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


  • NSC Weekly Report #111

1. Opinion: Our Recent Conversation on China.2

I do not favor playing the China card. For one thing, there is not a single “China card” but many “Chinese cards”—and you have just dealt one of them. More importantly, the long-range strategic significance of a cooperative U.S.-Chinese relationship stands on its own feet, and thus is not a tactical matter.

Furthermore, there is a broader and very significant historical dimension to the U.S.-Chinese connection. Before World War I Imperial Germany was driven by the fear that it would end up being encircled. Initially, Bismarck managed the problem well, but his successors reacted to their fear in such a clumsy and pushy way that they produced precisely such an encirclement through the alliance between [Page 1001] Great Britain and France, on the one hand, and France and Russia, on the other hand.

The Soviets today are producing, unwittingly, what they fear. It is they who so frightened the Chinese that they turned to us; it is they who have made the Europeans more aware of the importance to European security of the forty-four Soviet divisions diverted to the Far East; it is they who are producing the newly intimate Japanese-Chinese connection; and it is they who have made us more aware of the strategic significance of the new U.S.-Chinese tie.

At some point, it might be useful for you to use this historical analogy informally with some columnists or even in conversations with some Soviets. None of us want to feed Russian paranoia, but at the same time Russian assertiveness will only be contained if the Russians themselves come to recognize that it is counter-productive and not cost-free. In that sense, the Chinese connection is useful, and I believe that you have managed it with genuine geo-strategic skill.

[Omitted here is material unrelated to China.]

  1. Source: Carter Library, Brzezinski Donated Material, Subject File, Box 42, Weekly Reports [to the President], 102–120 [7/79–12/79]. Top Secret; Codeword. A handwritten “C” at the top of the page indicates that Carter saw the memorandum.
  2. Not further identified. According to the President’s Daily Diary, the President and Brezezinski met on October 4 from 8 to 8:25 a.m., after the President spoke on the telephone with Brown from 7 to 7:24 a.m. (Carter Library, Presidential Materials)