John Paton

Wu Ningkun




INT: ... Going back to Mao, you said there were five Nixon-Mao meetings, and you were at all of them...

WL: No, there was only one Nixon-Mao meeting...

INT: Sorry.

WL: ... and four others with Kissinger, and one of which was with Ford. So there was a Nixon meeting with Mao, a Ford meeting with Mao, both of which Kissinger and I attended, and then there were three other meetings with Mao and Kissinger and myself.

INT: You're now in the State Department. The State Department were obviously very upset not to have been involved; Secretary of State Rodgers was very upset not to have been involved directly in these negotiations. Why was the State Department left out?

WL:, in the first place, the State Department played a very important role in substance in China, providing expertise and support for the opening to China. It was the fact that it was effectively cut out of the secret preparations and indeed the Mao-Nixon meeting, and we had parallel talks during the Nixon trip where the Shanghai communiqué and key issues like Russia and Taiwan were discussed between Zhou Enlai or the foreign minister and Kissinger, while Secretary Rodgers and the State Department handled trade and culture and other items. This was a very awkward situation, and in retrospect a very unappealing one, and one which Secretary Rodgers, Marshall Green and other key figures accepted with great dignity, considering what was happening. Kissinger himself, in retrospect, has said that... it's not just on this issue, but just generally in the relationship with the State Department, that he would admit in retrospect that in both human terms and in political bureaucratic terms, this is not a way to run the US Government. The reason there was secrecy, and the reason there was White House dominance and the State being cut out at times, came from President Nixon, who, number one, had a great interest and great expertise in international affairs and wanted to be a dominant president on that; number two, had an instinctive distrust of the State Department - absolutely unfair, but a distrust that they were a bunch of liberal democrats that couldn't be fully trusted; and thirdly, just the general problem of political leaders versus cautious bureaucrats, and indeed there were some in the State Department and elsewhere who were not enthusiastic about the opening to China, not so much for the conservative anti-Communist reasons but because they thought this would hurt our relations with Russia rather than help our relations with Russia. And so, for a variety of reasons, Nixon wanted foreign policy, at least the sensitive issues, to be basically run by Kissinger and the NSC staff. Now I hasten to add that Henry Kissinger in no way resisted this dominance and this secrecy, and he would acknowledge that. But in retrospect, he in effect has conceded that this was an indignity to Rodgers and others. Now, having said all that, and having admitted that the means was very messy, the fact is there were tremendous successes, so... and in addition, the secrecy by Nixon, and not just on this issue, but Vietnam and some Russian contexts, was justified by him on diplomatic grounds. For example, on China, on the opening, if what we were doing had become more wide-known - and of course, the extent that you share it with other agencies and so on there's a better chance of leaks - there would have been a tremendous resistance to even going to China, including the Kissinger trip, and then Nixon. You would have had the Taiwan lobby very excited, you would have had those worried about relations with the Russians, and there would have been tremendous controversy. Even if Nixon decided to go ahead with the trip, the Kissinger trip and then his own, he might have been boxed in on his flexibility, because there would have been so much lobbying about how tough he'd have to be when he got there. In addition, if the opening to China had been publicized before Kissinger got there, and we could confirm in person that the agenda would be broader than Taiwan and that they would accept a Nixon visit, we might have raised hopes in the world which would have been dashed. It's like going to Mars: we had no idea once we got to China, after 22 years of total isolation and hostility, whether in fact we could agree to have Nixon come and we could agree on an agenda that we could move ahead on despite our differences. And so Nixon felt that if this was public in any way, there'd be a backlash domestically from our friends around the world who were suspicious of opening to China, and we might have raised hopes beyond what they realistically could b

INT: I think you're absolutely right (inaudible words). Just one last question on that...

INT: It made it easier for the United States and the Soviet Union to get closer, or made the Soviet Union react to the United States' advances because they knew that the United States was going to China. Was it the trip in itself that made that happen, or was it the Shanghai communiqué? ... Was the Shanghai communiqué important here?

WL: The opening to China immediately got the Russians' attention, and the very announcement of Kissinger's trip and the fact that Nixon was going in early in 1972, immediately broke the log-jam with the Russians and had an immediate impact. Then, when Nixon visited in 1972, of course the Shanghai communiqué was issued, but we'd already moved quickly with the Russians before the Shanghai communiqué. The Shanghai communiqué was a very important document, and really I think unique in diplomatic history, because instead of the usual diplomatic piece of paper that sort of talks about common interests and bridges over differences, this one - and it was quite unusual - set forth the Chinese position and the US position on a whole range of topics, international and Taiwan, as each side wished to present it, and therefore there was a clear statement of differences. There was also a section, however, of common interests, including opposing hegemony, which clearly was a veiled reference to the Soviet Union; and possibilities for co-operation in trade and culture and exchanges. So you had the three sections, each side presenting its views internationally, each side presenting its views on Taiwan, which is the issue that we had to somehow find a way to manage as we went ahead, and then areas of co-operation. And the areas of co-operation took on more credibility in world eyes because they saw the two sides had been willing to recognize their differences. The shape of this communiqué and this unusual nature of it is due to Zhou Enlai. When we went back to China... after Kissinger's secret trip in July 1971, we went back in October '71 to plan for Nixon's trip in more detail... most of the Shanghai communiqué was negotiated during that trip, with the Taiwan section only begun - that's the most sensitive and that we had to keep haggling about during Nixon's trip itself in February 1972. We went in October 1971 with a draft communiqué. As you know, you work these things out before presidential visits. We presented it to Zhou Enlai. He came back the next day; clearly he had checked with Mao Tse Tung, but he was smart enough, I think, that he came up with this himself, and he sort of threw the communiqué back at us and says, "This is useless: this is a typical diplomatic document that papers over differences. It'll have no credibility, because how can two nations that have hated each other and fought each other and been isolated from each other for 22 years, suddenly put a document out like this that suggests they're friends? Not only would this have no credibility: our domestic public won't understand it, the American people won't understand it, and our respective allies will be very suspicious that somehow we're going to sell them out. So this is no way to proceed." We saw immediately he was correct, so we went back that night to the guest house and completely rewrote our draft, putting in our positions, leaving blanks for the Chinese positions, as well as where we could agree. I stayed up and did a draft until 3 a.m., and then Kissinger got out of bed, took my draft, I went to bed, and he edited what I did and rewrote it, and we went back the next day, and that was the guts of the Shanghai communiqué right there. And it has held up very well. In February 1997 we will celebrate the 25th anniversary of the Shanghai communiqué, and it is still invoked as meaningful for our relationship. How many diplomatic communiqués can you think of that people even remember one week later, let alone 25 years later?

INT: Can I just ask you made that statement, a very good statement, about the importance in world terms of the rapprochement ... do you think you could just make that statement again?

WL: Sure.


It may sound parochial, since I was personally involved, but I believe and, much more importantly, almost every international observer and historian believes, that the opening to China in the early 1970s was one of the most important, positive and dramatic geopolitical events in world history in the last 50 years.

INT: Ambassador Lord, thank you very much.

WL: Thank you.