316. Memorandum of Conversation1


  • Chai Zemin, Ambassador of the People’s Republic of China
  • Xu Shangwei, Interpreter
  • Zbigniew Brzezinski
  • Roger Sullivan, NSC Staff

After the opening exchange of pleasantries, Ambassador Chai began:

Chai. Today is your holiday (Saturday), but I wanted this brief meeting to inform you of a matter and hear your views. As everyone is aware, the election campaign between the Republicans and Democrats is underway. This is your internal affair, and we do not intend to get involved.

Yesterday Mr. Allen, Governor Reagan’s advisor, telephoned to inform me of the Governor’s interest in meeting with me at some future date and also of Bush’s intention to visit China. Bush plans to meet with Vice Premier Deng Xiaoping.

We are not clear as to what is intended by the proposal. Under the circumstances I would like to hear your views. My Government has not yet replied.

Brzezinski. Thank you for letting me know this. Just let me comment separately on contacts with Mr. Allen and the proposed trip by Mr. Bush. It is perfectly normal for you to meet with Mr. Allen, especially since the Republican Platform on China is vague and contradictory and could lead to complications in our relations. Insistence on certain clarifications with Mr. Allen might be useful. Other Ambassadors will also be in touch with Mr. Allen in order to establish what the policies of a Republican administration might do.

A visit to China by Mr. Bush is another matter. That is clearly part of the Presidential campaign, and how it is handled will in some manner influence that campaign. From Bush and Reagan’s standpoint, the ideal outcome would be that Bush go to Beijing, be received by the top officials and be able to do so on the basis of the Republican Platform.

He might even include a visit to Taiwan in the process. Then they would be able to say that the Republicans have stated publicly their [Page 1130] criticism of President Carter’s normalization of relations with China, that they have stated publicly a different approach toward Taiwan, and yet they have been cordially received at the highest level in China. That kind of political maneuver might not be constructive for our relations. It would not only be a signal of a domestic political type here, but would signal that the Chinese leadership is prepared to consider a relationship between the United States and the People’s Republic of China which is based on a different approach to the question of Taiwan.

I have the text of the Republican Platform here. Let me quote:

“We deplore the Carter Administration’s treatment of Taiwan, our long-term ally and friend. We pledge that our concern for the safety and security of the 17 million people of Taiwan will be constant, and we will regard any attempt to alter Taiwan’s status by force as a threat to the peace of the region. We declare that a Republican administration in strengthening relations with Taiwan will create conditions leading to expansion of trade and will give priority consideration to Taiwan’s defense requirements.”

Could you let me know how this evolves? I am certainly grateful to you for letting me know this and for giving me a chance to express my reaction.

Chai. On one occasion, Mr. Allen contacted a member of my Embassy staff and expressed his interest in visiting China. Later we told him we agreed. The day before yesterday he called again to cancel his planned visit. He said he was displeased with an article written by our correspondent here and published in the People’s Daily criticizing Reagan. We explained that this was an article by one correspondent and not an official view.

Allen called back later to say that Reagan would like to express his thanks for that explanation. He also said Reagan would like to meet with me and that Bush would like to visit China. Allen said he would accompany Bush.

We had discussed Allen’s earlier proposal for his own trip with Mr. Holbrooke. He thought it would be useful for us to keep in touch with Reagan’s staff. By doing so we would get to know Reagan’s policies better and could ask for clarification.

Brzezinski. I have given you my views on the Bush trip which is different from a visit by staff. I hope you will keep in touch on this in the same spirit of frankness and friendship which has characterized all our meetings.

Chai. That is exactly how I feel. That is why I decided to keep you informed and to hear your views before we made a decision.

How do you feel about Reagan’s request for a meeting with me?

[Page 1131]

Brzezinski. It is hard to object to such a meeting, but you may want some clarification of the Republican Platform which contains the potential for some retrogression in our relations.

  1. Source: Carter Library, National Security Affairs, Brzezinski Material, Subject File, Box 34, Memcons: Brzezinski: 7–11/80. Secret; Sensitive; Outside the System. A handwritten “C” at the top of the page indicates that Carter saw the memorandum.