230. Telegram From the Embassy in China to the Department of State1

1469. Subj: PRC Reaction to Taiwan Legislation.2 Ref: State 52247.3

1. Secret—entire text.

2. I was called in by Foreign Minister Huang Hua at 9:30 am March 16 to listen to a reiteration of the Chinese opposition to bills dealing [Page 836] with Taiwan now before the U.S. Congress. Huang first read the following statement:

3. Begin text: “The Chinese side already conveyed a message to the U.S. Government on March 3, 1979 through Ambassador Chai expressing concern over the recent debate in the U.S. Congress on future relations between the U.S. and Taiwan. Now on behalf of the Chinese Government I would like to reiterate our views on this question to the U.S. Government as follows:

4. At the time of the establishment of diplomatic relations between China and the U.S., the U.S. side explicitly undertook to recognize the Government of the People’s Republic of China as the sole legal government of China and acknowledged that Taiwan is part of China and only unofficial relations would be maintained with the people of Taiwan.

5. At the same time, the U.S. side further acknowledged that the return of Taiwan to the Motherland was a matter within the scope of China’s sovereignty. However, a number of points in the bills due to be adopted by the two Houses of Congress contravene the principles of the agreement between the two sides and the undertaking of the U.S. at the time of the establishment of diplomatic relations. They are in essence an attempt to maintain to a certain extent the U.S.–Chiang joint defense treaty and to continue to interfere in Chinese internal affairs and to give an official status to the U.S.–Taiwan relationship.

6. This is of course unacceptable to the Chinese Government. The U.S. claims that the bills concerned had the close cooperation of the U.S. Government (sic). This makes the matter even more serious and the Chinese Government cannot but express grave concern. If the bills are passed as they are now and President Carter signs them into law, great harm will be done to the new relationship that has just been established between China and the U.S. China would have no alternative but to make the necessary response.

7. We hope that things do not develop to this extent. There is growing evidence of the far-reaching impact of normalization and of the visit by Vice Premier Deng Xiaoping to the U.S. on the furtherance of friendly relations and cooperation between our two countries and on the development of the international situation as a whole. Under these circumstances, we consider it incumbent on the U.S. Government to exercise its influence and power to insure that nothing in the legislation readjusting the U.S.–Taiwan relationship will contravene the agreement between the two sides concerning the establishment of diplo-matic relations between the two governments.

8. I request that you transmit the above views of the Government of the People’s Republic of China to your government.” End text.

[Page 837]

9. After I indicated that I would pass this message immediately to Washington and find out what our response would be, Huang expanded on his prepared statement with the following:

10. “Let me cite a few examples to point out what I have just said. For example, with regard to the question of the security of Taiwan, it is stated in the bill passed by the U.S. Senate that the policy of the U.S. makes clear that the establishment of relations with the PRC rests on the assumption that the Taiwan question will be settled by peaceful means and that the U.S. will retain the ability to deal with any coercive attempts to settle the question or with other threats to peace and security in the region. Another example: the bill further states, in defining the people of Taiwan, that the people on Taiwan include the governing authorities on Taiwan, specifically those authorities in power before Jan. 1, 1979. The bill states that whenever any law or order refers to a state or government, it will apply equally to the people of Taiwan. This is equivalent to recognizing Taiwan as a country and the authorities on Taiwan as a government. The bill goes on to state that laws, treaties and agreements will continue to remain in effect with the exception of the Mutual Defense Treaty. It states that diplomatic privileges and immunities comparable to those of foreign countries will remain in effect for the Taiwan representatives. I am just citing examples. This does not encompass all the points in violation of the statement on establishment of relations between the two governments.”

11. I again said that I could not comment, not knowing the full situation in Washington. Huang asked what happens next with the legislative process and I explained the Senate–House conference system. He then commented that perhaps there would be time to fix the legislation now so it would not contravene our previous agreement.

  1. Source: National Archives, RG 59, Central Foreign Policy File, P850029–2562. Secret; Immediate; Exdis Handle as Nodis.
  2. See Document 213.
  3. Telegram 52247 to Beijing, March 3, describes Chai’s meeting that day with Vance and Holbrooke during which he protested the Taiwan legislation before the U.S. Congress, warning that the U.S. administration “should be truly serious” in enacting its commitments “so our new relations will not be artificially impeded at the beginning.” During this meeting, “Holbrooke noted that Chai had met with Senator Church yesterday who had outlined in detail the procedure the bill would have to go through before it was passed. Senator Church had said he expected in the floor debate that additional amendments would be introduced that would be worse than those already introduced. As Chairman, Senator Church said, he was personally committed to getting a bill that was not inconsistent with our undertakings in establishing diplomatic relations. Holbrooke said he spoke on behalf of the Secretary to reaffirm the President’s commitment not to accept a bill inconsistent with the terms of normalization. The Secretary concurred with Holbrooke’s statement.” (National Archives, RG 59, Central Foreign Policy File, P840163–1600) Church was Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.