254. Memorandum From Vice President Mondale to President Carter1


  • Visit to People’s Republic of China

My visit to the People’s Republic of China in late August will be the first political-level visit since normalization. It affords excellent opportunities not only for consultations on bilateral and global issues, but also to demonstrate that normalization of relations is working to the benefit of the U.S. During the visit I would propose to travel to Beijing, the historic capital of Xian, and Canton (map at Tab A),2 and from Canton to travel to Hong Kong and Tokyo en route back to the U.S. The tentative dates for the visit are August 24–September 3, 1979.

Subject to your approval, I would propose to shape the substance of the visit as outlined in the following paragraphs. These proposals have been coordinated with Cy, Zbig and Leonard Woodcock, and once approved, would be sent to Leonard for presentation to the Chinese.

Overall Purpose

As your representative, I would seek to demonstrate both symbolically and substantively during my visit that US–PRC relations have advanced dramatically since normalization. Heretofore, visits at the political level—President Nixon in 1972 and President Ford in 1975—were largely confined to Beijing and the Great Hall of the People, and to talks in a very limited circle on world affairs and normalization. In Beijing, Xian and Canton, I would plan to meet not only with Premier Hua and Vice Premier Deng, but also with a large number of vice premiers and ministers, leading regional and provincial officials (as Deng met our governors and mayors), and members of the Chinese public. In Beijing I would propose to make a public address to a Chinese audience, perhaps the student body of Beijing University on the subject of US–PRC relations—with the hope that this address, the first speech of a [Page 901] U.S. official to a Chinese audience in 30 years, would be broadcast as widely as possible.

The visit to Xian, China’s historic capital, would have cultural, political and normalization dimensions. It would permit me to demonstrate the greater ease of travel now enjoyed in China (compared to the tightly controlled 1972 and 1975 itineraries). I would view the various historical and archeological sites, including the excavations in the area of the tomb of China’s first emperor. I would have talks with regional political leaders and, if negotiations have progressed satisfactorily, I would sign a hydroelectric agreement.

In Canton, I would continue my consultations with Chinese regional leaders, I would plan an in-port tour of a U.S. seismic ship engaged in off-shore oil work with the PRC. I would host a luncheon with U.S. business executives based in China and, if negotiations have progressed satisfactorily, I would open a U.S. Consulate.

On departure from the PRC I would stop in Hong Kong to meet with the High Commissioner and to tour refugee installations, dramatizing your Administration’s continuing priority attention to the refugee issue. From Hong Kong I would travel to Tokyo for brief consultations with the Japanese en route back to Washington, D.C.

Global Consultations

In Beijing I would plan to devote a major portion of my talks to a survey of the world situation. The agenda might include:

US-Soviet relations, following your talks with President Brezhnev in Vienna,

Korea, enhancement of the prospects for trilateral talks,

Indochina, the possibilities of bringing peace to Kampuchea,

Refugees, review of international developments following the Geneva Conference and Security Council sessions, and urging of increased Chinese assistance in coping with the Indochinese refugee problem,

Strategic Cooperation, Chinese support for our position on Pakistan, the Middle East and the Non-Aligned Movement.

Bilateral Negotiations

At present we are engaged in negotiations with the Chinese on a number of issues which my visit should help to bring to an earlier, successful conclusion. I would propose that we recommend to the Chinese that we move ahead on consulates, civil aviation, hydroelectric power and expanded cultural exchange agreements.

Opening of Consulate: The Consulate Agreement which Secretary Vance and Foreign Minister Huang Hua signed on January 31 called for opening of U.S. consulates in Shanghai and Canton and of PRC con[Page 902]sulates in San Francisco and Houston.3 State believes negotiations can be concluded by late August, providing the option of my opening the consulate in Canton—a good example of the increased business and private travel to the PRC and the benefits of normalization.

