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Zbigniew Brzezinski memo to Pres. Jimmy Carter, October 13, 1978

National Security Advisor Brzezinski asked Carter for decisions on questions relating to the effort to normalize U.S.-China relations and presented him with a draft of a statement they hoped to present to Chinese officials. The document was originally classified as top secret, but is now included in the State Department's History of the Foreign Relations of the United States. Carter accepted Brzezinski's recommendations.

October 13, 1978


  • Communique to be Tabled by Ambassador Leonard Woodcock

At Tab A is a Draft Communique which Leonard proposes to table during his next meeting with Foreign Minister Huang Hua.

The Draft draws upon language in the Shanghai Communique, upon statements Cy, Leonard, and I have made, and upon statements by Mao Tse-tung, Chou En-lai, and Teng Hsiao-p’ing to us.

Leonard would present the Communique toward the end of his presentation on our post-normalization, commercial, and cultural relations with Taiwan. (We will submit that presentation, which contains no thorny issues for us, for your approval on Monday, October 16.)

He will introduce the Communique by saying, “In the expectation that your response to the three issues we have raised thus far will be acceptable and pending your response, the President has instructed me to table a draft recognition communique so that our discussion may focus upon the concrete issues of the timing and modalities of normalization.”

Leonard would repeat that at the time of normalization we would be issuing a separate statement which we expect the Chinese not to contradict. In that statement, we would state that at an appropriate time our diplomatic relations with Taiwan would end and that the Mutual Defense Treaty with Taiwan would be ending, with the Treaty to be terminated in a manner to be determined by the United States.

It is our view that at this point, if we are going to give this document to the PRC, we must also complete the presentation of all relevant aspects of our presentation, specifically we must also tell them whether we will terminate the Treaty with Taiwan by a Presidential proclamation that it has lapsed or by its own one-year notification provision. We recommend the latter alternative. Furthermore, if we are going to do this, we must first inform at a minimum, Senator Byrd. We believe that Byrd will maintain the confidentiality of the information. Not to tell him would run counter to the sense of the Senate resolution which passed 94–0 in August, and would also antagonize Byrd deeply.

Issues for Decision:

1. Terminating the Treaty: How do we propose to terminate the Treaty? Cy is prepared to give the argument for termination through its provisions. Perhaps we should first consult Byrd.

2. Timing. Do we give a tentative date for the Communique to indicate the time frame in which we are thinking? Since you have already indicated that you are prepared to normalize immediately and since we wish to place the ball firmly in the Chinese court, conveying our sense of timing seems appropriate. Unlike Nixon or Ford, we are not saying we unilaterally would like to normalize. Rather, we are saying that if they honor our needs, we are prepared to move expeditiously.

3. Approach. Do you approve the overall approach in the Communique: (a) an introductory section (3–5) which repeats the Shanghai Communique language on our shared approach to international affairs; (b) a repetition of the Shanghai Communique on the PRC views about Taiwan (6); (c) introduction of language drawn from diverse PRC statements concerning the PRC’s hope for a peaceful resolution of the Taiwan issue (7–10). This section will be hard for Peking to swallow. It is worth trying to get them to state it. One question is whether we should include sentence No. 9, which Peking has uttered but may refuse to repeat in the Communique; (d) a repetition of the U.S. view expressed in the Shanghai Communique concerning the status of Taiwan (12); (e) a statement of our interest in and expectation of a peaceful settlement of the Taiwan issue (13–14); (f) our intent to continue cultural, commercial, and other unofficial relations with Taiwan (15–16).


This is Leonard’s draft, which he recommends you approve as is. Cy and I concur.

That you approve the Draft Communique at Tab A.

Tab A

Washington, October 12, 1978


1. The United States of America and the People’s Republic of China have agreed to mutual recognition of each other as the sole legal governments of their countries and to the establishment of diplomatic relations. 2. Their respective Liaison Offices will be raised to Embassy status on .9

3. Both sides believe that normalization of relations is not only in the interest of the Chinese and American peoples but also contributes to the relaxation of tension in Asia and the world.

4. The two sides reaffirm the principles of the Shanghai Communique concerning international conduct. 5. International disputes should be settled without resorting to the use or the threat of force.

6. The People’s Republic reaffirmed the view it stated in the Shanghai Communique:

The Government of the People’s Republic of China is the sole legal government of China; Taiwan is a province of China which has long been returned to the motherland; the liberation of Taiwan is China’s internal affair in which no other country has the right to interfere; and all U.S. forces and military installations must be withdrawn from Taiwan. The Chinese Government firmly opposes any activities which aim at the creation of “one China, one Taiwan,” “one China, two governments,” “two Chinas,” and “independent Taiwan” or advocate that “the status of Taiwan remains to be determined.”

7. The Government of the People’s Republic also notes that the means and timing of the reunification of China are matters for the Chinese people themselves to settle.

8. The people and government of the People’s Republic of China are patient.

9. The People’s Republic of China has never been opposed to discussion of peaceful reunification with the authorities on Taiwan.

10. The People’s Republic of China hopes that the reunification of the Chinese people will be completed peacefully and will take into account the actual situation on Taiwan in settling this issue.

12. Bearing in mind the above stated Chinese view, the United States reaffirms the view it expressed in the Shanghai Communique: “The United States acknowledges the Chinese position that there is but one China and Taiwan is part of China. The United States does not challenge that position.”

13. The Government of the United States reaffirms its interest in reducing tension in the area and promoting stability in the region.

14. It also reaffirms its interest expressed in the Shanghai Communique in a peaceful settlement of the Taiwan issue by the Chinese themselves, and it is confident that such a settlement eventually can be achieved.

15. The people of the United States will maintain cultural, commercial, and other unofficial relations with the people of Taiwan. 16. The Executive Branch of the Government of the United States will propose special legislation to the Legislative Branch for this purpose.

17. The United States and the People’s Republic of China believe the step they are taking is in the interest of all countries and will lead to a broader and deeper relationship between the American and Chinese peoples.

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