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Zbigniew Brzezinski meeting with Deng Xiaoping, May 21, 1978

U.S. National Security Advisor Zbignew Brzezinski visited Beijing in May 1978. This is a transcript of his meeting with Deng Xiaoping (Teng Hsiao-p'ing). This transcript was top secret until declassified.

May 21, 1978
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SUBJECT

  • Meeting with Vice Premier Teng Hsiao P’ing

Teng: You must be tired.

Brzezinski: I am exhilarated.

Teng: I think your stay in Japan overnight helped a great deal. Otherwise it is difficult to get over jet lag and a time difference of about 12 hours.

Brzezinski: That is right. I travel a lot. Jet lag only affects me when I am in one place for a long time. When I am moving, it does not affect me at all.

Teng: While you Americans travel a lot, we have done very little traveling.

Brzezinski: American history is a history of mobility. In fact I have seen a statistic indicating that one-fourth to one-fifth of all Americans, between 40 and 50 million Americans, change their addresses every year. We are a very nomadic society.

Teng: Were you ever in China before?

Brzezinski: I have never been in China itself, and I would not tell you this if you had not asked. I have encircled China before. I have been to Korea, Hong Kong, Vietnam, Laos, south of Alma Ata on the Soviet side, and in Khaborovsk (gesturing with hands to make a circle). I have been in orbit around China (jabbing his finger in the middle of the imaginary circle). Finally I am inside China. I feel a little bit like the American astronauts before landing on the moon. They went around it many times and in the end they landed.

Teng: I welcome your visit to China. Mr. Woodcock stays in Peking for a long time and also Mr. Oksenberg has been to China many times, and we met on several occasions before and he speaks very good Chinese.

Brzezinski: He is my teacher. But before coming to China I also prepared myself by reading transcripts of your conversations with leading Americans, statesmen and leading American Senators.

Teng: I have met quite a large number of American friends. It is not difficult to understand China. As you can see from the transcript of my conversations, the Chinese side speaks straightforwardly about their views and ideas. Chairman Mao Tse-tung was a soldier. Chou En Lai was also a soldier, and I too.

Brzezinski: Soldiers speak very directly, but Americans have a reputation for speaking directly too. I hope you do not find Americans difficult to understand or America difficult to understand.

Teng: It is good to be straightforward in our discussions. We can have a free exchange of views in our conversation.

Brzezinski: When President Carter asked me to come to speak to you about the international situation, he asked me to stress to you that we see our relationship as of central importance to our global policy, as being based on a long term common strategic interest, as not reflecting any tactical expedient, and as a relationship which we hope will expand and grow to a fully normal condition. I notice that in some of the transcripts of your conversations with leading Americans, Senators, Mr. Kissinger, you several times said that it was important for the U.S. to make up its mind. President Carter asked me to tell you that the U.S. has made up its mind and that therefore we are prepared to talk seriously not only about the international situation, not only about ways in which parallel actions by us might help to promote the same objectives or to repel the same danger, but also to begin talking more actively about our more immediate relationship.

Teng: I am happy to hear the message from President Carter because on this issue the views of the two sides are stated in explicit terms. The question remains now to make up one’s mind. If President Carter has made up his mind on this issue I think it will be easier to solve this problem. We have always stated that there are three conditions to solve this problem. All the three conditions have to do with the question of Taiwan; namely, the severance of diplomatic relations, withdrawal of American forces, and abrogation of the treaty. And China cannot possibly give other concessions because this is a matter of sovereignty. If the U.S. government thinks that it is time and has made up its mind then our two sides can sign the document on normalization at any time.

We also stated in the past that if the U.S. was still in need of Taiwan, China could wait. Does that mean that we are not impatient? How can we not be concerned with such a question that concerns the reunification of our country, and how can it be possibly a case that we will not be impatient on such a matter? What do you think should be done in order to realize the normalization?

