317. Memorandum of Conversation1


  • Chai Zemin, Ambassador of the People’s Republic of China
  • Zhou Wen Zhong, Interpreter
  • Zbigniew Brzezinski
  • Donald Gregg, NSC Staff

After an exchange of pleasantries, Ambassador Chai began:

Chai stated that after his meeting of July 26 with Dr. Brzezinski,2 he had reported to Beijing Dr. Brzezinski’s views re possible travel to the PRC of George Bush. The Ambassador stated that Beijing had replied, and considered Dr. Brzezinski’s views to be very important. Chai said he could assure Dr. Brzezinski that the PRC would make certain not to let a visit by Mr. Bush convey the impression that Beijing would be prepared to continue US–PRC ties on the basis of the Republican Party platform. Chai assured Dr. Brzezinski that the Chinese would not allow any retrogression to take place in US–PRC relations. He also stated that the PRC would take care so as not to allow the Republicans to reap any inappropriate propaganda value from contacts with the PRC in Washington or Beijing. Chai stated that whether during a George Bush visit to Beijing or in a meeting with Governor Reagan in the US, the PRC would request clarification of the Republican Party platform. Chai stated that these matters would be handled with the greatest prudence and that the PRC would not become involved in the domestic political affairs of the US.

Dr. Brzezinski thanked the Ambassador for being so informative and forthcoming. He stated that he was motivated by mixed feelings in [Page 1132] dealing with this subject: one patriotic and the other partisan. From the patriotic viewpoint, Dr. Brzezinski stated that he wanted to assure continuity in US–PRC ties, and increasing strength and friendship in relations between the two countries. This he sees as a strategic necessity and thus would want no retrogression in relations to occur. Dr. Brzezinski said he felt the Republican approach could be potentially harmful. From the partisan viewpoint, Dr. Brzezinski said he was admittedly interested in not letting the Republican Party exploit their travel to the PRC for internal political reasons. Dr. Brzezinski stated that he was reassured by what Ambassador Chai had said with regard to both his patriotic and partisan concerns. He said he was confident that the Democratic Party would win the election, but that if by some chance they did not, that the new Administration should not be encouraged to take harmful steps. Dr. Brzezinski stated that the clarification received from Ambassador Chai would minimize the chances of such an occurrence.

Ambassador Chai repeated his assurance that the PRC would not allow US relations with Beijing to be damaged.

A discussion followed which determined that Governor Reagan has not yet followed up on his request to meet with Ambassador Chai. Chai stated that he would not take any initiative to set up the meeting.

Chai then stated his concern about unity of the Democratic Party and wondered if an “open” convention might take place. Dr. Brzezinski said that the term “open” convention was misleading. He stated that the Democrats would hold a “voters” convention based on the stated preference of the 19 million people who had elected delegates. Dr. Brzezinski said that there is some dissension within the party and that this could hurt the President’s chances. He stated that the Carter Administration insists on party unity and the nomination of President Carter as the only man who can defeat Governor Reagan. He stated that the Democrats must not have a recurrence of 1968, which resulted in the election of Richard Nixon. Dr. Brzezinski stated that party differences would decrease over the next two or three weeks. Ambassador Chai stressed the value of unity, from his own experience with the Chinese Communist Party. Dr. Brzezinski agreed with this.

Changing the subject, Dr. Brzezinski stated that Senator Byrd had come back well satisfied with the talks he had held in the PRC. Ambassador Chai agreed, stating that he had been present at several of these meetings.

The meeting ended at this point. Ambassador Chai said that he planned to make a similar report to Assistant Secretary Holbrooke.

  1. Source: Carter Library, National Security Affairs, Brzezinski Material, Subject File, Box 34, Memcons: Brzezinski: 7–11/80. Secret; Sensitive. A July 31 covering memorandum from Brezezinski transmitted this memorandum of conversation to Carter. A handwritten “C” on the covering memorandum indicates that Carter saw the memorandum of conversation. (Ibid.)
  2. See Document 316.