266. Memorandum of Conversation1


  • Summary of the Vice President’s Meeting with the People’s Republic of China Premier Hua Guofeng


  • Vice President Walter Mondale
  • David Aaron, Deputy Assistant to the President for National Security Affairs
  • Denis Clift, Assistant to the Vice President for National Security Affairs
  • Richard Holbrooke, Assistant Secretary of State for East Asian and Pacific Affairs
  • Leonard Woodcock, United States Ambassador to the People’s Republic of China
  • Michel Oksenberg, Staff Member, NSC
  • Premier Hua Guofeng
  • Foreign Minister Huang Hua
  • Vice Foreign Minister Zhang Wenchin
  • Chai Zemin, People’s Republic of China Ambassador to the United States
  • Han Xu, Director of American and Oceanian Affairs
  • Chi Chaochu, Deputy Director of American and Oceanian Affairs
  • Wei Yongqing, Director of Protocol
  • Chen Hui, Interpreter

Premier Hua: I want to express my warm welcome to Vice President Mondale for coming to China to visit. I am aware that this is the first visit to China by the Vice President, but not his first visit in Asia. But you are the first high-level official to visit China after normalization of relations. I should express special welcome because there are two firsts involved: Your first visit to China, and the first official visit since normalization. Of course, the first time is the beginning and not an end. Are you accustomed to living here in China?

Vice President Mondale: Yes. I am now part Chinese (laughter) and an expert on Chinese food. Last night at the opera we heard two Chinese classics, Jingle Bells and Do Re Mi. May I say, Mr. Premier, that I am delighted and honored to be here representing my President and people. We have had a most successful visit. I think the normalization process is well underway, and I know our remarks are purposeful. I bring an important message, a letter to you personally from President Carter which I think will further advance the process.2 We have had several good talks already with the Vice Premier. Also, it was my privilege, as you know, to address the student body at Beijing University and through them to the people of your great country.3 I learned this morning that the address was covered in full in the press.

Premier Hua: Great attention is being paid to your visit in China. This is the first time since 1949 that a foreign political figure has spoken in Beijing University.

Vice President Mondale: Since 1949?

Premier Hua: Yes.

Vice President Mondale: It was a wonderful feeling.

Premier Hua: So you are making a record on several counts. Your speech at the university is also a first.

(Press leaves the room.)

Vice President Mondale: It is not natural for people to be separated. It is a privilege to be a part of this process of reuniting two great peoples. Mr. Premier, I have a letter from President Carter to you. It contains a request which we hope you can accept to visit our nation early next year at a time of our mutual agreement. In the letter he indicates he would like to follow this trip with a return trip to the PRC later that year. If you can accept, you will find that you are greeted warmly [Page 964] with love and affection by the people of our country. We hope it will be possible for you to come for a visit.

Premier Hua: From your conversation with Vice Premier Deng Xiaoping,4 I was already informed of this invitation from President Carter. I accept President Carter’s invitation with pleasure. And I look forward to visiting your beautiful and great country. As to the time when this visit can be made, Mr. Mondale is aware that China owes many other countries a debt in repaying a visit to those countries. So we have to make some specific arrangements for a program for these return visits.

Vice President Mondale: It is very important that it be a meaningful visit by yourself to broaden the relationship. The President does anticipate having serious discussions with you. You are free to pick any of our government leaders with whom you would like to speak, either in the Executive Branch, Legislative Branch, or Judicial Branch, leaders around the nation. You are invited to visit any city. You will be warmly received.

Premier Hua: And we are now on our part looking forward to welcoming President Carter to make a visit to China at a time convenient to him next year.

Vice President Mondale: Thank you very much. I will immediately report that to him.

Premier Hua: We will arrange the time through diplomatic channels through Ambassador Woodcock and also Ambassador Chai.

Vice President Mondale: We are in good hands.

Premier Hua: Ambassador Woodcock has done a very good job in China. He has cooperated with us well. When Vice Premier Deng visited your country in late January, he was given a warm and friendly reception by President Carter and Vice President Mondale. Now the Honorable Vice President has come to visit China. These visits by the leaders of our two countries help to deepen our understanding and friendship.

