60. Memorandum From Thomas P. Thornton of the National Security Council Staff to the President’s Assistant for National Security Affairs (Brzezinski)1


  • The Hua Non-Meeting and Sino-US Relations: A Polemic

The charade in New York over the President’s non-meeting with Huang Hua underlines the ridiculous situation that we have let the Chinese put us into. Consider for a moment: If Vance were in Peking and suddenly got asked to see Hua, would he not find a way to postpone his departure for a meeting in Japan for two hours? Obviously. But this is just what Huang was “unable” to do—postpone a flight to Canada in order to meet with the President. On top of this, our people were apparently running around in New York for several days trying to find ways of ensuring that a meeting take place.

We should not have asked Huang in the first place. He is only a Foreign Minister, and any initiative should have come from him. But for some reasons having to do, I gather, with the mystical Orient, we are not allowed to deal with Chinese as if they were ordinary mortals. Our Presidents and Secretaries of State haul themselves off to Peking to do homage; Chinese officials soil their shoes with American dirt only en route to the UN. It’s time we got over this.

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I know all the arguments about history, Taiwan, and the like, and I just don’t believe that they wash. China has at least as much at stake in the Sino-US relationship as we do. We should not let ourselves be cowed by incantations from the Sinologists in the academic community nor by a misplaced guilt complex. We should treat the Chinese like ordinary humans. Perhaps then they would start to act that way.

I suspect that Mike Oksenberg might find a few details here with which he might mildly disagree. It would make an interesting debate in a staff meeting.

  1. Source: Carter Library, National Security Affairs, Brzezinski Material, Country File, Box 8, China (People’s Republic of): 7–9/77. Secret. Sent for information. Copies were sent to Armacost, Oksenberg, and Hyland. At the top of the page, Brzezinski wrote, “Good job. ZB.” Above that, an unknown hand wrote, “DA,” denoting Aaron.