36. Memorandum From Michel Oksenberg of the National Security Council Staff to the President’s Assistant for National Security Affairs (Brzezinski)1


  • Draft Communique for Establishing Diplomatic Relations with the People’s Republic of China

As you know, one of the major problems we will face during Vance’s trip to Peking will be to make credible the seriousness of our desire to normalize relations with Peking at some point during our term in office.

Clearly, the Vance trip can only initiate the negotiations. Negotiations will not be concluded in the coming few months, in part because our own domestic political situation does not allow it. With the Panama Canal, the Mid-East, and SALT already on the agenda, we could not absorb normalization along the lines toward which we now seem to be headed.

The problem is that the Chinese have already heard both Nixon and Ford describe in detail the domestic political difficulties in the U.S. which make it difficult to normalize our relations. I suspect some Chinese are growing dubious about our earnestness. (I recognize, of course, that given their rhetoric about Taiwan, we may question the earnestness of their intent.)

I propose as one way of engaging the Chinese in serious negotiation that we table a communique which sets forth the terms of recognition. I attach one version for your consideration (Tab A).2 I would be interested in hearing your reaction, both to the idea of tabling such a document and the viability of this particular communique, before I proceed further.

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I draw your attention to its key feature—a linkage of a Chinese pledge of patience to Taiwan’s not declaring itself independent. The ploy here is to get the PRC to state implicitly that it seeks the form but not the substance of control over Taiwan. As long as the PRC adopts that stance, then we are pledged to maintain a “one China” formula, and Taiwan has an implicit PRC pledge of “non-use of force.”

Naturally, in addition to this communique, I would recommend a unilateral statement by us indicating our intent to sustain a full range of cultural and economic relations with Taiwan and our interest in a peaceful resolution of the Taiwan issue. But a communique I offer here offers the best chance, I think, to induce the Chinese to pursue a patient course. In effect, we would encourage Peking to look upon Taiwan as it does Hong Kong: part of China posing no symbolic or military threat, but which it would be too costly to take over.


That you give me your reaction to this idea. You are the only person with whom I’ve broached the subject. I do not wish to proceed further without knowing your thoughts.3

  1. Source: Carter Library, National Security Affairs, Staff Material, Far East, Oksenberg Subject File, Box 56, Policy Process: 7/77. Top Secret; Sensitive; Exclusively Eyes Only. Sent for action. At the top of the page, an unknown person wrote, “Outside the System.” At the bottom of the page, Brzezinski wrote, “Talk to me. See one change. Good idea. ZB.” He added, “But what about the ‘3 conditions?’”
  2. Tab A, a proposed “Draft Communiqué Announcing Establishment of Relations Between the People’s Republic of China and the United States,” is attached but not printed. The draft includes the passage: “The Chinese people and government are patient. They are prepared to wait for decades for final reunification of Taiwan with the motherland, providing the authorities on the island neither attempt to abrogate the well-established historical principle that Taiwan is part of China nor attempt to collude with other hegemonistic countries or groups of countries.”
  3. After reading the draft, Brzezinski suggested replacing “the United States recognizes the government of the People’s Republic of China as the sole legal government of China and accepts the position that there is but one China and that Taiwan is part of China” with “the United States recognizes the government of the People’s Republic of China as the sole legal government of China and acknowledges the position that there is but one China.” In the margin next to this change, he wrote, “Redundant + troublesome.”