310. Memorandum of Conversation1


  • Summary of The President’s and Vice President’s Conversation With Vice Premier Geng Biao of the People’s Republic of China


  • The President
  • The Vice President
  • Secretary of State Muskie
  • Secretary of Defense Harold Brown
  • Dr. Zbigniew Brzezinski, Assistant to the President for National Security Affairs
  • Ambassador Leonard Woodcock
  • Assistant to the Vice President Denis Clift
  • Assistant Secretary of State Richard Holbrooke
  • Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense Nicholas Platt
  • Charles Freeman, Director EA/PRCM, Department of State
  • Roger W. Sullivan, NSC Staff
  • Geng Biao, Vice Premier, State Council
  • Chai Zemin, Chinese Ambassador to the United States
  • Liu Huaqing, Vice Chief of General Staff
  • Chai Chengwen, Director of Foreign Affairs Bureau, Ministry of the National Defense
  • Chen Lai, Deputy Chief of Staff, General Logistics Department
  • Han Xu, Director, Department of American & Oceanian Affairs, Ministry of Foreign Affairs
  • Huang Zhengji, Deputy Director, Intelligence Department, The General Staff
  • Xu Yimin, Defense and Military Attache, Chinese Embassy
  • Lin Zhaonan, Minister, Chinese Embassy
  • Zhang Zai, Chief of US Division, Department of American & Oceanian Affairs, Ministry of Foreign Affairs
  • Zhang Naizheng, Deputy Division Chief, Foreign Affairs Bureau, Ministry of National Defense
  • Ni Yaoli, Interpreter, Ministry of Foreign Affairs

After the initial courtesies, Vice Premier Geng opened the conversation by noting this was his first trip to the United States. He said he was impressed with this great country and its people, noting that the United States stands in the front rank of advanced countries in its achievements in industry, agriculture, and economic construction. He added that this view was shared by all Chinese groups that have visited the United States.

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Expressing appreciation for the great honor of having the opportunity to meet with the Vice President, Geng offered the appreciation of his country, government and people for the Vice President’s assistance during his visit to China and in helping to arrange for “loans to China”. Geng noted (incorrectly) that during the Vice President’s visit, we had signed two water conservancy agreements. (Actually one hydropower and one cultural agreement.) He also noted that China had taken its seat in the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund.

The Vice President welcomed Geng and said he hoped that his visit was proving useful in serving to broaden and deepen our relationship. Commenting on Geng’s praise of the great qualities of the American people, the Vice President observed that no group contributes more to the strength and vitality of the nation than the Chinese-American community. He then described the visit to a commune in Guangzhou where out of 2600 family units 2100 had relatives in the United States. (The Chinese interpreter mistranslated this as “200 families had relatives in the US.”)

(The President entered at this point. The press was admitted for a photo of the President with Geng.)

The President greeted Geng and asked him to convey his best wishes to Premier Hua Guofeng and Vice Premier Deng Xiaoping, noting that their contribution to our relationship is valued by all Americans. He said that Geng’s visit, following that of the Secretary of Defense, was another step in what he was convinced would be steady progress toward closer relations between our two countries. He noted we have much to learn from each other and share many interests in common in our search for peace and stability in Asia. The President added that he looked forward to receiving a complete report of Geng’s conversations with the Secretary of Defense, Secretary of State, and Dr. Brzezinski.2 He emphasized that they speak accurately for him concerning our common interests involving the Soviet Union, Kampuchea, and other sensitive international issues. He said that there are some allies and friends—and, of course, adversaries who looked with concern on our growing friendship. It was our common responsibility to [Page 1112] convince them that the improvement of our relations would enhance world peace and stability and advance the carrying out of our shared purposes.

Geng agreed that our two countries share the same views. He then said he had been directed by Premier Hua to convey on his behalf his best regards. It had been Hua’s intention, he said, to visit the United States in the latter half of this year, but that would not now be possible owing to a tight schedule. He still hoped, however, to visit the United States later.

