Maps of China
I. The getting-to-know-you years, page 2 of 5
Washington, D.C., Voice of America, 1966 to 1969
My next assignment was as director of Chinese programs at the Voice of America starting in 1966. During that period I began to sense and notice subtle changes in the high-level thinking about our relationship with the mainland.
The first major indication of the shift in thinking came in 1966 with the establishment of the National Committee on United States–China Relations (NCUSCR). The work of this organization has been, and remains so today, the most important factor, along with the efforts of the U.S. government itself, in the long process of the United States and China’s getting to know and understand each other.
Soon after its formal establishment in 1966, the committee arranged a three-day conference in 1967 at Harvard University. The conference brought together many well-known Sinologists, such as Professors John Fairbank, Ezra F. Vogel, and Edwin O. Reischauer of Harvard, Professor Scalapino of Stanford University, and Professor Doak Barnett of Johns Hopkins University, and news correspondents from television and other media. I was invited to participate because of my VOA position. The purpose of the conference was to educate the media about developments in China.
The second major indication of the shift in high-level thinking about China occurred during the same period. The State Department established a working committee on China that met regularly with academic Sinologists. I was also included in that group because of my job at the USIA’s Voice of America.
One early result of these shifts in the U.S. attitude was a change in Voice of America China broadcast terminology. All my teachers at the Chinese Language School in Hong Kong were 1949 refugees from the mainland, and they were my primary sources of information and influence at that time. In addition, my staff in Washington was composed primarily of immigrant Chinese from Taiwan. After getting more or less oriented to what our Chinese broadcasts were saying, and how they were saying it, I discovered that we were using Taiwan—that is, the Nationalist Republic of China—lingo in our broadcasts when we were addressing or referring to the mainland Chinese government. This meant that we were calling them gungfei, meaning “Communist bandits,” and using “Beiping” instead of “Beijing” when referring to their capital. This would have made some sense if the people in our intended audience were on Taiwan, but the audience we were trying to reach was on the mainland. I finally received permission from the State Department to use the terminology that was correct in terms of what was acceptable in the People’s Republic of China. Only one exception was made, and that was when we were quoting Secretary Rusk who always used the Taiwan terminology when referring to the mainland.
Taiwan and Singapore, 1969 to 1971
During my next assignment to Taiwan (1969 to 1971), more subtle signs of changes in thinking at the highest levels began to appear. Dr. Henry Kissinger would have off-the-record press briefings, during which he was identified only as “a highly placed official” of the administration. It became obvious from things Dr. Kissinger was saying—identified as the Nixon Doctrine—that we were moving in the direction of détente with China. It was his use of terminology when mentioning China that was the most revealing. Then during his visit to Taiwan in 1969, Vice President Agnew notified President Chiang Kaishek that we were pulling the Seventh Fleet out of the Taiwan Strait, where it had patrolled since 1950.
One telling incident occurred in the period just before Dr. Kissinger went to Beijing in 1971. I was serving at the embassy in Taipei. Secretary of State Rogers had begun to use the term "People's Republic of China" instead of "Communist China" in his public statements. Dr. Kissinger, who was head of the Security Council at the time and obviously more influential with President Nixon than Secretary Rogers, gave regular press briefings of which we received copies at the embassy. At the time we were giving regular briefings to the Chinese press in Taipei, and before doing so, I had to receive clearance for my remarks from the deputy chief of mission. One time when seeking clearance, I had quoted some remarks Dr. Kissinger had made to the American press. The deputy chief told me, "You can't say that." I responded by saying that I was quoting Dr. Kissinger's remarks to the American press. And his response to me was, "Kissinger doesn't make policy." His reaction was a sign of the lack of realism and cohesion that existed at the time in our attitude toward Communist China.
While I was en route to Singapore in July 1971, the news broke that Dr. Kissinger was in Beijing meeting with Mao Zedong and Zhou Enlai. Then, of course, that meeting lead to the Nixon–Mao–Zhou Enlai meetings in February 1972, which culminated in the issuance of the Shanghai Communiqué. These events signaled the end of the twenty-three-year hiatus in the relationship between the two countries. In the communiqué, “both sides” agreed that “it is desirable to broaden the understanding between the two peoples.” To that end, it was agreed that “contacts and exchanges” would be facilitated in such fields as “science, technology, culture, sports, and journalism” and that the ultimate aim would be the “normalization of relations between the two countries.” This initiated what I have always labeled “the getting to know you period” in United States–China relations.
Washington, D.C., early to mid-1970s
I was transferred from Singapore back to the State Department in Washington to serve as the deputy chief for East Asian cultural affairs. I was told that my main responsibilities would be in working with the Chinese Liaison Office–the equivalent of an embassy in the prenormalization period. (Our office in Beijing was also a liaison office, and George H. W. Bush was the ambassador in charge.) The Chinese cultural attaché, Mr. Hsieh, and I worked together on a daily basis on liaison office matters. We also worked together with the National Committee on United States–China Relations. In the first three years approximately thirty American delegations visited China, including several scientific and technical groups, some groups involved with sports, and some cultural groups, including the Philadelphia Symphony Orchestra. During that same period some twenty-seven Chinese delegations visited the United States, and twenty of those groups were concerned with scientific and technical subjects, and seven were involved in cultural fields. Also in 1975 there was a huge exhibit of Chinese archeological discoveries that was displayed first at the Smithsonian Museum and then at museums in St. Louis and San Francisco. These activities kept Mr. Hsieh and me fully occupied, and in our daily interaction we got to know and understand one another quite well. And both Americans and the mainland Chinese people were being exposed to each other for the first time.
World Affairs Delegation Trip to China, October 1975
At the invitation of the People’s Republic of China, in October 1975, a world affairs delegation led by Cyrus Vance (who at the time was chairman of the board of the Rockefeller Foundation and vice chairman of the Council on Foreign Relations) and composed of other key leaders of world affairs organizations throughout the United States visited mainland China. The aim of the visit was to provide “first-hand China experience to key American leaders and opinion makers in international affairs, with obvious future benefits in the public educational process.”
Other members of the eighteen-member delegation represented organizations such as the Foreign Policy Association, the Asia Society, the Council on Foreign Relations, the United Nations Association, the World Affairs Council, the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, the Institute of World Affairs, and the National Committee on United States–China Relations, and others. I was asked to participate as the State Department escort, and Professor Allen Whiting of the Center for Chinese Studies at the University of Michigan was invited as the scholar escort. (Professor Whiting’s spoken Chinese was limited, but he was a highly regarded Chinese scholar.) (Continue to page 3.)