Brzezinski: Let me say that I was sent here for two purposes. The first is to pursue the consultative relationship as provided under the Shanghai Communique. That is to say to engage in as comprehensive an exchange of views between our two governments as is possible within a limited period of time. Yesterday I took several hours to share with your Foreign Minister a frank analysis of our foreign policy, a frank expression of our concerns, and an honest appraisal of the existing military situation between the U.S. and the Soviet Union. In so doing, I tried to provide a perspective on our relationship as seen by us, stressing the long term strategic commonality of that relationship. I hope you received a full report on that very fruitful and useful exchange to us, and I hope that you will share with me some of your thoughts on the issues that were discussed. I know that President Carter would like to have the Chinese assessment at the highest level of the issues that concern us and that affect us both. I realize that is not a direct response to your question, and I would like to turn more directly to the issue that you asked.

Teng: Fine.

Brzezinski: The second purpose of my visit was not to engage in negotiations about normalization but to reaffirm our commitment to normalization and to enhance the process of normalization. We want the process of normalization to go forward, not to take any steps back but to take more steps forward and to move forward more rapidly.

Accordingly, I was instructed to confirm to you the U.S. acceptance of the three basic Chinese points and to reaffirm once again the five points that were made to you by the previous U.S. Administration. I would like to repeat again the phrase that I have used several times since coming to Peking, namely that the United States has made up its mind on this issue.

I can also say that Ambassador Woodcock is instructed to proceed more actively with the negotiations of the normalization process and he will be prepared to participate in such negotiations as of this June.

I can also say, speaking privately and in confidence of this small group, that the President personally is prepared to resolve this question as rapidly as it proves practical. We have no intention of artificially delaying it. The President has recently completed a very difficult political struggle over the ratification of the Panama Canal Treaties. When he first started that struggle, out of 100 Senators there were only 26 in support of his position; and in the country at large, according to public opinion polls, only 8% of the people were in favor of the position that the President was advocating. The President persisted and he prevailed. The same thing has happened recently in regards to the very controversial and emotional issue involving the sale of planes to three Middle Eastern countries. A great many Americans initially were against that proposal and in the Senate there was very strong predominant opposition to it. The President persisted and he prevailed.

The President, therefore, is prepared to undertake the political responsibility at home of resolving the outstanding issues between us. He recognizes that this is our responsibility and not a problem of yours. In our relationships we will remain guided by the Shanghai Communique, by the principle that there is only one China and that the resolution of the issue of Taiwan is your problem.

However, at the same time we have certain domestic problems and certain historical legacies which we will have to overcome. These are complex, difficult, and in some respects very emotional issues. That is why we will have to find some formula which allows us to express our hope and our expectation regarding the peaceful resolution of the Taiwan issue, though we recognize that this is your own domestic affair and that we do so in the spirit of the Shanghai Communique.

In general, we think it is important that the United States be known as trustworthy and that the American presence in the Far East, though we are now continuing and accelerating our military withdrawal from Taiwan, continue in such a manner as not to create destabilizing conditions likely to be exploited by our mutual adversary. This consideration must be borne in mind when resolving the issue of normalization and when defining the full range of relations during the historically transitional period of our relationship with the people on Taiwan.

These are the issues to which we will be addressing ourselves with energy and flexibility at home, and these are the issues which we are asking Ambassador Woodcock to pursue more actively so that our relationship can be fully normalized. We feel that this process will enhance what exists already, namely the fact that on the fundamental issues concerning the future of international politics we have an overriding common interest. And in many areas we are already cooperating, even if only tacitly. When I spoke with the Foreign Minister today, I suggested that our relationship had three aspects to it: one is global consultation and occasional cooperation; second, widening of our cooperative relationships where it is mutually convenient; and thirdly, it is normalization. All three are important and we want to make progress on all three.

