75. Memorandum From the President’s Special Adviser for Science and Technology (Press) to President Carter1


  • An Approach to the People’s Republic of China Through Science and Technology

I should like to make the case that your Administration should develop a range of scientific and technical initiatives with the PRC similar to the extensive relationship the USSR enjoys with us under the S and T Cooperation Agreement which I direct. I believe it is timely to start the process now for the following reasons:

• Premier Hua Kuo Feng and Vice Premier Teng Hsiao-ping have emphasized building a strong S and T base, involving acquisition of foreign technology.

CIA reports that a new wave of Chinese purchases of foreign technology is likely to begin soon that could top the billion dollar mark within the first twelve months. The PRC is seeking computers, telecommunication equipment, electronic instruments, oil and mineral exploration and exploitation equipment, and agricultural technology. Teng [Page 285] announced that China intends to build a proton accelerator ranking in size to the world’s largest. Chinese scientists are being sent for training to Western European laboratories and Peking indicates that foreign training programs will be arranged in connection with purchases.

• Peking has enthusiastically accepted the United States Government’s invitation to the energy group, currently here (which I understand you suggested).

• Western European Nations and Japan are actively seeking trade, training and exchange links with China that may preempt deferred U.S. moves.

Advantages for the U.S.:

• Increasing U.S. share of the China market.

• Establishing long-term ties between influential segments in both societies; U.S. trained Chinese scientists and engineers are mostly in the age bracket over 65. We have no contacts with the younger generation.

• The political value of contributing to an economically strong China, as a counter to the USSR, by strengthening China’s agricultural and industrial capabilities and its ability to export natural resources and to become self sufficient or even an exporter of food.


PRC would reject approaches because of lack of diplomatic ties.

• Offering too much in the absence of ties reduces PRC incentive to soften on key issues impeding ties.


• That you have Zbig and me, with the help of the agencies, develop a range of scientific and technological initiatives with the PRC for your approval. Areas might include energy resources, space applications, high energy physics (accelerators), earthquake prediction, natural resources exploration and exploitation, and agriculture. Initiatives would involve trade, training, and long-term S and T exchanges. The effort would be cognizant of the reviews underway in PRMs 24 and 31 on transfer of military-related technology to the PRC.2

  1. Source: Carter Library, National Security Affairs, Staff Material, Science and Technology, Box 1, Huberman Subject File: People’s Republic of China: 5/77–9/80. A handwritten “C” at the top of the page indicates Carter saw the memorandum.
  2. Carter checked the “President Approves” option and initialed “JC.” For the PRM 24, Part III study, see Document 67. Regarding PRM 31, see footnote 19, Document 59.