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Digital Archive International History Declassified

November 28, 1970


This document was made possible with support from the MacArthur Foundation, Leon Levy Foundation

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    Italy establishes diplomatic relations with the People's Republic of China.
    "Establishment of Diplomatic Relations between the Italian Republic and the People’s Republic of China," November 28, 1970, History and Public Policy Program Digital Archive, Historical Archive of the Italian Foreign Ministry. Obtained by Enrico Fardella and translated by Joe Caliò.
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Ministry of Foreign Affairs   Rome, November 28, 1970

D.G.P.A. - Off. XI


The problem of the recognition of the People's Republic of China was discussed publicly by the Italian government in 1964 when Saragat, then Minister of Foreign Affairs, stated that the resumption of contacts with Beijing was not a matter of "whether to do it," but of "when" it was appropriate to proceed with this. For some years, however, this attitude could not lead to concrete developments; the Cultural Revolution had driven the Beijing government into a position of self-isolation with regard to the international community.

Only in January 1969, when China moved to renew active contacts with the outside world, did the Italians decide - as announced by Foreign Minister Nenni - to start diplomatic steps towards the establishment of relations with the Beijing government.

Welcoming our initiative, the Chinese set out the terms of a possible agreement, reiterating essentially the approach that they had followed since 1954 towards all Western countries wishing to resume diplomatic relations.

This approach included the recognition of the government of the PRC as the sole legitimate government of China; the recognition of Chinese sovereignty over Taiwan, the breaking off of relations with Taipei and support for Beijing's position in the United Nations. During the communication that followed, it was made clear by the Italians that the various proposed requirements did not involve any substantial difficulty in principle, with the exception of those relating to the claim of sovereignty over Taiwan, a point on which we did not want to take a stand - it was deemed that it was not the choice of the Italian Government to establish the boundaries of the PRC. It was therefore confirmed that the Italian government was ready to take the decision to recognize the government of the PRC as the sole legitimate representative of China and to accept all the consequences within the above limits.

For this purpose, in December 1969, the Chinese were presented with the text of a brief statement containing just the announcement of mutual recognition, the establishment of diplomatic relations and the exchange of ambassadors (French formula). The Chinese continued to insist on proposing a statement that would incorporate the five constitutional principles of the PRC (those listed in the Italian-Chinese press release of November 6, 1970) and the claim on Taiwan. The Chinese accepted instead that the other claims (breaking with the government of the Republic of China and support at the United Nations) were no longer preconditions for the agreement.

On seeing that the Chinese had relinquished a break with Taiwan and support at the United Nations as preconditions, Italy floated the idea of following the communiqué with unilateral statements whose general outline could be the subject of an exchange of ideas; it was also confirmed that establishing diplomatic relations with Beijing would have therefore entailed the simultaneous breaking of relations between Italy and Taiwan.

Subsequently, on April 24, 1970, the Italians officially presented the Italian plan to the Chinese; it was set out in a joint release of the French type and a draft of Italy's unilateral declaration. The Chinese side reserved the right to ask for instructions from Beijing.

The continuation of the negotiations registered a pause to wait for the Chinese decision on the Italian plan and the outcome of the government crisis in Rome.

Between July and August 1970, in informal discussions, the Chinese proposed a draft joint communiqué that in addition to recalling the five well-known principles, involved the reassertion of the rights over Taiwan (but without requiring any stance on the part of Italy) and the recognition of the PRC as the sole legitimate government of China. The attitude instead was to exclude the issue of pre-arranged unilateral declarations. In the following month of November the Chinese declared the plan to be basically acceptable with some formal variations.

However in the meantime, the Sino-Canadian agreement for recognition was established. Chinese negotiators upheld their demand that the Italian side "take note" of the claim over Taiwan, a request that was granted by the Italians in slightly more nuanced terms for us than for the Canadians (in the communiqué of November 6th the Chinese "statement" and not their "position" is acknowledged).

The Italian side deemed it necessary to draw up a unilateral declaration (a requirement accepted by the Chinese), in which the Italian government mainly reaffirmed its position on the "status" of Taiwan, while also pointing out that it understood the importance that Beijing attaches to this issue.

The Chinese were informed of the contents of our unilateral declarations and did not raise any objections or make any comments.

With regard to relations with Taiwan, the Italian side decided to inform the representative in Rome of the forthcoming decision on the recognition of the PRC a few days before November 6th, stating that the terms reflected roughly the Canadian formula.

The communiqué on the establishment of diplomatic relations between Rome and Beijing was issued in the two capitals at 4 pm (Italian time) on November 6th and the ambassador of the government of Taiwan left Italy an hour later.

The establishment of diplomatic relations with the PRC is the natural conclusion of an approach which we had adopted over many years. This approach takes into account the reality off the situation and responds to the need to puruse the goal of peace and cooperation. As we have repeatedly stressed at the United Nations, we are convinced that one of the most important factors for the consolidation of peace is the universality of the UN. The world organization cannot succeed fully if a quarter of the global population does not cooperate.

The world needs China to participate in the construction of a sustainable and equitable peace; China, in turn, needs the world to develop the principles of collaboration and extensive contacts that are the only route to the welfare of the Chinese people, which, like all the peoples of the earth, aspire to improve living standards in a climate of social and international security.

In the light of these assumptions, the Italian government has deemed that, now, new objective circumstances give hope that the time is ripe for the establishment of diplomatic relations with a country like China, which accounts for such a large part of the human population and boasts centuries of history. It was our intention to indicate what we believe to be the right path towards facilitating the development of a détente with China (the signs of which appear to be currently emerging), country which seems to be heading towards a greater willingness to come out of the isolation that it has imposed on itself for too long.


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