Unformatted text preview: FOREIGN
OF THE UNITED
Washington Foreign Relations of the
United States, 1977–1980
Volume XIII China Editor David P. Nickles General Editor Adam M. Howard United States Government Printing Office
2013 DEPARTMENT OF STATE
Office of the Historian
Bureau of Public Affairs For sale by the Superintendent of Documents, U.S. Government Printing Office
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Fax: (202) 512-2250 Mail: Stop IDCC, Washington, DC 20402-0001 339-370/428-S/80013 About the Series
The Foreign Relations of the United States series presents the official
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the Foreign Relations series include all records needed to provide comprehensive documentation of major U.S. foreign policy decisions and
significant U.S. diplomatic activity. It further requires that government
agencies, departments, and other entities of the U.S. Government enIII 339-370/428-S/80013 IV About the Series
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a given document were in fact attached to the paper copy of the docu- 339-370/428-S/80013 About the Series V
ment in the Carter Library file. In such cases, some editors of the Foreign
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14 documents, and make excisions of less than a paragraph in 35
The Office of the Historian is confident, on the basis of the research
conducted in preparing this volume and as a result of the declassification review process described above, that the documentation and editorial notes presented here provide a thorough, accurate, and reliable— 339-370/428-S/80013 About the Series VII
given the limitations of space—record of the Carter administration’s
policy toward China.
Stephen P. Randolph, Ph.D.
The Historian Adam M. Howard, Ph.D.
General Editor Bureau of Public Affairs
April 2013 339-370/428-S/80013 Preface
Structure and Scope of the Foreign Relations Series
This volume, part of a subseries of the Foreign Relations series that
documents the most important issues in the foreign policy of the administration of Jimmy Carter, covers U.S. policy toward China from
1977 to 1980. Readers interested in U.S. security policy should also consult Foreign Relations, 1977–1980, volume IV, National Security Policy.
For more on U.S. relations with a specific country or region, readers
should consult the relevant geographically-focused volumes in the Foreign Relations Carter subseries. Additional documentation on foreign
aid and human rights may be found in Foreign Relations, 1977–1980, volume II, Human Rights and Humanitarian Affairs. U.S. international
economic policy is covered in Foreign Relations, 1977–1980, volume III,
Foreign Economic Policy. Finally, for the organization of the foreign
policy making process, readers should consult Foreign Relations,
1977–1980, volume XXVIII, Organization and Management of Foreign
Focus of Research and Principles of Selection for Foreign Relations,
1977–1980, Volume XIII
The Carter administration’s foreign policy toward China was characterized by significant achievements as well as by bureaucratic infighting. December 15, 1978 marked the most dramatic achievement
when, following secret negotiations, the United States and the People’s
Republic of China announced that they were establishing formal diplomatic relations. As the political relationship between China and the
United States improved, economic and cultural ties became more robust. Although a shared animosity toward the Soviet Union provided
much of the impetus for greater cooperation between the United States
and China, leaders in Washington and Beijing increasingly felt that expanded interactions, if well-managed, could produce tremendous benefits for both countries. However, the closer relationship between
Washington and Beijing came at a cost: the severance of both official relations and the U.S. defense treaty with the Republic of China (Taiwan),
a government with which the United States had close political, military,
and commercial ties. American officials showed continuing concern for
Taiwan partly because of its ideological, strategic, and economic importance in the Cold War, partly to maintain the credibility of U.S. international commitments, and, at least among some, because they felt
IX 339-370/428-S/80013 X Preface
that the United States had a responsibility to ensure that it did not destroy the opportunity of the people on Taiwan to seek a peaceful future.
