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


  • Recent Favorable Chinese Signals to the U.S.

You should inform the President that in its subtle way, Peking has begun to signal to us that they are interested in broadening their relationship with the U.S.:

—They have granted exit visas to permit the reunification of two divided families, after a protracted period of American efforts on behalf of these two families which previously had elicited no Chinese response.

—The Chinese have offered us a second compound in Peking to house our Liaison Office activities, again after a protracted and unsuccessful effort to find more space for the Liaison Office.

—Chinese military attaches abroad clearly are now working under new instructions which permit them to have social contact with their American counterparts. In four countries—Burma, England, Japan, and Hungary—our military attaches have cabled about their meetings with the Chinese Attache.

—Going back to early February, the Chinese featured Edgar Snow on the front page of Peoples Daily as an American who had contributed to Sino-American friendship. Similar publicity to Edgar Snow in late 1970, we now know, was a signal to the Nixon Administration of the Chinese interest in an expanded relationship.2

I do not mean to suggest that the Chinese have altered their position on Taiwan. Rather, I simply draw your attention to indications that the Chinese may prove to be receptive to overtures from us to restore some momentum to the relationship.

  1. Source: Carter Library, National Security Affairs, Brzezinski Material, Country File, Box 8, China (People’s Republic of): 2–5/78. Confidential. Sent for action.
  2. Edgar Snow (1905–1972) was an American journalist who met with and wrote about Mao Zedong during the 1930s. In 1970, Mao appeared with Snow during the October 1 National Day parade and met him again on December 18. The People’s Daily published a photo of Snow and Mao on the front page of the December 25, 1970, issue. (The page is reproduced as Document 4 of the National Security Archive Electronic Briefing Book No. 145.) These were all apparent signals of China’s desire to improve relations with the United States. See Foreign Relations, 1969–1976, vol. XVII, China, 1969–1972, Document 103, and Henry Kissinger, White House Years, pp. 698–699, 702–703.