During this visit the Vice President has had two talks already with Vice Premier Deng. And I am aware of what took place during these talks. And I have read your remarks at Beida. On the whole, we consider the visit by Vice President Mondale to be very important. The visit by a high-ranking leader of the United States to China after normalization, and the discussions between us have been very good. It has been characterized by an American friend as friendly and very fruitful talks conducted in a warm atmosphere. I agree with this appraisal.

[Page 965]

And it has also been said that the visit by the Vice President means that Sino-U.S. relations have entered a new stage since normalization. I have told American friends before that in dealing with China–U.S. relations we must take a political and strategic perspective. You said that you have come to discuss the relations between the two countries in the decade of the 1980s. In fact, it is not limited to only that decade. Not only during the 1980s, but during the 1990s. Anyway, our two countries should live in friendship from generation to generation.

Vice President Mondale: That is a good point. We have had relations prior to the last thirty years, but they were flawed because they were unequal. There was no mutual respect between two sovereign nations. And relations with such a flaw underlying them could not be really thorough relations of the kind that a great nation should have. In this new beginning we are two truly independent nations without unequal treaties and unequal relations. Now we can have relations that mature independent societies have, based on equality and respect. That basis enables a relationship with a permanence that goes beyond the 1980s because it is not flawed.

Premier Hua: Very well said. If there is a good relationship between China and the United States and a continuance of these good relations, it not only serves the interest of the Chinese and American peoples, but also the interest of world peace. One sentence, one of your remarks at Beida, has attracted wide attention. You said that any action that tried to weaken or isolate us took a stance that runs counter to U.S. interests . . .

Mr. Han Xu (reading the President’s letter to Premier Hua): That sentence is in President Carter’s letter to you.

Vice President Mondale: Occasionally the Vice President speaks with words his President has previously used. Or he had better.

Premier Hua: I notice that many news agencies stressed this reference. And I want to say frankly to the Vice President that I am pleased to hear some of the news that you have brought to us in these talks, among which is that remark that I first cited which I think is a far-sighted view. I am pleased with it not because you have said something nice about China but because you are taking a strategic viewpoint in looking at the problem. We have told many visiting American friends that we must work together to cope with the Polar Bear. Our late Chairman told visiting American friends that we should form a line stretching from the United States, Western Europe, China, and to Japan. This is because we recognize that the main danger of war at present comes from the Soviet Union. Judging from events in the last year, the Soviet Union is still trying to take advantage of openings everywhere to expand. Mr. Mondale is aware of all these developments. In Afghanistan, the former President Daoud was a pro-Soviet person. [Page 966] But he also wanted to uphold national independence and sovereignty. So he was gotten rid of by the Soviet Union.

Vice President Mondale: Our Ambassador, you know, was killed in Kabul—a very fine man.5 I attended his funeral. There was a very suspicious involvement of Soviet officials surrounding the way that was done. We do not charge the Soviets with having done it, but we know they have not done anything to help us protect that man.

Premier Hua: For instance, in South Yemen, President Rubia also had good relations with the Soviet Union, but he also advocated national independence and sovereignty. So it was a coup that got rid of him. And two Presidents, one in South Yemen and one in North Yemen, were killed within twenty-four hours. It is rumored—I have not been able to check it, but it is rumored—that some Cuban troops were involved in the attack on the South Yemen Presidential palace. Then there is Ethiopia. At present, we say that although the focus of Soviet strategy is still in Europe, it is actively trying to poke its hands in the Middle East and the Persian Gulf. The attempt to control the production and the transporation of energy resources, that is, oil, if they succeed in this attempt, will pose a great threat to Western countries dependent on oil. Of course, they are active not only in those places but in the Indian Ocean, Indochina, and the Pacific trying everywhere to extend their strength.