Teng: In the relations between our two countries the question of normalization is of fundamental importance. There are also other aspects in our relations as Dr. Brzezinski stated just now, that is, namely, international issues, and in this respect there are wide areas for cooperation. In the conversations between Chairman Mao and Premier Chou En Lai on the one hand and two former U.S. Presidents and Dr. Henry Kissinger on the other, as well as my conversations with them, we said that both sides were faced with the same problems. Therefore there is much (hen to) common ground. But the common problem, Chairman Mao stated on more than one occasion, was the problem of coping with the polar bear, and that’s that. There are many areas for cooperation between our two sides. I know we can explore on many issues, too, and I think our views converge on a number of issues. So we always express our welcome to our friends in the American Administration in their visits. We have stated that if they come to talk about normalization it is all right. If it is not their purpose to talk about normalization it is also all right. Even if they don’t come to discuss anything with us we will welcome them. But on the other hand there is a difference in nature whether the two countries have normalized their relations or not. For instance, we cannot go to Washington because the embassy of the Kuomintang clique is there, and our relations are bound to be affected by the absence of normalization in the economic field as well as other fields. We will be affected. You will also be affected. For instance, in our efforts to cope with the polar bear if there is normalization of relations between our two countries there would be a difference in the strength. I know that some Americans tend to think that normalization of relations between our two countries will irritate the Soviet Union and make agreements between your two countries even more difficult, but I think that one can imagine perhaps it is even easier for you to reach agreement with the normalization. On the question of normalization our views are clear-cut. There are three conditions and we can only follow the Japanese formula. Here I would like to explain why the Japanese formula is the only way out because we consider the Japanese formula the maximum that we can go. By the so-called Japanese formula we mean that after the normalization Japan can maintain the non-governmental and commercial contacts with Taiwan. We have been discussing this question for almost more than five years, since 1972, the issuance of the Shanghai Communique. Now we have stated in explicit terms our position on many occasions. In 1975 President Ford visited China together with Dr. Henry Kissinger, and I had talks with them. Finally, President Ford stated that if he was reelected he would move to full normalization according to the three conditions without any reservation. We were very happy at that time with the oral commitment of President Ford. Because before President Ford’s visit to China in all our discussions there were several questions that remained unsolved. One of them was that the U.S. intended to maintain a governmental diplomatic mission in Taiwan. We have stated that there is only one China. We will not accept two Chinas, or one-and-a-half Chinas in any form. Another question is to ask China to undertake the commitment to solve the issue of Taiwan by peaceful means. And we refused because the liberation of Taiwan is an internal affair of China in which no country has the right to interfere. As to when and how we resolve this question, it is China’s own business. President Ford made this commitment after the clarification of all these questions I mentioned. Consequently President Ford was not reelected and of course the new Administration has a right to reconsider this question. And then President Carter took office and in initial period I think you were busy with your domestic affairs, so for a period of about eight months there was no contact between us. Last year Secretary Cyrus Vance came to China and raised the same old questions. I believe you know the details of these conversations. At that time I told Secretary Vance that the proposal he made to the Chinese side was a step backward from the position of President Ford. But in this respect we welcome your idea that the two sides can start negotiations on the question of normalization as of June, but China’s position is consistent. I told Secretary Vance that the Chinese side will not accept the proposal that the Chinese people should undertake the commitment to liberate Taiwan only by peaceful means because it is a matter concerning China’s sovereignty and an internal matter for China. I even went so far as to tell Secretary Vance that while China is happy with the reunification of Taiwan with the mainland, we would respect the concrete conditions in Taiwan. You have said on the question of the resolution of the issue of Taiwan the U.S. side has to take into account the reaction of your people at home and people in Taiwan. We understand your viewpoint. In solving the question of normalization of relations between our two countries under the three conditions, the U.S. side can express your hopes. It is quite all right. You can state your views but you should not make it a precondition and the Chinese side will state our views saying that the solution of Taiwan and how and when we will solve the problem of Taiwan is the business of the Chinese people themselves. Dr. Brzezinski has said just now that President Carter made up his mind on the Panama Canal Treaty and the question was solved. And he also made up his mind on the question of the sale of planes to the three Middle Eastern countries and this question was also solved. Similarly if the President can make up his mind on the question of normalization, I think the question can be solved and it is not difficult to solve this question because I think the majority of the American people and I think the majority of the statesmen of the world endorse such an action. But we know that in your present visit you do not have to solve this question. But we would like to take this opportunity to reaffirm the position of the Chinese side and at the same time you have also stated your views. I think it is highly necessary and useful. I hope you will report to President Carter about our conversation this afternoon on this question so as to enable him to have a better understanding of China’s position on this issue and to enable him to consider this question when the negotiations start in June.

