The symbolic importance of US President George W. Bush's trip to China last week on the 30th anniversary of former president Richard Nixon's historic trip was given added meaning this week with the release of the transcripts of former US national security adviser Henry Kissinger's secret visit to Beijing in 1971 to arrange the summit.
During that historic meeting, Kissinger spent 17 hours in intensive negotiations with then Chinese premier Zhou Enlai (周恩來) from July 9 to July 11, 1971, hammering out details of the Nixon trip, the draft of the Shanghai Communique and the tortuous course of US-Taiwan-China relations over the ensuing three decades.
The transcripts of the meetings and the US policy discussions surrounding the meeting, released last week by the National Security Archives, provide riveting reading.
They show Kissinger and Zhou mapping out Taiwan's future while Nixon and Kissinger worked hard to make sure their decisions on Taiwan were kept a secret. They also show that Nixon wanted Kissinger to play down the Taiwan issue during the Zhou meetings, but that Kissinger decided to deal with the issue at length.
One of the documents released is a top-secret memo in which Kissinger warns Nixon that the announcement of the planned talks between Nixon and then Chinese leader Mao Zedong (毛澤東) and the results of the summit "will cause a violent upheaval in Taiwan."
Kissinger also told Nixon that Zhou had warned that "Chiang Kai-shek (
The transcripts show that Kissinger was not forthcoming in his 1979 memoirs, The White House Years, about the meeting, in which he said that Taiwan "was only mentioned briefly."
In fact, the transcript shows a prolonged and detailed discussion of Taiwan, which covered nine of the 45 transcript pages.
In that first meeting, Kissinger volunteered that the US would not support the Taiwan independence movement, would not accept a "two China" or "one China-one Taiwan" policy and would recognize Taiwan as an "inalienable part" of China. He also indicated the US wanted to fully recognize China sometime within the first two years of Nixon's second term in office.
Nixon did not want to establish relations before the November 1972 presidential elections, but when he was forced to resign early in his second term in 1973 over the Watergate political coverup scandal, efforts toward recognition of Beijing halted under Nixon's successor, Gerald Ford.
The transcripts also contain curious sidelights, including a brief discussion of former Taiwan independence leader Peng Ming-min (彭明敏), who had been earlier smuggled out of Taiwan, where he was under house arrest, to the US via Sweden.
Kissinger told Zhou that Peng had been his student 15 years earlier, but dismissed rumors that the CIA had helped him leave Taiwan.
Kissinger also assured Zhou that the Nixon administration would not tolerate any support of Peng and the independence movement in the US. Ironically, the transcripts were released just weeks after Peng led a Taiwanese delegation to this year's annual US National Prayer Breakfast in Washington. Peng is a senior adviser to President Chen Shui-bian (
In the transcripts, both Kissinger and Zhou agreed that the fate of Taiwan was linked to the war in Vietnam. The US was seeking China's help in ending the war in exchange for Washington's switching diplomatic recognition from Taipei to Beijing.