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Alexander Haig, Deputy National Security Advisor, on:
first meeting Chou En-lai
Q: Can you tell us about your first meeting with Chou En-lai? |
Haig: The first meeting of course was a reflection of the reality of Beijing internal politics. And it was very clear that there was not unanimity in the hierarchy of the leadership that there should be a rapprochement with the United States, the American devil, and that the summit was the right course of action for the Chinese interests. It was Chou En-lai, clearly, who pushed this. Chou En-lai was the original reformer. Mao surprised everyone by joining in that point of view, for reasons which I simply cannot divine. But that meant that throughout the visit, the Chinese, who were sponsoring this upcoming summit, had to reflect a measure of manhood that might otherwise not have been necessary. And I saw that in the first instance that first night that I arrived in Beijing, following a banquet in the Great Hall of the People, when I was suddenly summoned to -- back to -- the Great Hall of the People for a meeting with the premier, Chou En-lai.
When I arrived, clearly it was set up for press exposure, and there were a number of foreign diplomats there from the diplomatic community, Chinese officials and a large press presence. And as I walked into the room I was greeted warmly by Chou En-lai, who then went to the microphone and launched what I considered to be a rather unfriendly diatribe on American imperialism in Southeast Asia. And I went up as soon as the premier had concluded his remarks and said, I did not expect this and clearly we are not welcome and therefore I will take my party to the airport and return to the United States. At that Chou En-lai clapped his hands and dismissed the whole group. And that left just my secretary, Muriel Hartley, myself, Chou En-lai, a female interpreter and a note-taker, and it was then probably 15 after midnight and we sat and talked till almost four in the morning.
It was very evident that the cold greeting was for the audience, because as soon as the room was empty Chou En-lai became amazingly warm and charming, which he was capable of being. We had a very far-ranging discussion that involved everything from global politics to Vietnam to the purpose of the summit. And during that time I wanted Chou En-lai to know that we knew that the Soviet Union was indeed a threat to them as it was to us, and that they were an obstinate problem in the Vietnam conflict. And that's where the term, I used the term viability clearly to suggest that we knew that they had an enemy, and that this was an important summit. And I didn't want to go too far in it but just to fire that shot, if you may put it that way. And I've learned later that of course that was a source of some consternation to Chou En-lai who thought he knew what I was saying but he wasn't sure, and that was the way it was intended, but he did some research on the subject I understand.
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