Brzezinski: Let me first of all say that I will report very fully to President Carter, and I hope that perhaps tonight at supper when we talk more informally I can tell you more about President Carter personally because I think that it is important that our leaders not only know each other’s views but have a better sense of each other as people, as personalities, as leaders. President Carter is a very unusual person, one who is decisive, who likes challenges, whose entire political career has involved taking on causes where he started behind and where he ended on top.

You said earlier that the Soviets don’t want normalization between China and America, and I am also certain that they do not wish any deepening in our relationships. Precisely because we have certain common fundamental interests and because we face the same challenge from the polar bear I think it would be useful to maximize contacts at a high level even if you cannot visit Washington. America is a big country. There are other places besides Washington, and I remember during the war when we did not have diplomatic relations with the Chinese Communist leadership we nonetheless had very high level direct contacts. Such contacts even before full normalization would make more effective our common opposition to the hegemonistic designs that we both oppose.

With respect to discussions about normalization, which we trust will begin in June, I would like to suggest that these discussions be confidential and that no advance publicity be issued. I think continuing such discussions in the context of confidentiality would make their success more likely and would minimize some of the political complications which, at one point or another, will be inevitable certainly in our own country. Although my visit here is not to negotiate normalization, I would like to think of it as contributing to a step forward and not to a step backward. We only want to go forward, and I hope you will interpret this visit in such a fashion.

We start with the premise which we have already accepted before—that there is only one China, not one-and-a-half Chinas or two Chinas or China and Taiwan. For us there is only one China. We also believe that the three key points provide the framework for defining our basic relationship. There are certain basic difficulties that we ourselves have to overcome, but though these difficulties are for us to overcome precisely because there is a relationship between us you have to be aware of these difficulties and be sensitive to them.

The fundamental difficulty is how will the American people understand the nature of the historically transitional period in our relations with the people of Taiwan following normalization. During that historically transitional period domestic difficulties in the U.S. would be far minimized if our hope and expectation that the internal and purely domestic resolution of Chinese problems would be such that it would be peaceful and that our own hopes in this respect would not be specifically contradicted. This is not a condition. This is not a pre-arrangement, but it is a question of an internal problem in the U.S. which would be easier to resolve in that context. Moreover, during the historically transitional period the maintenance of full range of commercial relations with Taiwan would provide the necessary flexibility during the phase of accommodation to a new reality in the course of which eventually one China will become a reality.

Teng: You have mentioned just now the confidential character of the negotiations which may start in June. Please rest assured that in China there are better conditions to keep secrecy than in the U.S.

Brzezinski: I am afraid you are absolutely right. That is why it is better to conduct them here than in Washington.

Teng: Moreover, on the question of normalization I have stated that you can express your hopes and expectations and we will state our views. That is as to when and how we shall solve this problem that is purely the business of the Chinese people themselves. So each can express his own views.

Brzezinski: Hopefully that would not be in direct contradiction.

Teng: No, I think each side is free to state its views without any constraint. I have heard from Foreign Minister Huang about your conversations yesterday. He expressed fear that if normalization is realized under three conditions the Soviet Union might seize the chance to infiltrate into Taiwan and Taiwan might develop its own nuclear weapons, but in the past people expressed fear that there might be a vacuum in Taiwan. On the other hand I think when we tackle the problem of Taiwan we are taking into account the realities in Taiwan. Besides the U.S. will maintain commercial and non-governmental relations with Taiwan. Japan also has strong non-governmental and trade ties with Taiwan. So it won’t be easy for the Soviet Union to move into Taiwan. We don’t have such fears, but even if such a thing should happen we have ways to deal with it. We have taken such things into account.

