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


  • Nixon/Kissinger–Mao/Chou Memoranda of Conversations

I enclose the lengthy memoranda of conversations from Nixon’s February, 1972 visit to Peking.2

Since they are quite lengthy, I have marked the more pertinent or important (and, in some cases, amusing) passages for you. This will enable you to skip quickly the parts that are insignificant or mostly chit chat.

These papers do show a high degree of mutual understanding that developed in 1972, and they imply some US commitments. Compared to what was then being said, one cannot avoid the conclusion that the present state of US-Chinese relations is rather dormant.

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Especially striking are two items in Tab E: 1) a rather unique military briefing on the Soviet threat to China given by the US to the Chinese; 2) the extraordinary statement by Kissinger that the United States at one point was contemplating providing unilateral assistance to China against the Soviet Union on the assumption that the Soviet Union was about to act against China.3

The foregoing raises the question whether under some guise we might not wish to provide again some military information to the Chinese. For example, the Chinese might well be very interested in learning about the SS–20 deployments. Alternatively, we might consider giving the Chinese a detailed briefing on SALT, with special emphasis on those issues on which the US and the Soviets are still quite far apart.

Finally, I must say that I was quite favorably impressed by Nixon’s ability to handle the Chinese and to be responsive to their wider concerns. He comes off quite well in these exchanges, as certainly do the Chinese themselves.

All in all, the papers are well worth some of your time. In addition to providing a useful background, they also are a good guide to negotiating with the Chinese.4

  1. Source: Carter Library, National Security Affairs, Staff Material, Far East, Oksenberg Subject File, Box 55, Policy Process: 5/24–31/77. Top Secret; Sensitive.
  2. Attached but not printed. For these memoranda of conversation, see Foreign Relations, 1969–1976, vol. XVII, China, 1969–1972, Documents 194197, 199202, and 204; and Foreign Relations, 1969–1976, vol. E–13, Documents on China, 1969–1972, Documents 88107.
  3. At Tab E is the memorandum of conversation, February 23, 1972, 9:35 a.m. –12:34 p.m. See Foreign Relations, 1969–1976, vol. XVII, China, 1969–1972, Document 92.
  4. Below this paragraph, Carter wrote, “Zbig, I read all of it. Very interesting. I don’t share your high opinion of Nixon. Obviously he was adept at assuaging the Chinese—at the expense of Rogers, American people, India, Soviets, etc. Also we were almost abject in our dealings with them. J.C.”