You signed a SALT II agreement with the Soviet Union. We have not publicly opposed it. But, Mr. Mondale, be aware that our view is that no treaty will actually restrain them. But the attempt to deal with Soviet expansion will be a long-term project. So long as the policy of Soviet imperialism does not change, they will persist in trying to expand. I do not know whether Mr. Mondale has read the will of Peter the Great.

Vice President Mondale: I confess I have not.

Premier Hua: It is widely translated among European countries. There are many versions of this will. Of course, it has not yet been definitely ascertained that this testament or will is actually that of Peter the Great, but the actions of Czarist Russia did conform to that document. And the actions of the present Soviet Government seem to exceed even that of Czarist Russia, that is, in their expansion and aggression. In saying all this I am only trying to make clear the reason why I think President Carter’s remarks, and it was repeated by Mr. Mondale in the speech, show that you are looking at the problem from long-term far-sighted perspective.

[Page 967]

Vice President Mondale: We appreciate that observation, and we hope we deserve that praise.

The SALT Treaty to which we refer, we believe, has several advantages which enhance the strength of our country. By its terms, there is nothing that we need to do to strengthen ourselves which is prohibited. And you may know we are about to commence a massive program with the deployment of what we call the MX missile. This missile is maneuverable so that the Soviets know that even if they knew where the missile was when they aimed at it—which they would not—they would be pretty sure it will not be there when their missile lands. And thus the Soviets know to start a war means their destruction. This MX missile has not three warheads but ten. They are highly accurate with the ability to destroy missile silos. We are replacing the warheads on some of our older missiles with these new, much more accurate silo-killing warheads.

At sea we are deploying the Trident submarine in the Pacific Ocean. It will carry missiles that are very long range, with highly secret nuclear warheads, with each missile capable of hitting the Soviet Union. Both the submarine and missiles will be far superior to anything the Soviets possess.

In Europe we are not only expanding the strength of the NATO conventional forces, but we are rapidly concluding an agreement with the NATO allies. Mr. Aaron here has been our chief negotiator. The agreement seeks to modernize theatre nuclear weapons to counter the threat of the so-called SS–20. We are deploying the Pershing II Missile and the highly accurate ground launched cruise missile which can fire 2000 miles and come within 100 feet of the target. It flies in so low that it makes their whole air defense system virtually useless although they spent $100 billion building it.

Premier Hua: How much was that?

Vice President Mondale: They spent, we estimate, $100 billion on their radar system to counter our manned bombers. The ground-launched cruise missiles make a mockery of the system because it is useless against these low-flying missiles. One of the dividends that flow from the SALT II Treaty is that we will be able to put more of our resources into conventional arms, particularly in Europe, to meet the very high buildup deployed by the Russians in Eastern Europe. Your government has been briefed about what it is we are doing in the Pacific. I will not repeat those matters. We are trying to meet the mischief of the Soviet Union in Africa and Latin America. And sometimes their efforts involve, as you well know, great subtlety. I would be interested in hearing from the Premier about your appraisal of the situation in Afghanistan.

[Page 968]

Premier Hua: We know a little about the situation in Afghanistan, but not much. It seems that the anti-government forces are growing every day. It was reported—I saw a report yesterday that a provincial capital was occupied by the anti-government forces, but this news has not been confirmed yet. It is the capital of Kunar Province, some 200 kilometers to the west of the capital. But this news has not been confirmed yet. Foreign news reports think that this is quite possible because that provincial capital has been surrounded by anti-government forces for quite some time. It is said that one brigade has declared neutrality at the site. Other reports say that they have turned insurgent, and the government is trying to locate this brigade.

It seems that the anti-government forces have key different factions, and these factions have not come together to form one single force. There is news that three or four organizations have formed a union, but it is said that the biggest one in opposition did not join this alliance. These opposition forces have captured some weapons from government forces. But these are not sufficiently good for them to attack large cities. So the turmoil in Afghanistan will go on for some time.

Vice President Mondale: It is clear apparently that the Soviets have their hands full here.