Brzezinski: Let me say this. Once such an exchange, not an exchange but set of parallel statements has taken place, for you it is the end of the problem, so to speak. For us it is the beginning of the political problem at home. I think you know very well how complicated public emotions on this issue might be in the U.S. and this is why the issue is a genuinely complicated one and the need for us is a genuine political need. I mention this because I think that a constructive resolution of this problem for us would involve not only going through the phase of normalization with you but through a difficult political process at home which will follow normalization. This is why the nature of the two independent separate statements has a bearing on our political process and on the difficulties we will have to overcome.

Teng: I think that is all about this question. We are looking forward to the day when President Carter makes up his mind. Let’s shift the subject.

Brzezinski: I have told you before, President Carter has made up his mind.

Teng: So much the better.

Brzezinski: One can make up one’s mind but then the process of executing that about which one has made up his mind can be difficult, and we hope we can overcome it.

Teng: Fine. Anyway, in June Mr. Woodcock will take part in the negotiations.

Brzezinski: That’s right.

Teng: You have also discussed other aspects of our bilateral relations with our Foreign Minister. Your Excellency has mentioned that pending the normalization we can develop our relations. We are in favor of this idea and we share your desire. As I have said there is a difference as to whether relations are normalized or not. In commercial, scientific and technological expansions and economic expansions we will give priority to the countries that have diplomatic relations with us under the same terms. And the U.S. government is also restricted by the absence of the normalization. And there are no good conditions for giving preferential treatment to each other. We discussed this question in the past, too. I took up this question with Dr. Henry Kissinger. I cited the example to Dr. Henry Kissinger of the intended purchase by China of a computer of 10 million operations per second. At that time the U.S. corporation concerned and American businessmen were very enthusiastic about the transaction but the U.S. government refused to give them permission. Dr. Kissinger proposed to discuss this question between the two governments. We did not agree because this is a commercial relationship which should not be diverted into the political track. And now there is no such question because China will soon be able to produce such a computer. And then we tried to purchase a computer from Japan (one million operations per second) which involved certain American technology, and also the U.S. government did not give the permission to the transaction. When we introduced certain technology from Europe, such question also pops up. Recently the American corporation has agreed to sell us the infrared scanning equipment, but U.S. government has refused its permission. You have told us that you will reconsider this question. That is fine. All of this shows that pending the normalization such relations are bound to be limited and you yourselves are also restricted. Perhaps I think you have the fear of offending the Soviet Union. Is that right?

Brzezinski: I can assure you that my inclination to be fearful of offending the Soviet Union is rather limited. The problem that you mention, however, has its roots in our relationship with the Soviet Union. You are right when you speak of these restrictions. They have very little to do with diplomatic relations or no diplomatic relations, normalization or no normalization. The origin of these restrictions is our policy toward the Soviet Union and other communist countries that at one time were closely associated with the Soviet Union. The policy is therefore a legacy of the past, and the rules are not sufficiently flexible and elastic to recognize the new existing political realities. We are now in the process of reviewing some of these irrational restrictions insofar as our trade with you is concerned, and I have taken personal interest in the Daedalus case, most recent case, and most recent negative decision is now being actively reviewed. As far as being afraid to offend the Soviet Union, I would be willing to make a little bet with you as to who is less popular in the Soviet Union—you or me.

Teng: It is hard to say. But one thing is certain. The main target of the Soviet Union is the U.S.

Brzezinski: That’s right.