When Carter took office in January 1977, a significant improvement in relations between China and the United States was far from inevitable. In the aftermath of Nixon and Kissinger’s frustrated attempt
to seek normalization during Nixon’s abbreviated second administration, the currents of American politics appeared less favorable to such a
policy. Among Republicans, the increasingly powerful conservative
wing, led by such figures as Ronald Reagan and Barry Goldwater, rejected the notion that the United States should abandon the alliance
with Taiwan for the sake of improved relations with a Communist
country. Within the Carter administration, the President and Cyrus
Vance wondered whether Nixon and Kissinger had made too many
concessions in their effort to improve relations with China. Initially,
Carter was distrustful of China, and believed that his predecessors had
abased themselves during their negotiations with that country. Vance
opposed any policy that improved relations with China at the expense
of US-Soviet de´tente, which he saw as the best hope for a more stable
and peaceful world. Furthermore, Richard Holbrooke, the Assistant
Secretary of State for East Asian and Pacific Affairs, sought to establish
official diplomatic relations between the United States and Vietnam, a
policy that had broader foreign policy implications due to the growing
animosity between Vietnam and China. In contrast, Zbigniew Brzezinski and his aide Michel Oksenberg, the leading China specialist on the
NSC staff, pushed for Sino-American normalization. They argued that
American hesitation might squander a historic opportunity to establish
better relations between two of the world’s leading countries, whose
enmity had threatened the stability of the international system just a
few years earlier. Furthermore, Brzezinski was skeptical about the solidity of de´tente, and believed that a partnership with China would
make the Soviets feel less secure and thereby improve their behavior.
At the Pentagon, Harold Brown’s desire to prevent a renewed
Sino-Soviet alliance led him to join Brzezinski in support of normalization. The Joint Chiefs of Staff, concerned about the security of Taiwan
and the credibility of American commitments, were more skeptical of
Sino-American normalization than was the civilian leadership at DoD.
Although some parts of the U.S. Government sought to address human
rights in the Sino-American dialogue, this issue was generally subordinated to the effort to improve relations between the United States and
Despite their disagreements, members of the Carter administration decided that the United States should adhere to the Shanghai Communique´, in which the United States had declared that it did not challenge the notion that there was but one China, but also expressed an 339-370/428-S/80013 Preface XI
interest in the peaceful resolution of the Taiwan question by the Chinese themselves. During the preparations for Vance’s August 1977 visit
to China, Carter chose three guidelines to govern the U.S. negotiating
position throughout the normalization talks: first, improvement of
Sino-American relations should be reciprocal; second, the United States
would not approach China as a supplicant; third, the United States
would seek to maintain the confidence of the people on Taiwan that
their future would be prosperous and tranquil. Along these lines, the
United States informed Taiwan’s government that although it was beginning a process that might lead to normalization of relations with the
People’s Republic of China, it would not agree to terms that would undermine Taiwan’s security and well-being.
During late 1977 and early 1978, other concerns, especially the
domestic political effort necessary to ratify the Panama Canal Treaties,
delayed the push for normalization with China. Meanwhile, U.S. officials sought increased Sino-American economic, technological, and cultural exchanges. They also examined means of reducing U.S. defense
links with Taiwan and increasing those with China. By the time of Brzezinski’s May 1978 visit to Beijing, Carter had decided to seek normalized relations with China during his first term. The President believed
that for domestic political reasons, normalization would be difficult
until after the 1978 midterm elections, yet needed to be accomplished
before late 1979 due to the 1980 presidential election. This left a
window of about one year to realize one of Carter’s major foreign
Brzezinski’s visit went well. Chinese officials seemed pleased by
his attitude toward the Soviet Union, and his expression of the Carter
administration’s interest in moving toward normalization. American
officials were particularly impressed by China’s tacit acceptance of continued U.S. arms sales to Taiwan after normalization. Following Brzezinski’s visit, Carter agreed to Vance’s proposal of a mid-December
1978 target date for a public announcement that the United States
would recognize the People’s Republic of China. He also affirmed
Vance’s proposition that normalization should precede the SALT ratification debate in the 1979 legislative calendar. This cleared the way for
Leonard Woodcock—communicating with Washington via the ‘‘Voyager’’ backchannel, which circumvented all but a few senior officials—
to begin confidential negotiations in Beijing on normalizing relations.
The negotiations reached fruition on December 15, 1978. As expected,
the normalization announcement resulted in public outrage in Taiwan
and from R.O.C. supp...
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