159. Backchannel Message From the Chief of the Liaison Office in China (Woodcock) to Secretary of State Vance and the President’s Assistant for National Security Affairs (Brzezinski)1

216. Subject: Sixth Session: December 4 Meeting With Han Nien-lung. Ref: A. Peking 214, B. Peking 215, C. WH81517.2

1. Summary. In my meeting with PRC Vice Foreign Minister Han Nien-lung December 4, I made the presentation contained in my instructions (Ref C), as amended. In conclusion, I stated that before proceeding further we considered it important for the Chinese side to respond. Following a ten minute break, Han began by welcoming U.S. statements on one China and our willingness to normalize relations on the basis of the three Chinese conditions. He then presented Chinese views in seven major points, whose gist follows. First, the U.S. owes China a debt on Taiwan and must itself untie the knot it has tied. Second, President Carter’s expression of willingness to meet the three Chinese conditions is important and should be given explicit expression in the normalization communiqué. Third, the Chinese agree to issuing a joint communiqué on January 1, 1979; they also understand the U.S. need for time to solve related problems but cannot agree to an indefinite interim period; Ambassadors can only be exchanged and Embassies established once the three conditions are met within a set time limit. Fourth, non-governmental agencies can be maintained on Taiwan but all official and semi-official links must be severed and all official agreements declared null and void;3 normalization will improve U.S. credibility. Fifth, the Chinese have stated their emphatic objection to arms sales to Taiwan after normalization; the U.S. should not let Taiwan acquire atomic weapons, but if it does, this is not a matter for the [Page 610] U.S. to worry about. Sixth, a Chinese commitment on peaceful liberation is not only impossible but would not serve the U.S. interest in a peaceful solution; the Chinese can refrain from objecting to a U.S. expression of hope for a peaceful solution but will issue their own statement calling this an internal Chinese affair;4 the formulation of this statement already represents a Chinese concession to U.S. needs. Seventh, Sino-U.S. relations are not a diplomatic but a political and strategic question. Han then gave me a Chinese draft of a normalization communiqué and indicated that Vice Premier Teng wished to see me shortly.5 End summary.

2. Foreign Minister Huang Hua being ill, First Vice Minister Han Nien-lung received me at 3:30 P.M. on December 4 in the Liaoning Room of the Great Hall of the People. He was accompanied by Vice Minister Wang Hai-jung, American and Oceanian Department Deputy Director Tang Wen-sheng (Nancy Tang), U.S. Affairs Division Director Ting Yuan-hung, and U.S. Affairs Division Deputy Director Chao Chi-hua. Lien Cheng-pao was the notetaker, and Shih Yen-hua did the interpreting. The meeting lasted an hour and a half.

3. Han began by noting that Huang Hua had come down with flu which had turned into pneumonia. He was gradually getting better now but the doctors would not let him leave the hospital. He then offered me the floor.

4. I made the presentation contained in my instructions. When I paused after indicating I was prepared to hear the Chinese response to my earlier presentations, Han indicated I should continue. At the end of my prepared remarks, I added the following: Your Excellency, in our preceding sessions, we have laid out in considerable detail the views of the U.S. Government on a number of the basic issues involved in the normalization of our relations. We have also answered various questions raised by the Chinese side and tabled a draft normalization communiqué.6 Before proceeding further, we consider it important for the Chinese side to provide us with a considered response so that we can ascertain whether a basis now exists to negotiate a joint communiqué and to discuss concretely the timing and final details of establishing full diplomatic relations.

5. At the end of my remarks, Han said: You have just answered the five questions raised by Foreign Minister Huang Hua. We have listened carefully to your answers. He then suggested a ten minute break, fol[Page 611]lowing which he would present Chinese views. During the break, all the Chinese participants left the room.

6. On his return, Han said: Since July 5, we have had five sessions on the question of the normalization of relations between China and the United States. We have noted that the U.S. Government reaffirms that there is only one China in the world and that Taiwan province is a part of the People’s Republic of China,7 and it pledges that it will never create any variations of two Chinas or one China one Taiwan. On this premise, it has indicated that it is prepared promptly to normalize the relations between our two countries on the basis of the three conditions put forward by the Chinese side, namely: Severance of diplomatic relations, withdrawal of troops and abrogation of the Mutual Defense Treaty with Taiwan. The Chinese Government welcomes this attitude of the U.S. side. As is pointed out in the 1972 Shanghai Communiqué issued by China and the United States, the normalization of relations between the two countries is not only in the interest of the Chinese and American peoples but also contributes to the relaxation of tension in Asia and the world. The Chinese side is ready to work with the U.S. side for the early normalization of relations between the two countries on the basis of the Shanghai Communiqué.

7. Motivated by this desire, we have carefully studied the statements made by the U.S. side during the negotiations, the draft communiqué on the establishment of diplomatic relations tabled on November 2, and the record of President Carter’s conversation with Chai Tse-min, Chief of the PRC Liaison Office, on September 19.8 Now we would like to state the views of the Chinese side with respect to the establishment of diplomatic relations between China and the U.S.