Teng: The Soviet Union also wants to improve relations with China. We have refused. We have told them that so long as the Soviet Union does not change its policy of social imperialism it is impossible to improve relations. Our debate with the Soviet Union would last for 10,000 years, according to Chairman Mao, and then one man came to China to speak on behalf of the Soviet Union and Chairman Mao made concession by subtracting 1,000 years from the 10,000 years and there were 9,000. On a later occasion he made another concession by taking out another 1,000 years from the 9,000 so we will go on debating with the Soviet Union 8,000 years. In short, our debate with the Soviet Union will not be resolved. We have also raised the demand that the Soviet Union should withdraw its troops from border areas, the People’s Republic of Mongolia, and restore situation at the border to status of the early 1960s, the time of Khrushchev. The Soviet Union has thought out all sorts of ideas. It is keeping its mental pressure on China while at the same time it tries to create the superficial impression of certain degree of reconciliation between China and the Soviet Union. In March this year President of the Supreme Soviet sent a message to Standing Committee of the Chinese National Congress proposing to issue a friendly statement between the two countries on principles guiding state relations. We made a prompt and public reply to this message. I think you have read it. Not long ago in my conversation with a U.S. delegation from UPI one man raised the question do you think it is possible to improve relations between China and the Soviet Union. I asked him a question in return. Do you think it possible for the Soviet Union to change its policy of social imperialism? The Soviet Union knows very well China’s position but then why has it made such actions? I think it is using China as a pawn in order to gain more things from the U.S. and of course its intention is also to hoodwink the people of the world and cover up its features of expansionism in the world.

Brzezinski: I think that it is clear that from the Soviet point of view absence of cooperation between the U.S. and China is desirable. The Soviet Union would like to see a poor relationship between the U.S. and China. I think it is also fair to say that in my country there is some division of opinion regarding Soviet motives and prospects for American-Soviet relations. My own view is that the American-Soviet relationship will remain for a very long time to come fundamentally a competitive and in some respects a hostile relationship, but there are also some cooperative aspects to it which stem from mutual interest and particularly from the need to restrict or to confine the dangers of a nuclear war. Accordingly, American policy toward the Soviet Union must be one which combines sustained political competition with occasional willingness to cooperate and to accommodate. Unfortunately, that occasional accommodation and cooperation is misunderstood by some people as a termination of the rivalry and this from time to time produces in America misguided and excessive hopes regarding peaceful relations with the Soviet Union. I believe, moreover, however, that recent Soviet actions, particularly in Africa, significantly strengthen the political influence of those who have been arguing that Soviet designs are fundamentally aggressive and that they must be resolutely resisted. This brings me to the question of more tangible cooperation between China and the U.S.

I personally see no contradiction, and I think I speak for President Carter in this regard, between signing a SALT agreement with the Soviet Union when it is in our mutual interest and at the same time competing effectively when challenged politically or even reacting more directly when that challenge is more aggressive and assertive. We have seen examples of that in Africa. We may see examples of that in the Middle East. In that context, I think it is important that we not only consult but that we also consider in what ways our respectively independent reactions might be complementary.

I honestly do not think it is useful for you to criticize us frequently as appeasing the Soviets even though your subjective motivations are good, the objective consequences of that strengthen the Soviets. It is also not good for us to say that your anti-Sovietism is essentially rhetorical. The fact is that in many parts of the world in different ways we can do things and you can do things the effect of which is to reduce Soviet influence or to repel Soviet aggression. We have certain influence in certain parts of the world. We also have certain resources which we are prepared to use, alone or together with our friends. For example, recently in Zaire. You have influence with some people, for example Mugabe, and in the non-aligned movement to expose the role of Cuba as a Soviet agent. I think consultations such as these that I have had over the last two days can over time be helpful in developing responses which produce greater stability in the world, even if they do not involve an attempt to defuse old issues. Our ideologies will continue to be different; our perspectives will be different on many issues. On the fundamental question, namely how to respond effectively to the hegemonistic challenge, I think over time our consultations can yield constructive and positive results.

Teng: We have done whatever is within our capability in this respect. In our view the U.S. is not strong enough in its actions. I believe our Foreign Minister has told you our views on the weaknesses of the Soviet Union.

Brzezinski: I told him of my views of the weakness of the Soviet Union. My list was longer.

Teng: We discussed it many times before. But the U.S. is helping the Soviet Union to overcome its weaknesses. I share your view that the fundamental nature of your relations with the Soviet Union is competition. This is a fact no matter what agreement you may reach with the Soviet Union, the competition will persist. You think that your help to the Soviet Union in technology and economy will help to restrain the Soviet Union. It is impossible. And you think that in this way you will be able to prevent the Soviet Union from meddling in affairs in Africa and the Middle East. It is also impossible to do so because the Soviet strategy is fixed and will not change. They will try to squeeze in wherever there is an opening. Your spokesmen have constantly justified and apologized for Soviet actions. Sometimes they say there are no signs to prove that there is the meddling of the Soviet Union and Cuba in the case of Zaire or Angola. It is of no use for you to say so. To be candid with you, whenever you are about to conclude an agreement with the Soviet Union it is the product of concession on the U.S. side to please the Soviet side.

