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


  • Joint US-Chinese Economic Committee

Normalization of relations with China has brought to the forefront a number of bilateral economic issues (e.g., claims, trade, credits, civil aviation, etc.). Our ability to manage these and other economic problems likely to arise in the months ahead will have an important bearing on the development of overall relations.

The Policy Review Committee meeting, which Mike Blumenthal chaired on January 8,2 proved highly successful in expediting decisions on economic matters before the Deng visit and Mike and Juanita Kreps’ trips to China. I believe we should now carry this process one step further and propose the establishment of an intergovernmental body at the Ministerial level when you meet with Deng. A joint US-Chinese Economic Committee or Commission would facilitate communications and cooperation between the two governments. It would also help to ensure that in seeking to resolve bilateral issues we not lose sight of our overall policy objectives toward China.

This committee would be substantially different from the joint economic commissions we have with the Soviet Union and several East European countries. Those groups are primarily designed to promote trade and improve business contacts between the countries concerned. Trade promotion will also be important in China, but for the moment we face more fundamental problems with important policy implications.

For that reason, Cy and I believe that Mike Blumenthal, who is your chief economic officer, knows the Chinese, and is familiar with most of the issues, should chair the US side of this joint committee. Mike wants the job. Juanita would also like the chairmanship, but I believe it would be preferable to have Mike in charge at least until we have reached the stage where business facilitation matters have assumed greater importance in our economic relations with China. I would strongly advise against having joint chairmen on the US side. [Page 728] This would simply confuse the Chinese, increase interdepartmental rivalry, reduce efficiency, and add to operating expenses.


That you propose to Deng the establishment of a joint US-Chinese committee.

That you designate Mike Blumenthal as US Chairman of the joint committee.3

  1. Source: Carter Library, National Security Affairs, Brzezinski Material, Country File, Box 9, China (PRC): 1–3/79. Confidential. Sent for action. The date is handwritten. A handwritten “C” at the top of the page indicates that Carter saw the memorandum.
  2. See Document 189.
  3. Carter checked the Approve option under both recommendations and initialed “J.”