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May 2008 Issue [Readings]

Most Favored Nation

From a memorandum of conversation for a meeting held in Beijing on February 17, 1973, attended by U.S. National Security Adviser Henry Kissinger, Chairman Mao Zedong, Prime Minister Zhou Enlai, and Assistant Minister of Foreign Affairs Wang Hai-jung of China, and two female interpreters. The document was released by the State Department in February.

mao zedong: The trade between our two countries at present is pitiful. You know China is a very poor country. We don’t have much. What we have in excess is women. [Laughter]

henry kissinger: There are no quotas or tariffs on those.

mao: So if you want them, we can give a few to you, some tens of thousands. [Laughter]

zhou enlai: Of course, on a voluntary basis.

mao: Let them go to your place. They will create disasters. That way you can lessen our burdens. [Laughter]

kissinger: Our interest in trade with China is not commercial. It is to establish a relationship necessary for the political relations we both have.

mao: We do not understand your affairs. Your domestic affairs, we don’t understand them. There are also many things about foreign policy that we don’t understand either.

kissinger: You have a more direct, maybe a more heroic mode of action than we do. We sometimes have to use more complicated methods because of our domestic situation. But on our fundamental objectives we will act very decisively and without regard for public opinion. So if a real danger develops or hegemonic intentions become active, we will certainly resist them wherever they appear. And as the president said to the chairman, in our own interests, not as a kindness to anyone else.

mao: Do you want our Chinese women? We can give you ten million. [Laughter, particularly among the women]

kissinger: The chairman is improving his offer.

mao: We can let them flood your country with disaster and therefore impair your interests. In our country we have too many women, and they have a way of doing things. They give birth to children, and our children are too many. [Laughter]

kissinger: It is such a novel proposition, we will have to study it.

mao: You can set up a committee to study the issue. That is how your visit to China is settling the population question. [Laughter]

kissinger: We will study utilization and allocation.

mao: If we ask them to go, I think they would be willing.

kissinger: We are certainly willing to receive them.

mao: Today I have been uttering some nonsense for which I will have to beg the pardon of the women of China.

kissinger: It sounded very attractive to the Americans present. [Mao and the women laugh.]

wang hai-jung: If the minutes of this talk were made public, it would incur the wrath of half the population.

mao: That is, half of the population of China.

zhou: First of all, the minutes wouldn’t pass beyond the Foreign Ministry.

mao: We can call this a secret meeting. Should our meeting today be public, or kept secret?

kissinger: It’s up to you. I am prepared to make it public if you wish.

mao: Then the words we say about women today shall be made nonexistent. [Laughter]

kissinger: We will remove them from the record. [Laughter] We will start studying this proposal when I get back.

mao: You know, the Chinese have a scheme to harm the United States, that is, to send ten million women to the United States and impair its interests by increasing its population.

kissinger: The chairman has fixed the idea so much in my mind that I’ll certainly use it at my next press conference. [Laughter]

mao: That would be all right with me. I’m not afraid of anything.

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May 2008

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