Brzezinski: I must say that I don’t quite agree with that. We have some ongoing negotiations with the Soviet Union—SALT, which is yet to reach an agreement but I hope we do reach an agreement, and if we reach an agreement it will be because we are satisfied that our needs and interests have been satisfied. The same is true of some other areas. I notice you are having negotiations with the Soviet Union about frontiers. You have recently had a trade agreement with the Soviet Union. You have had agreements in the past. I am sure you did not reach these agreements in order to appease or to make concessions, but because you felt that they safeguarded your interests and created a basis for stable relations in that area. This is normal.

We are not naive in dealing with the Soviet Union. For the last thirty years it has been the U.S. which has opposed Soviet hegemony designs and that is roughly twice as long as you have been doing it, so we have a little bit of experience in this. I don’t claim everything we have done has been done well. We have made many mistakes. There are many people in many countries who don’t believe the Soviet Union is an aggressor. They want comprehensive accommodation with the Soviet Union, so we have continuous debate in the U.S. about Soviet intentions and about how best to handle the American-Soviet relationship. But periodically the Soviets come and help us. Like after World War II many Americans thought the Soviet Union was a peace loving country to which we ought to give massive aid. The Soviet Union helped us by imposing a blockade on Berlin, and the American public became more realistic. In the late 1950s the Americans began to feel the Soviet Union under Khrushchev was more accommodating. He helped us again by creating the Cuban missile crisis, challenging us to compete to the moon, announcing he will defeat us in the economic competition. We got to the moon before the Soviets. They haven’t gotten there yet and we have defeated them in the economic competition. More recently many people have said that the Soviet Union under Brezhnev is peace loving and seeking accommodation in many areas. Again the Soviet Union has come to help—acting aggressively in Ethiopia and Zaire, pushing 50,000 Cubans acting as Soviet agents in Africa, building up its forces in central Europe, engaging in border provocations with China, and by refusing to deal honestly and fairly with Japan.

So by and large I think American attitudes toward the Soviet Union will be more realistic. And if you look at Congressional attitudes today, there is a growing inclination in Congress to support larger defense budget, to be more skeptical about SALT, to insist on greater compliance on the part of the Soviet Union with agreements that have been reached with us.

President Carter when speaking of détente always uses two words over and over again. It has to be reciprocal and comprehensive. Behind these two words is deliberate political meaning. Reciprocal means the Soviets cannot act differently to us than we can to them. Comprehensive means détente cannot be limited only to areas beneficial to the Soviet Union, for example trade—but be abused in other areas. This is our policy. I am quite convinced that in the Carter Administration the kind of sentiments that were expressed by President Carter recently in a major speech at Wake Forest are becoming increasingly the dominant outlook guiding our relations with the Soviet Union.8 This does not mean we want permanent hostility with the Soviet Union. We will sign agreements on the basis of realism and self-interest, without delusion about the character of Soviet motives or policies.

Teng: It is good that you have no delusions about Soviet designs. It is all right for you to sign agreements with the Soviet Union but I don’t believe that such agreements will play a great role. But any rhetoric will play no role in deterring the Soviet Union. I think you are going to sign a fourth agreement in SALT with the Soviet Union.

Brzezinski: Second.

Teng: In 1963, you signed the test ban treaty. Another agreement in 1972. In 1974 the Vladivostok agreement, so this is the fourth agreement.

Brzezinski: Vladivostok was not really an agreement.