The President said he looked forward to welcoming Hua here and hoped that he would be able to visit China as President of this country. Geng assured him that he would receive a rousing welcome. He wished also to convey the best regards of Vice Premier Deng Xiaoping to the President, the Vice President, and the new Secretary of State, whom he congratulated on his appointment.

The President then asked Secretary Brown how the discussions were going. Secretary Brown reported that they had already discussed the world military situation extensively, but had not yet gone into detail on bilateral matters, including technology transfers and sales of military support equipment. There had been an advance team here discussing these matters in a preliminary way, Secretary Brown continued, and he thought it was clear that it will be possible to decide on the grant of some licenses before the end of the visit. He added that there was a formal meeting on this scheduled for the next day and that he was sure both sides would be satisfied with the outcome.

Turning back to discussion of our common interests, the President emphasized that our unchanging opposition to Vietnam’s invasion of Kampuchea and the Soviet Union’s invasion of Afghanistan were very important factors in our cooperation. Geng agreed and said that he looked forward to having in-depth discussions with the President’s representatives on these issues. He added that it was his hope that when we have identical views on such issues, the United States would work on its allies while China worked on Third World countries, in effect taking parallel action toward common ends. The President then commented that he had read about Vice Premier Geng’s background and experience and looked forward to getting his advice which, the President said, would be very valuable to us. The President concluded that we share so many common interests and so many common concerns, it is important that we look for ways to support each other in the United Nations, ASEAN and Africa, as we had already begun to do. The President then left the meeting after shaking hands with the members of Geng’s party.

The Vice President continued the conversation by observing that when he visited China 10 months ago, the two sides had laid out an [Page 1113] agenda to give substance to normalization. Since that time, he said, progress had been phenomenal. There has been the approval by Congress of the Trade Agreement and extension of Most Favored Nation treatment to China. The PRC had also taken the China seat in the World Bank and International Monetary Fund, as Geng had noted. He added that we were also broadening our military relationship, first with Secretary Brown’s visit and now with Vice Premier Geng’s. We have developed flourishing cultural and scientific exchanges and signed agreements on hydropower. It was hard to overestimate the degree to which we had made progress. There were, however, four matters on which progress was needed, the Vice President said: a textile agreement, which we want and believe is also in China’s interest; a maritime agreement; a civil air agreement; a consular agreement; and further progress on our housing problem in Beijing. With those, the Vice President concluded, we would have made a tremendous amount of progress. Geng agreed that we had moved ahead very rapidly.

The Vice President ended the conversation by recalling how much he enjoyed his visit to China and particularly his meetings with Premier Hua and Vice Premier Deng, the warm reception people had given him in Xi’an, and the opportunity to open our new Consulate in Guangzhou. He asked Geng to convey to Hua and Deng how much he appreciated their kindnesses.

  1. Source: Carter Library, National Security Affairs, Staff Material, Far East, Sullivan Subject File, Box 70, Geng Biao Visit: 5/23–31/80. Secret. The meeting took place in the Roosevelt Room.
  2. Harold Brown met with Geng on May 27 at 9 a.m. and May 29 from 2 to 4 p.m. Both memoranda of conversation, June 10, are in Carter Library, National Security Affairs, Staff Material, Far East, Sullivan Subject File, Box 70, Geng Biao Visit: 6/80. Over lunch on May 28, Geng and Muskie discussed Soviet ambitions and Sino-Soviet disagreements. The memorandum for the record by Platt, May 28, is in the Washington National Records Center, OSD Files: FRC 330–82–0217, China (Reds) 25 May 1980. The two met again that afternoon from 2:30 until 3:45 p.m. The memorandum of conversation is ibid. Brzezinski’s meeting with Geng on May 29 from 10:05 until 11:15 a.m. focused mainly on Afghanistan and Cambodia. The memorandum of conversation, June 10, is in the Carter Library, National Security Affairs, Staff Material, Far East, Sullivan Subject File, Box 70, Geng Biao Visit: 6/80.