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Document Friday: “My Meeting with Chairman Mao”

January 29, 2010

Kissinger Meets Mao by Oliver Atkins

Chairman Mao, apparently, was a night owl.  At 11:30 PM on 17 February 1973, he called for Secretary of State Kissinger to meet him at his residence in Beijing.  The two statesmens’ jovial conversation meandered until 1:30 the next morning.  After the meeting, Kissinger composed today’s hot doc, “My Meeting with Chairman Mao,” an “eyes only” summary for the President.  Kissinger painted the elderly dictator in very favorable light, noting that “he radiates authority and deep wisdom,” even proclaiming that the rotund despot was “large rather than fat.”

As the two statesmen began their meeting, Mao alluded to his own mortality, telling Kissinger that “God has sent me an invitation.”  Still, Kissinger observed Mao’s firm grasp on the People’s Republic, writing “there is no question who is boss.”  Soon, the two got down to business.  They agreed that since Nixon’s 1971 visit to China, “the basic issues [had been] settled.” The two primarily discussed enhanced Chinese-American cooperation as well as their combined opposition to Soviet expansion.  Mao warned Nixon that “the goal of the Soviet Union is to occupy both Europe and Asia,” and opined Kissinger not to stand idly if the Soviet “ill water would flow toward China.”

As seen in an earlier hot doc, Kissinger’s conversations with foreign leaders were rarely without jousts, wit, and humor.  His meeting with Chairman Mao was not an exception.  As the American stenographer recorded the conversations of grand strategy, estimations of respective military might, and jokes of nuclear war, he dutifully notated that laughter occurred no fewer than on thirty occasions and that Chairman Mao lit and relit his cigar thrice.  Mao, commenting on Kissinger’s “shuttle diplomacy” asked the Secretary, “Are you a swallow or a pigeon?”  Later, Kissinger pontificated that “Hitler was a romantic.”  Certainly, however, the most eyebrow raising exchange was Mao’s offer –which he posed several times– that he give the United States 10 million Chinese women so that they could “flood your country with disaster and therefore impair your interests.”  Kissinger demurred.

Towards the end of the conversation Mao, presciently, acknowledged that China’s future was tied to the development of its youth.  He bemoaned that there were “truly too few” English speakers in his country, and was adamant that the Chinese government must do more to help its citizens learn English and modernize themselves.  It is unclear if modern Chinese citizens are allowed to practice their English by googling this blog post.  (If you have, leave a comment!!)

The same page from the same document.  Left was declassified by the Department of State in 1997.  Right was declassified by NARA in 2002.

The same page declassified by different agencies. Left declassified by State in 1997. Right "declassified" by NARA in 2002.

This document also illustrates suppression of information by the American government.  Much of this innocuous conversation (including a reference to cigar relighting) was dubiously over-redacted when it was released in 2002 by the National Archive’s Nixon Presidential Materials Project.  Fortunately, the State Department had already declassified and released this document in full five years earlier.  This wasteful over-redaction exemplifies the subjectivity and over-zealousness often present in the American declassification process, and also leaves researchers wondering how often similar errors remain uncorrected.

As the two statesmen parted, Mao asked Kissinger if the derogatory words he had said about women could “be made nonexistent.”  Kissinger assured that they would be “removed from the record.”  But both wise men should have known better: its impossible to truly suppress the freedom of information.

4 Comments leave one →
  1. January 31, 2010 12:53 pm

    I’m a Chinese student and I read this blog. But right I’m in the United States, not very sure whether it is available in China, especially on the Chinese version of Google.

  2. Nate Jones permalink*
    January 31, 2010 7:24 pm

    Thx Anthony! We appreciate it!

  3. Gabe permalink
    September 29, 2010 9:48 pm

    Kissinger and David Rockefeller supported Mao..I guess if hitler was a romantic than the guy who killed 60 million was a Romeo…and Kissinger/David Rockefeller are like cupid. The truth is coming out and the regime will be brought down.

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