201. Memorandum From Michel Oksenberg of the National Security Council Staff to the President’s Assistant for National Security Affairs (Brzezinski)1


  • Notes from the Brzezinski Dinner in Honor of Deng Xiaoping, January 28

Pakistan: Deng expressed great concern about the future of Pakistan, particularly in the light of developments in Afghanistan. He feels it quite important for the U.S. to give substantial economic and military aid. He stated that Zia had recently pledged to the Chinese that Bhutto would not be executed. Both Brzezinski and Vance expressed their deep concern about signs that Pakistan is seeking to develop a nuclear weapon. The whole nuclear reprocessing issue makes it difficult for us to provide the level of support to Pakistan we would like, but if this issue is resolved, then we are willing to make major commitments. Deng asked why we could not turn a blind eye to the nuclear reprocessing issue, and Madam Ho and Madam Li Liang asked why we could not change the law on the nuclear reprocessing issue. Both Cy and Brzezinski stressed that we had to act within the law, that the law was clear, and that it reflected the will of Congress which would not be changed.

Iran: Brzezinski outlined our assessment of the situation and the backing we are giving to Bakhtiar. We remain in close contact with the military. Deng said that if the Shah’s position continues to weaken, perhaps the best thing would be a military coup d’etat. Brzezinski said [Page 739] either that or for a regency to be established under the Shah’s young successor. Deng said that would also be alright. Deng then said that China had very little influence to bring to bear on this issue. Brzezinski said our influence was also limited, particularly because of the demographic profile of Iran today—of a population of 35 million, one million are students, and the majority of the population live in urban areas. This produces a highly volatile situation.

India: Deng stated that with the Soviet position now developing in Vietnam and the emerging Soviet naval presence in the eastern Indian Ocean, the strategic situation was somewhat like a barbell—a strong Soviet position on two flanks with a thin connecting line between. Yet that thin connecting line, passing through the straits of Malacca, was economically essential for the flow of goods between Europe and the Middle East and Asia on the other. For that reason, Zbig stated, the importance of India is greater than ever. The U.S. has improved its relations with India, substantially, Zbig said, and it’s important for Sino-Indian relations to improve as well. Deng agreed, but quickly noted that the Indian response to the Cambodian invasion (meaning India’s willingness to recognize Vietnamese-imposed Cambodian Government) showed that it was still under Soviet influence. But he admitted that the current Indian Government is better than its predecessor.

Europe: Zbig discussed the Guadeloupe meeting with Deng, and it was clear he was well informed about it. Zbig revealed that none of the European countries were prepared to yield to Soviet pressure to limit Sino-European commerce. Deng said, “I know, and that is good.”

Zbig then informed Deng that the U.S. also had received a letter from Brezhnev warning us against arms sales to the PRC.2 We responded that while we would not sell arms to either the Soviet Union or China, we would not join in an attempt to prevent a sovereign nation from acquiring means to sustain its own defense.3 Deng again said, “Yes, I know that is your position. That is good.”

Zbig also asked about the current status of Sino-French relations, particularly whether they were as good as they had ever been. Deng did not respond totally positively, but said that yes in general they were as good as they had been for awhile. And he said that China had [Page 740] told the French that as long as the French prices were competitive, they would be a preferred trading partner. Zbig said he thought the Chinese and the French had much in common, particularly that each civilization thought itself to be superior to any other. Deng said, “Let us put it this way, in East Asia Chinese food is best and in Europe French food is best.”

Vietnam: Deng requested a private meeting with the President to discuss Vietnam. Vance said that could be easily arranged, the circle could be narrowed to include the President, the Vice President, Brzezinski, and Cy.

Congress: A good deal of the conversation centered on Congress. Holbrooke referred to the dinner Senator Kennedy hosted on behalf of Ambassador Ch’ai Tse-min three nights previous. Holbrooke also referred positively to the meeting Deng recently had with Senator Nunn.4 Deng asked whether he would meet Senator Goldwater on the trip. There was some discussion as to the status of Senator Goldwater’s visit to China. Deng learned that Goldwater said that he had not yet received an invitation, he said he would invite him personally if he saw him on the Hill.

Atmospherics: The dinner was lively and friendly. Several toasts were given expressing hope for the future and pride in what had been accomplished. When Zbig gave a toast to the two Ambassadors present without whose service normalization would not have occurred, Deng joined in the toast but said that the toast should extend to everyone—“We should reserve a little of the credit for ourselves.”

Deng recalled that when he is agreeable with someone, he is quite agreeable, but when he argues, he argues very fiercely—as Kissinger had learned. Zbig asked whether they had any differences. Deng said, “No, we had no differences.” Then he looked at Cy and said, “I had only one difference with Secretary Vance—just one sentence.” (Laughter)

Zbig reminded Deng that they also had a difference, namely whether the President had made up his mind to normalize. Mike Oksenberg asked when Deng realized that the President had made up his mind. Deng said that as he reflected on his conversation with Zbig, he knew it was going to happen.

Other exchanges that reflected the spirit of the evening were when Zbig recalled Muska’s toast in Peking and informed Deng jokingly that Cy said that Muska could not travel abroad anymore (after such a vio [Page 741] lation of protocol).5 Deng said, “What? This is an issue of human rights that involves half of mankind!”

  1. Source: Carter Library, National Security Affairs, Staff Material, Far East, Oksenberg Subject File, Box 38, Deng Xiaoping 1/79 Visit: 1/25–29/79. Secret; Eyes Only; Outside the System. Sent for information.
  2. President Carter received Brezhnev’s December 27 message under a covering memorandum from Brzezinski, December 27, who wrote that if the United States accommodated Brezhnev, “We would be engaging in a blockade of China to the benefit of the Soviet Union, and this would destroy the chances of any collaborative US-Chinese relationship.” Carter noted that he found Brezhnev’s message “discouraging” and “almost paranoid.” Brezezinski’s memorandum and the message are scheduled for publication in Foreign Relations, 1977–1980, vol. VI, Soviet Union.
  3. Carter’s letter to Brezhnev, January 17, is scheduled for publication ibid.
  4. See Document 191.
  5. Brzezinski’s wife Muska had challenged protocol when she proposed a toast while accompanying her husband during his May 1978 trip to Beijing. See Document 122.