Premier Hua: Opposition guerrillas are cutting communications on highways everywhere, including the highway in the west leading into the Soviet Union.

Vice President Mondale: Yes. They have destroyed that highway too.

Premier Hua: We have seen some news that the Soviet Union intends to make a change in the government and to get rid of President Taraki. It is also rumored they may put in power the son-in-law of the former King, but we are not very clear about how the situation is developing.

Vice President Mondale: I saw an intelligence report yesterday that the Soviet Government sent a telegram praising Taraki on the sixtieth anniversary of Afghanistan independence. Analysts of this cable noted the Soviets have been trying for some time to broaden the government to strengthen the government. So people believe that this cable is a sign that they will try to stick it out with Taraki. It is difficult to know.

Premier Hua: So we have to see how things develop in Afghanistan.

I want to add that I noticed that in the talks Vice President Mondale mentioned that Secretary of State Vance had made the determination to put China in the category of friendly nation and that you were going to treat China differently from the Soviet Union in terms of em[Page 969]bargo licensing. I was interested in hearing about this. In his talks, Vice President Mondale also said that the Trade Agreement will be sent before the U.S. Congress before the end of this year and that you felt that it would be passed by Congress. You mentioned in the remarks at Beida that the submitting of this Trade Agreement to Congress was not linked to any other matters. And this statement has been commented upon by the foreign press, saying that it probably refers to the fact that the granting of MFN status to China is not linked to granting of MFN to the Soviet Union.

Vice President Mondale: They are very shrewd reporters.

Premier Hua: You were very skillful in phraseology. You did not spell it out, but the reporters were very sharp to understand.

Vice President Mondale: There is some humor in the law that bears on friendly nation determination. It is the law that goes back to 1949 and our McCarthy era. The law defines an unfriendly nation as one that is a part of the international communist conspiracy, by which we mean Moscow. We felt you were not under the control of the Soviet Union. It would be harder to make the same determination for Moscow. Such a determination is in line with the normalization of relations between our two countries, and on the development of the whole range of political, economical, cultural, scientific, and technological.

Premier Hua: Yes. It is part of normalization.

Vice President Mondale: There is a wide scope for cooperation between our two countries. That is the message precisely that I wish to bring. I was asked in Washington before I left what does normalization mean. I said it can mean a very little, or it can mean an awful lot. And it is our desire that it would mean an awful lot. It would mean normalization in the fullest sense of the word. In order to achieve that with specific initiatives, I think we have made great progress in Congress, export licensing, trade, American business investment, in cultural relations, in specific ways that we can help in technical fields, and in exchange of information on strategic matters. That is what normalization ought to mean. I believe we are making real progress.

Premier Hua: I agree when you say that normalization can mean an awful lot or it can mean very little. It can be said that we have normal relations with some countries. For instance, with Libya we have normal relations. But we have many differences of views. And we only have regular state-to-state relations. But we think that in normalizing our relations with the U.S. there are large areas of common ground. To strengthen friendly relations and cooperation between our two countries is very important for the interests of our two peoples and for the interests of world peace. So we do not want to see normalization between China and the U.S. kept at the level of normalization between China and Libya.

[Page 970]

You mentioned credit. Of course we welcome that in relation to the Chinese effort for development, for the realization of the Four Modernizations. Of course we rely mainly on our own efforts, but we also want in this process to absorb advanced know-how from foreign countries. We have to import advanced equipment and to accept foreign investments. We passed a law on joint ventures with both Chinese and foreign investment in the second plenary meeting of our Fifth National People’s Congress.

Vice President Mondale: It is being carefully circulated and read by our business community.

Premier Hua: But, of course, because we have never had any such law and do not have much experience in this regard, we cannot write it in very great detail all at once. We will try to perfect it and supplement it in the course of carrying out this work. In the case of some aspects that are stated only in principle, we will try to make it more specific in signing the contracts. We think we will need to pass several more laws to make it more concrete.

Vice President Mondale: No wonder you are opening a law school.

Premier Hua: Some Japanese friends put forty questions to us about the joint venture law. And we asked them to give us some ideas on how to make it more specific.

