The Foreign Relations of the United States series presents the official documentary historical record of major foreign policy decisions and significant diplomatic activity of the United States Government. The Historian of the Department of State is charged with the responsibility for the preparation of the Foreign Relations series. The staff of the Office of the Historian, Bureau of Public Affairs, under the direction of the General Editor of the Foreign Relations series, plans, researches, compiles, and edits the volumes in the series. Secretary of State Frank B. Kellogg first promulgated official regulations codifying specific standards for the selection and editing of documents for the series on March 26, 1925. These regulations, with minor modifications, guided the series through 1991.

Public Law 102–138, the Foreign Relations Authorization Act, established a new statutory charter for the preparation of the series which was signed by President George H. W. Bush on October 28, 1991. Section 198 of P.L. 102–138 added a new Title IV to the Department of State’s Basic Authorities Act of 1956 (22 U.S.C. 4351, et seq.).

The statute requires that the Foreign Relations series be a thorough, accurate, and reliable record of major United States foreign policy decisions and significant United States diplomatic activity. The volumes of the series should include all records needed to provide comprehensive documentation of major foreign policy decisions and actions of the United States Government. The statute also confirms the editing principles established by Secretary Kellogg: the Foreign Relations series is guided by the principles of historical objectivity and accuracy; records should not be altered or deletions made without indicating in the published text that a deletion has been made; the published record should omit no facts that were of major importance in reaching a decision; and nothing should be omitted for the purposes of concealing a defect in policy. The statute also requires that the Foreign Relations series be published not more than 30 years after the events recorded. The editors are convinced that this volume meets all regulatory, statutory, and scholarly standards of selection and editing.

Structure and Scope of the Foreign Relations Series

This volume is part of a subseries of volumes of the Foreign Relations series that documents the most important issues in the foreign policy of the administrations of Richard M. Nixon and Gerald R. Ford. This volume documents the Nixon administration’s decision to open high-level discussions with the People’s Republic of China (PRC) as well as its ongoing relations with the Republic of China on Taiwan from 1969 to 1972. In addition there are smaller chapters on U.S. relations with Mongolia [Page IV] and on the question of the U.S. attitude toward Tibet and its exiled leader, the Dali Lama. Unlike previous volumes on China, the U.S. policy toward Chinese representation is not included in this volume. It is presented in great detail in Foreign Relations, 1969–1976, volume V, United Nations, 1969–1972, published in 2004. Since the Nixon opening to China was so interconnected with the question of triangular diplomacy among Moscow, Beijing, and Washington, the soon to be published volumes on the Soviet Union, Foreign Relations, 1969–1976, volume XII, Soviet Union, 1969–October 1970; volume XIII, Soviet Union, October 1970–October 1971; and volume XIV, Soviet Union, October 1971–May 1972, are necessary companion volumes to this one. This is especially true for volume XIII, which coincides with serious consideration of the opening to China and contains many transcripts of Presidential tape recordings and memoranda of Kissinger telephone conversations that discuss the impact of the opening to Beijing on U.S.-Soviet relations and Sino-Soviet relations.

Focus of Research and Principles of Selection for Foreign Relations, 1969–1976, Volume XVII

Engaging the People’s Republic of China in a dialogue is perhaps the most dramatic and far reaching decision undertaken by the Nixon administration. It ended two decades of hostility and lack of formal contact between Washington and Beijing, with the exception of the fruitless ambassadorial talks at Warsaw that had been going on sporadically for 15 years. The decision to contact the leadership of the People’s Republic of China through intermediaries was one of the most closely held secrets in the U.S. Government, known only to Kissinger, Nixon, and a handful of National Security Council Staff members. It was not shared with Secretary of State William Rogers or his Department of State. This volume covers the initial signals between the United States and the People’s Republic of China indicating that both sides desired a dialogue—although the exchange is seen only through U.S. sources. The volume highlights the role of the Pakistan President Yahya Khan and Pakistan Ambassador to the United States Aga Hilaly as the principal intermediaries between Washington and Beijing, but provides coverage of other intermediaries, including Romanians, as well as famous signals, such as the Chinese invitation to the U.S. Ping Pong team to visit China.

The volume documents the lead up to the initial Kissinger visit to Beijing in July 1971, his next visit in October 1971, and President Nixon’s historic visit of February 1972. Through a variety of sources— telegrams, memoranda, memoranda of conversation, telephone conversations, transcripts of Presidential tape recordings, and briefing books with extensive handwritten annotation by Nixon—the volume documents how the President wanted Kissinger initially to engage the Chinese. Kissinger’s conversations in Beijing are covered in detail and [Page V] the excitement that he felt during this first trip clearly comes through the official record. It is not difficult to see that Kissinger believed he had a special bond with Chinese Premier Chou En-lai. The October 1971 trip by Kissinger is also covered in detail with similar documentation. The volume contains extensive documentation on President Nixon’s February 1972 trip and the issuing of the Shanghai Communiqué. After the Nixon visit, the United States sought to regularize its contacts with the People’s Republic of China, and this process is documented in the last chapter on China that includes documentation on Kissinger’s June 1972 visit to Beijing.

Although the volume concentrates heavily on the People’s Republic of China, there is considerable documentation on U.S. relations with the Republic of China during the 1969–1972 period. There is also documentation on a government-wide reexamination of U.S.-PRC relations that served as background to the more far-reaching decisions taken in secret by Kissinger and the President.

