66. Memorandum of Conversation1


  • Vice President Mondale’s Lunch for PRC Ambassador Huang Chen


  • President Jimmy Carter (drop in)
  • Vice President Mondale
  • Secretary James Schlesinger
  • Acting Secretary of Treasury Robert Carswell
  • Deputy Secretary of Agriculture John C. White
  • Under Secretary of Commerce Sidney Harmon
  • Under Secretary of State Philip C. Habib
  • Assistant to the President for National Security Affairs Zbigniew Brzezinski
  • Assistant Secretary of State Richard Holbrooke
  • A. Denis Clift, Asst to the VP for National Security Affairs
  • Michel Oksenberg, Staff Member, NSC
  • Assistant to the President Stuart L. Eizenstat
  • Ambassador Huang Chen
  • Ambassador Han Hsu
  • Counselor Hsieh Ch’i-mei
  • Counselor P’eng Chin-po
  • First Secretary Tien Yu
  • Third Secretary Hsu Shang-wei
[Page 260]

Ambassador Huang Chen began, while the journalists were taking pictures, by telling Brzezinski that he would be welcome to visit China. Brzezinski replied that he would be delighted to visit China and that “it is a date.”2

The conversation broke into several discrete colloquys. Vice President Mondale first asked whether Huang Chen had read Han Suyin The Crippled Tree. He had just finished it. Huang had not heard of the book but knew Han Suyin who thereupon became the subject of conversation. Mondale and Huang Chen talked at length about energy and agriculture, with Schlesinger joining in. Brzezinski and Hsieh Ch’i-mei discussed the PRC’s “Three World” concept—particularly where such countries as South Africa, Rumania, and Czechoslovakia fit.

The toasts were as follows:

Vice President (prepared text):

Ambassador Huang

Ambassador Han

Distinguished guests and friends.

—This is an historic occasion, marking as it does the departure of the first representative of the People’s Republic of China to serve in Washington.

—We have been honored to have the Chinese Government assign a man of the stature of Ambassador Huang Chen as the first Chief of the Liaison Office of the People’s Republic in China in Washington. You have been in Washington for nearly four and a half years. Your ability to weather five Washington summers and the rigors of last winter—which was more typical of Minnesota than of Washington—testifies to your stamina and endurance. You have represented your government well. Your presence will be missed.

—Your arrival here marked an important step in our mutual efforts to forge new bonds of friendship, respect, and cooperation between our two peoples. President Carter has repeatedly emphasized the importance he attaches to our relations with the People’s Republic of China.

—We have set as the goal of our policy the full normalization of our relations in accordance with the principles of the Shanghai Communique. We intend to continue our efforts to accomplish this objective.

[Page 261]

—We are aware that constructive relations between China and the United States have strategic significance and promote the cause of peace. I hope that on your return to China, Ambassador Huang, you will report to your government that President Carter recognizes the historic and strategic importance of friendly relations with the People’s Republic of China.

—During your stay here, Ambassador Huang, much has been accomplished. Our two nations have resumed contact after a costly period of confrontation. The American people have learned of the efforts of your government to modernize your country and speed the economic development. We believe continued expansion of our economic and cultural relations will be to our mutual benefit. We thank you for your personal contribution to the enhanced understanding between our two peoples. Though much has been accomplished, much remains to be done.

—We look forward to working with your successor to continue the process started with the Shanghai Communique.

—May I ask all of you to join me in wishing Ambassador Huang success in his next assignment. We know that the many friends you have made here will warmly welcome you back whenever you may have an occasion to return.

May I propose a toast to the health of Ambassador Huang Chen;

To the health of Premier Hua Kuo-feng and of our other Chinese friends here today;

To friendship and cooperation between the Chinese and American peoples; and

To the health of all present.

Ambassador Huang Chen (extemporaneously):

Upon the recall of my government on transfer, I’m going to conclude a four and a half year assignment. Today, the Vice President has hosted a lunch, inviting me and my colleagues. On behalf of my colleagues, I wish to express thanks for the warm hospitality and friendly remarks of the Vice President.

As a diplomat, though I leave, I will miss our friends. On the other hand, the globe is small and we can meet again someday, somewhere.

As President Carter said to me when we met, the Chinese and American people are great peoples.3 Our two countries are great countries. Our peoples have always been friendly to each other. For reasons known to all, our mutual relations were suspended for a period of time—for twenty years.

[Page 262]

But since former President Nixon visited China in 1972 and issued the Shanghai Communique, relations were opened between our two countries and contacts have been resumed. I believe friendship between our two countries will remain from generation to generation. Good relations between our two states conforms to the interests of our two peoples and the interests of the whole world.

The population of our two peoples, when added together, totals over a billion. It is unthinkable for our two countries to be hostile and in confrontation with each other.

I am glad to notice that President Carter has repeatedly said the new administration will continue to develop relations on the basis of the principles of the Shanghai Communique. As I have said, this is my hope. So I am glad to have this opportunity, in a toast, to say that I hope that relations between our two countries will continue to improve on the basis of the Shanghai Communique.

Huang’s toast was interrupted at this point by the surprise entry of President Carter.

The President said, “Sorry to see you leave. You have done a fine job here.” Huang thanked the President for his hospitality. The President asked the Ambassador “to convey my greetings to Premier Hua, Vice Premier Teng and other leaders.” The President then noted that it is unprecedented to have a going away luncheon for a diplomat but he was glad that we had the chance to do it. The President then exited.

Huang then attempted to resume the toast, but at first seemed at a genuine loss for words. He then said:

I just mentioned that I had been pleased to note President Carter’s commitment to the Shanghai Communique. So I propose a toast to the health of the President, to the health of Vice President Mondale, to the health of the assembled American hosts, to the friendship of the Chinese and American people.

Ambassador Huang then walked around the table, clinking glasses with each of the Americans.

The Vice President next attempted to generate a single conversation, gently gaining attention and then asking Huang what departing advice he had to offer us after his stay in Washington. The Ambassador said he offered his advice to President Carter in February and he had nothing new to add. Everyone laughed.

The Ambassador said perhaps the Vice President wished to offer advice. Mondale turned to Brzezinski, who said the President had covered all that ought to be said. Laughter again. Mondale then asked Holbrooke if he wished to say something. Holbrooke said no. Mondale asked Huang whether his advisors were of the same quality as the Vice President’s. In a lull in the conversation, Commerce’s representative [Page 263] said he has had a long interest in China and has just been reading Mencius. Huang looked surprised and smiled at the Commerce representative.

The luncheon broke up about eight minutes later—the adjournment not related to Mencius.

  1. Source: Carter Library, National Security Affairs, Brzezinski Material, Subject File, Box 34, Memcons: Mondale: 5/77–6/79. Confidential. The meeting took place in the Roosevelt Room of the White House. A briefing paper from Brzezinski to Mondale is in Carter Library, National Security Affairs, Brzezinski Material, Country File, Box 8, China (People’s Republic of): 10/77–1/78.
  2. During a farewell lunch for Tsien Ta-yung on October 21, Oksenberg had suggested that the PRC formally invite Brzezinski to visit Beijing. (Memorandum of conversation, October 21; Carter Library, National Security Affairs, Brzezinski Material, Country File, Box 8, China (People’s Republic of): 10/77–1/78.)
  3. See Document 5.