But as Vice Premier Deng told you in the talks that we hope you do not link this credit arrangement with the money owed by the Kuomintang to you. If you link these two things together, we will find it very difficult to accept this. The United Kingdom, France, West Germany, and Italy have all agreed to give us some credit facilities. Their complaint is that we have not made fuller use of these facilities. We told them, of course, we have to consider our ability to repay. We cannot ignore our credibility. We Chinese always mean what we say and, if we undertake too many debts which we cannot repay, that will not be good.

Vice President Mondale: We understand. The credit arrangement we are offering simply allows you to move on a case-by-case basis regarding special projects of your choosing which we will have to work out together. We thought it would advance the broadening of normalization to have all available tools for expanding our relations. There should be no doubt of the availability of the instruments.

Premier Hua: We think that to determine credits on a project-by-project basis will ease the problem of repayment.

Vice President Mondale: Yes.

Premier Hua: Because when a project is undertaken for industrial projects, for instance, and is thrown into operation, then we will have the means with which to repay the debt.

[Page 971]

Vice President Mondale: That is why MFN becomes so important. We understand if we were to sell to you, you have to be able to sell to us to generate the credits, to borrow, to build, to expand, to modernize.

Premier Hua: If we can export goods to the American market, that will of course increase our ability to repay.

Vice President Mondale: It is part of the mutuality that we need to tend to.

Premier Hua: When former President Nixon came to visit China, I received him and on our way to the airport, in sending him off, he asked me whether it was possible to have a very considerable expansion of Sino-U.S. trade. I told him that there were difficulties, because without most favored nation status it is not possible for Chinese goods to enter the American market and that is why we import more from you and export not so much. There is an embargo on the trade.

Vice President Mondale: We understand the importance of MFN. We have made a commitment in the Trade Agreement and we intend to deliver.

Premier Hua: We hope that this question can be gotten out of the way. It will remove an obstacle from our economic cooperation and expansion of trade.

Vice President Mondale: The President asked me to inquire privately about your estimate of what will transpire in your upcoming talks with the Soviet Union which is scheduled.

Premier Hua: When we announced that we will not extend the Sino-Soviet Treaty, we announced in that statement the proposal to hold negotiations between the two countries. The Vice President will understand and knows that the continuation or renewal of the Treaty of Friendship and Alliance with the Soviet Union would be unreasonable. As you know, we have concluded a Treaty of Peace and Friendship with Japan, and the Treaty we have with the Soviet Union on peace, friendship, and alliance contradicts the Treaty with Japan.

Vice President Mondale: There is a word in there called hegemony.

Premier Hua: Yes. That is why we decided not to extend the validity of that Treaty. Regardless of our disagreements on matters of principle and regardless of our objections to their hegemonism, we feel nonetheless that it is possible for the two countries to have normal relations on the basis of the five principles of peace for co-existence. But we are aware that these negotiations will be very difficult and will last a long time. In the Shanghai Communiqué we said that we are opposed to hegemonism. The same opposition to hegemonism was included in the Sino-Japan Treaty of Peace and Friendship. Now the Russians have suggested that in a new treaty with China they also want to oppose hegemonism. (Laughter) So this is quite a humorous situation. So we say [Page 972] the important thing is to judge by your actions whether indeed you are against hegemonism. We are sending a delegation to Moscow for the negotiations in the middle of September. As I said, the negotiations I think will be very difficult and will take a long time. As to improvement of relations between China and the Soviet Union, we will have to see whether they are sincere in wanting to do so.

Vice President Mondale is aware that after Vietnam concluded a Treaty of Friendship with the Soviet Union, they launched their aggression against Kampuchea and stepped up their military buildup against China. Article VI of that Treaty between the Vietnamese and the Soviet Union in fact makes the Treaty have the nature of a military alliance. So in launching our counterattack in self-defense, we did not act merely from the considerations of China-Vietnamese relations, but from the strategic point of opposing hegemonism. That is to say, when the Soviet Union and Vietnam colluded to carry out hegemonism, are we to sit idly by or are we to do something about it? Of course, in deciding to make some reaction and to do something about it, we did take into consideration the worst possible consequences that the Russians might take some action.

