Someone crossed out “Appendix A.” Appendix A was not found.
  4. Carter made a checkmark in the right margin next to this and the previous paragraph. Someone crossed out “Appendix B.” Appendix B was not found.
  5. Carter made a checkmark in the right margin next to this paragraph. Appendix C was not found.
  6. Carter made a checkmark in the right margin next to this paragraph.
  7. Someone crossed out “Appendix D.” Appendix D was not found.
  8. Carter underlined “refused to accept safeguards” and wrote a question mark in the right margin.