Teng: There was a great gap between you and Soviet Union in 1963. The gap was narrowed greatly in 1972. And in 1974 the U.S. itself admitted that it had reached parity. Dr. Kissinger came to Peking to brief us. He was very honest in stating that neither side was able to restrain the other. And I told him that your two countries may well continue your race and even if you are going to sign an agreement for the fourth time you will continue your race nevertheless. And it remains true that the Soviets will try to squeeze in wherever there is an opening. It is now trying to squeeze into Zaire and this time we have made a strong promise. Many French and Belgians have made prompt and strong response. Soviet Union will also try to squeeze into Eritrea. One cannot say that the U.S. has achieved superiority in the Middle East. And the fundamental thing in the Middle East situation is for you to tackle the problem of Israel in a proper way. If you side with Israel you antagonize yourselves with over 100 million Arab people, then it is impossible to solve the Middle East issue forever. And in this way the Soviet Union will play an important role. It will try to win over a number of countries to its side. If an alliance is formed between Israel, Saudi Arabia and Egypt as you hope to form, then the majority of Arab countries will have been abandoned. In this case the Soviet Union has a role to play. Now there is not much time left but I would like to discuss another question. The question of Pakistan. You know that now you have pretty good relations with the government of General Zia-ul-Haq. It is necessary for you to deepen your relations with Pakistan, especially after the coup in Afghanistan because Pakistan has an important position there. We had complaints against you in this respect in the past. The previous U.S. Administrations neglected Pakistan but paid greater attention to India. It was called to our attention that after the coup in Afghanistan the Soviet Ambassador in Pakistan made an open statement of policy of pressure on Pakistan and his statement was rejected. There is another important question in Pakistan and that is the question of Bhutto. We have expressed our attitude frequently on the question of the death sentence on Bhutto. And now there is talk in the world that the U.S. perhaps supports General Zia-ul-Haq in giving death sentence to Bhutto. I don’t know whether it is true.

Brzezinski: It is not true.

Teng: Fine. I think there is also something political in this. Did you also express your concern to General Zia?9

Brzezinski: Yes, quietly. We feel that public pressure would not be helpful.

Teng: You are right. We are doing the same thing in the same way. If this question is not handled in an appropriate way then there will be perpetual disturbances and turbulence in Pakistan.

Brzezinski: We have also been in touch with the Iranians and Saudi Arabia on this, both of whom give money to Pakistan and they have an interest in the fate of Bhutto. Would you be prepared to give asylum to Bhutto?

Teng: If he wants to come, then we will be prepared to receive him.

Brzezinski: He could use the same villa as Sihanouk did!

Teng: I think he has a better place.

Brzezinski: I agree with you about Pakistan. I think it is a serious problem and I would also be glad to have your assessment of the likely developments in Afghanistan. Is it your judgement that the pro-Soviet clique that has seized power is going to remain effectively in power or do you think there is a possibility of some resistance to change? After all, you are a neighbor of Afghanistan and have far greater sensitivity for the internal situation in Afghanistan than we do. We are very far away.

Teng: Our relations with Afghanistan are just so so. And I am sure the Soviet Union had a hand in the coup. But much remains to be seen, and we must do some work too.

Brzezinski: But do you think there is a possibility of the situation changing again?

Teng: It is hard to judge. Militarily, certainly the Soviet Union has got control of Afghanistan.

I now propose that we conclude our talk and we can continue to exchange views at the dinner table.

Brzezinski: Let me just mention one thing about Afghanistan. We have some intelligence information which shows that Soviets already established a communications system with Afghanistan government of the kind which they only maintain with their very close friends.

Teng: Yes, you are right. And I think the coup was created singlehandedly by Soviet Union. And of course it will say that Afghanistan remains non-aligned but all these are false statements.

Brzezinski: It is as non-aligned as Cuba.

Teng: People are worried that Afghanistan may become Cuba in the East. All right.

Brzezinski: Thank you so much.

Original source: https://history.state.gov/historicaldocuments/frus1977-80v13/d110

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October 15, 2020 - 4:00pm

Please join the USC U.S.-China Institute for a book talk with author David Lampton. His new book examines China’s effort to create an intercountry railway system connecting China and its seven Southeast Asian neighbors.