And China was prepared to take the risk alone. Vice Premier Deng said that the Chinese mean what they say and that we do things after giving careful thought. So I am telling Mr. Mondale and asking you to tell President Carter that unless the Soviet Union changes its policy of pursuing hegemonism, Sino-Soviet relations cannot be improved because we will persist in opposing hegemonism. This is a fundamental point to keep in mind.

Vice President Mondale: I will report on that.

Premier Hua: Of course, China wants an environment of peace in which to build up its own country to achieve the full modernization. But if the hegemonists carry out expansionism and aggression, China will surely oppose it. And it seems that the Soviet Union will not change overnight their policy of seeking hegemony. If they do not change their hegemonist policies, neither will China change its policy of opposing hegemonism. China is a vast country with a vast population. But we are still rather backward industrially, agriculturally, and in science and technology. On account of the fact that China’s industry, science and technology are not very developed, that means that our underground resources have not been fully understood or exploited as yet. Starting from this year, we have shifted the focus of our work to that of the Four Modernizations. At the second meeting of the Fifth National People’s Congress we underscored the need to develop democracy and a socialist legal system. We did so with the aim to modernize the energies of the people to bring about a situation of stability and unity in which it is better to carry out the Four Modernizations.

[Page 973]

Vice President Mondale: We have noted with great interest the movement of your government for the rule of law. As a society deeply committed to human rights, we see that movement as a most salutary one.

Premier Hua: If we are to bring about great order throughout China, it is imperative that we develop democracy and develop the legal system. For without law you cannot have stability and unity. We have also raised the slogan of readjusting, restructuring, reconsolidating, and improving the national economy. This is to ensure that our economy develops on a proportionate basis at a high and enduring speed. In the development of industry and agriculture, we stress that agriculture is the base. We must speed up the development of agriculture. We increased our investments in agriculture. We raised the purchase price of agricultural products. Last year we circulated some draft decisions to accelerate agricultural development on a trial basis. This year we will make these decisions formal. We think that only with the development of agriculture will we be able to solve the problem of feeding some 900 million people not only with grain but with meat and vegetables. Only with developing agriculture will we be able to solve the problem of clothing 900 million people. When I say solve the clothing problem, I mean that right now our textile fabrics come mainly from cotton, wool, silk, and linen. While we do have some synthetic fabrics, they do not constitute as yet a very big proportion. Only by developing agriculture will we be able to have the raw materials for industrial development, particularly the development of light industries.

Vice President Mondale: Mr. Premier, I do not wish to interrupt, but I know that around 5:15 we might spend a few moments alone . . . (People depart.)6

  1. Source: Carter Library, National Security Affairs, Staff Material, Far East, Oksenberg Subject File, Box 47, Meetings: 8–9/79. Top Secret; Sensitive; Eyes Only. The meeting took place in the Great Hall of the People.
  2. See Document 262.
  3. See footnote 11, Document 264.
  4. See Document 265.
  5. Ambassador to Afghanistan Adolph Dubs was killed on February 14 during an exchange of fire between Islamist militants and Afghan security forces assisted by Soviet advisers.
  6. In a backchannel message from Beijing reporting on his meetings with Deng and Hua, Mondale reported, “Before the second formal meeting with Deng, I drew him aside to convey your message to him on the sensitive matter. He seemed pleased.” The Vice President also noted, “I had a fifteen minute tete-a-tete with Hua covering the sensitive issue as well. I told him Harold would visit in the fall to discuss the matter further. He said the Chinese would welcome his coming.” (Carter Library, National Security Affairs, Brzezinski Material, Trip File, Box 37, Vice President, Far East, 8/24/79–9/3/79: Cables and Memos, 8/27–30/79) For more on the “sensitive issue,” see Documents 241 and 267.