8. First, as is known to all, the Taiwan question is the crucial issue obstructing the normalization of relations between China and the U.S. This question is caused by the U.S. Government’s occupation with troops of China’s territory of Taiwan province and its interference in China’s internal affairs. In this sense it is the United States that owes a debt to China9 and not vice versa. Clarity on this background is undoubtedly necessary for the solution of the Taiwan issue. As the Chinese saying goes: It is for the one who tied the knot to untie it.

9. The second point: The 1972 Shanghai Communiqué opened a new page in the annals of Sino-U.S. relations. Both sides stated in the [Page 612] Communiqué that they would conduct their relations on the principles of respect for the sovereignty and territorial integrity of all states, non-aggression against other states, noninterference in the internal affairs of other states, equality and mutual benefit, and peaceful coexistence. The U.S. side also acknowledged in the Communiqué that there is but one China and that Taiwan is a part of China. Therefore, there is reason to believe that it should not be difficult to solve the problem of normalization provided both sides truly act in accordance with these basic principles of the Shanghai Communiqué. In the spirit of the Shanghai Communiqué, the Chinese Government has stated on many occasions that in order to normalize relations between the two countries, the U.S. must sever its so-called diplomatic relations with the Chiang clique, withdraw all its forces and military installations from Taiwan and the Taiwan Straits region, and abrogate its Mutual Defense Treaty with Taiwan. This is the least the People’s Republic of China could insist on to uphold its sovereignty and territorial integrity. We welcome President Carter’s statement in his meeting with Chai Tse-min, Chief of the PRC Liaison Office, on September 19 that the U.S. Government is prepared to carry out the three conditions of the Chinese Government, and we hold that this important statement of the U.S. President should, as a matter of course, be given explicit expression in the joint communiqué on establishment of diplomatic relations between China and the United States.

10. The third point: Chinese leaders have made it clear on more than one occasion to U.S. representatives. We hope that in normalizing Sino-U.S. relations you will accomplish a neat package solution and not do it in a messy way. We agree to issuing a joint communiqué on January 1, 1979 announcing the establishment of diplomatic relations between our two countries. We also understand that following the establishment of U.S.–China diplomatic relations the U.S. side will need some time to solve related problems. However, we do not agree to a so-called interim period.10 The U.S. side should clearly set a time limit for settling the matters you have mentioned and should not drag on indefinitely. Moreover, ambassadors can be exchanged and embassies set up only after the U.S. side has fulfilled the three conditions within the time limit.11 The Chinese Government has long made it clear that it would never tolerate a situation of two Chinas or one China one Taiwan. The U.S. side has, on its part, repeatedly stated in the negotiations that its government would never create any variation of two Chinas or one China one Taiwan. If these words were said in earnest, they should be carried out in action.

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11. Point four: Taking into consideration the realities in Taiwan and the needs of the U.S. side, we have stated repeatedly that after normalization the United States may follow the Japanese formula in handling its contacts with Taiwan. In other words, it may continue people-to-people contacts with Taiwan, and Americans may maintain nongovernmental agencies there. But all official and semiofficial links between the United States and the Chiang clique must be severed and all the so-called official agreements concluded with them, which are illegal in the first place, must be delared null and void. The U.S. side should realize that the Japanese formula is the maximum concession the Chinese Government can make, and the farthest it can go in accommodating the needs of the U.S. side. President Carter expressed the hope that consideration could be given to the U.S. need to show reliability, credibility, faithfulness and determination while altering its relations with Taiwan. We believe that it will only help improve the credibility of the United States among the Chinese people and the world at large if the U.S. stops its interference in China’s internal affairs and terminates its occupation of Chinese territory and infringement on China’s sovereignty so as to bring about normalization which both the Chinese and American peoples so keenly desire.

12. Point five: We have clearly stated our emphatic objection to the U.S. expressed intention of continuing its arms sales to Taiwan after normalization. Such sales would only convince the Chinese people that the U.S. Government is still using armed force to support the Chiang clique’s actions against them and is still interfering in China’s internal affairs.12 Since the U.S. side is going to establish diplomatic relations with China and change its former China policy, why must it continue to arm the Chiang clique which has long been spurned by the 800 million Chinese people? As regards the U.S. assertion that such a move is meant to prevent the Chiang clique from obtaining atomic weapons, we must point out first that the U.S. side should stand by its own promise and refrain from letting the Chiang clique make or acquire such weapons. Second, if the Chiang clique should possess such weapons, it is not something for the U.S. to worry about. We know how to deal with it.