Additional documentation on China is published in the companion electronic volume, Foreign Relations, volume E–13, Documents on China, 1969–1972. The electronic volume presents 175 documents, most of which are cited in the footnotes of this print volume, that relate to high-level contacts between the People’s Republic of China and the United States. Typically, the print volume presents the shorter (and sometimes more subjective) summary memorandum of a conversation or important message, while the electronic volume contains the verbatim memorandum of conversation or the full text of messages exchanged.

Editorial Methodology

The documents are presented chronologically according to Washington time. Memoranda of conversation are placed according to the date and time of the conversation, rather than the date the memorandum was drafted.

Editorial treatment of the documents published in the Foreign Relations series follows Office style guidelines, supplemented by guidance from the General Editor and the technical editor. The documents are reproduced as exactly as possible, including marginalia or other notations, which are described in the footnotes. Texts are transcribed and printed according to accepted conventions for the publication of historical documents within the limitations of modern typography. A heading has been supplied by the editors for each document included in the volume. Spelling, capitalization, and punctuation are retained as found in the original text, except that obvious typographical errors are silently corrected. Other mistakes and omissions are corrected by bracketed insertions: a correction is set in italic type; an addition in roman type. Words or phrases underlined in the original text are printed in italics. Abbreviations and contractions are preserved as [Page VI] found, and a list of abbreviations is included in the front matter of each volume.

Bracketed insertions are also used to indicate omitted text that deals with an unrelated subject (in roman type) or that remains classified after declassification review (in italic type). The amount of material not declassified has been noted by indicating the number of lines or pages of source text that were omitted. Entire documents withheld for declassification purposes have been accounted for and are listed with headings, source notes, and number of pages not declassified in their chronological place. All brackets that appear in the original text are so identified in footnotes.

The first footnote to each document indicates the source of the document, original classification, distribution, and drafting information. This note also provides the background of important documents and policies and indicates whether the President or his major policy advisers read the document.

Editorial notes and additional annotation summarize pertinent material not printed in the volume, indicate the location of additional documentary sources, provide references to important related documents printed in other volumes, describe key events, and provide summaries of and citations to public statements that supplement and elucidate the printed documents. Information derived from memoirs and other first-hand accounts has been used when appropriate to supplement or explicate the official record.

The numbers in the index refer to document numbers rather than to page numbers.

Advisory Committee on Historical Diplomatic Documentation

The Advisory Committee on Historical Diplomatic Documentation, established under the Foreign Relations statute, reviews records, advises, and makes recommendations concerning the Foreign Relations series. The Advisory Committee monitors the overall compilation and editorial process of the series and advises on all aspects of the preparation and declassification of the series. The Advisory Committee does not necessarily review the contents of individual volumes in the series, but it makes recommendations on issues that come to its attention and reviews volumes as it deems necessary to fulfill its advisory and statutory obligations.

The Advisory Committee has reviewed this volume.

Presidential Recordings and Materials Preservation Act Review

Under the terms of the Presidential Recordings and Materials Preservation Act (PRMPA) of 1974 (44 U.S.C. 2111 note), the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) has custody of the Nixon Presidential historical materials. The requirements of the PRMPA [Page VII] and implementing regulations govern access to the Nixon Presidential historical materials. The PRMPA and implementing public access regulations require NARA to review for additional restrictions in order to ensure the protection of the privacy rights of former Nixon White House officials, since these officials were not given the opportunity to separate their personal materials from public papers. Thus, the PRMPA and implementing public access regulations require NARA formally to notify the Nixon estate and former Nixon White House staff members that the agency is scheduling for public release Nixon White House historical materials. The Nixon estate and former White House staff members have 30 days to contest the release of Nixon historical materials in which they were a participant or are mentioned. Further, the PRMPA and implementing regulations require NARA to segregate and return to the creator of the files all private and personal materials. All Foreign Relations volumes that include materials from NARA’s Nixon Presidential Materials Project are processed and released in accordance with the PRMPA.

Declassification Review

The Office of Information Programs and Services, Bureau of Administration, conducted the declassification review for the Department of State of the documents published in this volume. The review was conducted in accordance with the standards set forth in Executive Order 12958, as amended, “Classified National Security Information” and other applicable laws.

The principle guiding declassification review is to release all information, subject only to the current requirements of national security as embodied in law and regulation. Declassification decisions entailed concurrence of the appropriate geographic and functional bureaus in the Department of State, other concerned agencies of the U.S. Government, and the appropriate foreign governments regarding specific documents of those governments. The declassification review of this volume, which began in 1999 and was completed in 2005, resulted in the decision to withhold 5 documents in full, excise a paragraph or more in 2 documents, and make minor excisions of less than a paragraph in 39 documents.

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 presented here provide an accurate account of the Nixon administration’s policy toward China from 1969 to 1972.


The editors wish to acknowledge the assistance of officials at the Nixon Presidential Materials Project of the National Archives and Records Administration (Archives II), at College Park, Maryland. The [Page VIII] editors wish to express gratitude to the Richard Nixon Estate for allowing access to the Nixon Presidential recordings and the Richard Nixon Library & Birthplace for facilitating that access.

Steven E. Phillips collected the documentation for this volume and selected and edited it, under the supervision of Edward C. Keefer, then Chief of the Asia and America’s Division, now General Editor of the Foreign Relations series. Kristin L. Ahlberg did the copy and technical editing. Susan C. Weetman, Chief of the Declassification and Publishing Division, and Chris Tudda coordinated the declassification review. Do Mi Stauber prepared the index.

Marc J. Susser
The Historian Bureau of Public Affairs

August 2006