Civil Aviation Agreement: The Chinese expect to take delivery of three 747–SPs early in 1980, which they plan to use for civil transport to the U.S. Several American airlines also wish to initiate regular flights to the PRC. Hence, both sides attach priority to this issue. We have tabled a U.S.-draft model agreement based on our open-aviation, multi-carrier policy. I believe we should recommend to the Chinese that we move ahead promptly to conclude our agreement, to be signed during my visit.

Hydroelectric Power: The Chinese are seeking to enlarge US–PRC cooperation in the development of their vast hydroelectric power resources. So far, we have agreed to reimbursable training in the U.S. of Chinese hydropower engineers. Frank Press and his staff have been leading an interagency task force on this cooperation and Frank recommends that we use my visit to reach agreement on a long term program of cooperation, which would involve us in a tangible way in China’s modernization program. A major element would be providing reimbursable consulting services by our governmental hydropower experts (e.g., Corps of Engineers, TVA, Bureau of Reclamation). This would set the stage for the participation by U.S. industry in the multi-billion dollar effort of designing and constructing Chinese dams and power stations. Our cooperation would have immediate application to several smaller scale (3,000 Megawatt) projects. We would also seek to position the U.S. for participation in two gigantic (25,000 Megawatt) projects which will proceed over the next 15–20 years. While in Xian, I might visit the site of one of these two projects, on the Yellow River near Xian, and if talks are successful, would plan to sign an agreement on the program of cooperation.

Cultural Exchanges: Several U.S. agencies—NEA, NEH, Smithsonian, Library of Congress and ICA are preparing proposals for an expanded cultural relationship. John Reinhardt has been invited to China to present our proposals. Announcement of expanded cooperation could be made at the conclusion of my talks in Beijing.

With your approval, I believe that Zbig should issue a directive ensuring that required interagency attention be given to the consulate, civil aviation, hydroelectric and cultural exchange agreements, timed to the August visit.4

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Harold Brown Visit. Now that we have initiated high-level contact with the Soviet military establishment, Zbig has recommended that we proceed to do so as well with the Chinese, indicating to the Chinese that Harold Brown would be prepared to visit China, and announcing his visit at the conclusion of my talks in Beijing.

This proposal has pros and cons. We now have defense-related talks with the USSR in some nine different fields, none with the Chinese, and with CTB and SALT III lying ahead, the PRC continues to fear US–USSR condominium in the strategic/defense field. A visit by Harold would permit consultations on SALT III and arms control issues bringing our relationship with the PRC into better balance with the US–USSR relationship.

However, Cy and the Department of State fear that whatever the U.S. objective, announcement of a visit by Harold will be misinterpreted by the public, the USSR and other nations as the beginning of US–PRC defense consultations aimed at countering the USSR.

I see merit in a visit by Harold. At the same time, I am concerned that it might put out a confusing international signal, with SALT still before the Senate, if announced during my visit in August. I would appreciate your guidance.

—Proceed with plans to announce Brown visit

—Do not plan to announce Brown visit.5

  1. Source: Carter Library, Mondale Donated Material, Overseas Assignments, Trip Files, 1977–1980, Box 32, Vice President’s Visit to the PRC, 8/25/79–9/3/79: Background Papers [1]. Confidential. At the top of the page, Carter wrote, “Zbig to V.P. ok—there are some more sensitive bilateral issues which we can discuss privately. J.”
  2. Not attached. A copy of the map is in Carter Library, National Security Affairs, Staff Material, Far East, Oksenberg Subject File, Box 48, Mondale 8/79 China Trip: 7/1–23/79.
  3. See Document 210.
  4. Carter checked the Approve option and initialed “J.” Brzezinski issued the directive on July 21. (Memorandum from Brzezinski to the Secretary of State, the Secretary of the Treasury, the Secretary of Defense, the Secretary of Interior, the Secretary of Commerce, the Secretary of Health, Education and Welfare, the Secretary of Energy, the President’s Adviser on Science and Technology, and the Director of the International Communication Agency; Carter Library, National Security Affairs, Brzezinski Material, Country File, Box 9, China (PRC): 6–7/79)
  5. Carter checked this option and wrote, “Explore the visit. Let announcement come from other source. J.”