13. Point six: The Chinese Government has stated more than once that when and how the Chinese people would liberate Taiwan is China’s internal affair in which no other country has the right to interfere, and that it is not a point for discussion between China and the United States. We have noted that the U.S. side also acknowledges that this is a matter of domestic sovereignty. However, we have to point out [Page 614] that in its statements and its draft communiqué announcing the establishment of diplomatic relations the U.S. side has failed to quote in full the remarks of Chinese leaders on the question of Taiwan. What is more important, it neglects the fact that in making these remarks Chinese leaders invariably stress that this is China’s internal affair. The U.S. side has always sought to make us somehow commit ourselves to the peaceful liberation of Taiwan. I would like to make it clear to the U.S. side once again that this cannot be done because it amounts to asking the Chinese side to forego its sovereignty. Furthermore, in terms of the consequences, if China should really make such a commitment, it would only feed the arrogance of the Chiang clique in Taiwan so that its tail would stick up 10,000 meters high, so to speak, thus destroying any possibility of restoring Taiwan to the Motherland by peaceful means. And hegemonists would possibly be encouraged in their designs on Taiwan. All this would inevitably lead to the use of force in liberating Taiwan. Clearly your demand contradicts and runs counter to your own wishes. This is a matter of vital importance on which the Chinese position has always been clear-cut. We hope the U.S. side will study the matter carefully. We are willing to understand your need to say something to the people of the United States. We can refrain from raising objections to statements by U.S. Government leaders expressing their hope to see a peaceful solution of the Taiwan issue.13 But in that event the Chinese side will issue a statement declaring that the way of bringing Taiwan back to the embrace of the Motherland and reunifying the country is wholly a Chinese internal affair. The U.S. side should know that a statement so formulated is already a great Chinese concession to meeting the need of the U.S. side.14

14. Point seven: In his verbal message to President Carter last year, Premier Hua Kuo-feng said that the relations between China and the United States are not a diplomatic question but a political one and that it is necessary to approach them from the standpoint of long-term political and strategic interests.15 The Chinese side has been acting exactly in this spirit, and we hope that the U.S. side will do the same.

15. Han then said: In order to facilitate our negotiations so as to normalize the relations between our two countries at an early date, we have prepared a draft of a joint communiqué on the establishment of diplomatic relations between China and the United States. Our draft has incorporated all elements of the U.S. draft that are positive and acceptable. It is our sincere hope that the U.S. side will seriously study the Chinese draft as well as what I have just said and make a positive re[Page 615]sponse so that our negotiations may achieve positive results. We wait for a reply from your side. In order to save time, I do not think it is necessary for me to go over this draft communiqué. I am now giving you the draft communiqué for your study both in Chinese and English versions. I have finished.

16. I thanked Han for the draft and said we would communicate his remarks and the communiqué to Washington. I added that we would certainly give it very serious study and at some future date would indicate our response.

17. As I was getting ready to leave, Han said: Finally, I would like to tell you that Vice Premier Teng Hsiao-ping would like to meet you at an early date. We will let you know the definite time.16

18. I asked Han to convey to the Foreign Minister my best wishes for a quick and complete recovery.

  1. Source: Carter Library, National Security Affairs, Staff Material, Far East, Oksenberg Subject File, Box 57, Policy Process: 12/78. Top Secret; Sensitive; Eyes Only; Via Voyager Channels. A handwritten “C” at the top of the page indicates that Carter saw this cable.
  2. Backchannel message 214 from Beijing to the White House, December 4, concerns Woodcock’s sixth meeting with the Chinese. (Carter Library, National Security Affairs, Staff Material, Office, Outside the System File, Box 46, China, Normalization: 6–12/78) Backchannel message 215 from Beijing to the White House, December 4, transmitted the Chinese draft of the normalization communiqué tabled during this meeting. (Ibid.) Backchannel message WH81517 from the White House to Beijing, November 14, provided Woodcock with instructions for the meeting. (Carter Library, National Security Affairs, Brzezinski Material, Subject File, Box 8, Backchannel Messages: Peking: 9–11/78)
  3. In the right margin, Carter wrote, “one year delay on treaty.” Below, he wrote, “Wording of Communiqué must not be difficult or embarrassing to either nation. Private agreements can supplement Communiqué.”
  4. Carter drew a vertical line next to this phrase and wrote, “ok.”
  5. Carter drew a vertical line next to this phrase.
  6. See Tab A to Document 142. That draft has the date of January 15. Brzezinski recalled that “the President on his own advanced it to January 1.” (Power and Principle, p. 229)
  7. Carter underlined, “Taiwan province is a part of the People’s Republic of China,” and in the margin wrote, “We have not—stick to Shanghai language.” For the five previous sessions, see footnotes 2 and 3, Document 127; footnote 3, Document 141; and Document 149.
  8. See Document 135.
  9. Carter underlined, “owes a debt to China” and wrote a question mark in the margin.
  10. Someone, probably Carter, underlined most of this sentence.
  11. Someone, probably Carter, underlined most of this sentence.
  12. Next to the first half of this paragraph, someone, perhaps Brzezinski, wrote, “Curious formula. Acceptance de facto?”
  13. Carter underlined, “we can refrain from raising,” and wrote, “ok” in the margin.
  14. Carter wrote, “ok” next to this paragraph.
  15. See footnote 7, Document 111.
  16. Carter underlined most of this sentence.