Zhou and Kosygin discussed the conflicts in Vietnam. They discussed in details of providing logistic and political supports to North Vietnam.
February 6, 1965
Record of the First Contact between Premier Zhou and Vice Premier Chen Yi and Kosygin
This document was made possible with support from Henry Luce Foundation
绝密 文 75
周: 会议是来源于赫鲁晓夫.你们要在三月一日开的这个会, 是同十二月十五日的会议有联系的, 是同七月三十日的信有联系的。
Top Secret Document 75
Foreign Ministry Top Secret Files
Record of the First Contact and Conversation of Premier Zhou and Vice Premier Chen Yi with Kosygin and Others (5 February 1965)
(Premier and Vice Premier Chen have not yet reviewed)
Time: 3 p.m., 5 February 1965
Location: On the way from the airport to the Diaoyutai State Guest House
Part One: Record of Premier Zhou’s Conversation with [Premier Alexei] Kosygin
Part Two: Summary of Vice Premier Chen Yi’s Conversation with [CPSU Secretary Yuri] Andropov
Part Three: Summary of Other Comrades’ Conversations and Related Circumstances
Content Summary of Conversations
1. Kosygin proposed calling on Chairman Mao [Zedong] and President Liu [Shaoqi].
2. Kosygin spoke of the problems of South Vietnam and Laos, saying that it was necessary to help the United States in Vietnam develop a way out.
3. Kosygin said that in regard to the 1 March [Consultative] Meeting, they had a new situation and a new attitude.
4. Andropov said that this latest visit to Vietnam was mainly for strengthening relations between the two parties and the two countries. They discussed the issue of providing Vietnam’s military with technical assistance. He also said that the Soviet Union and China should talk with one another to support the Vietnamese people in their struggle and prepare to exchange views with him on this issue.
5. Andropov indicated that the Soviet side intended to use this occasion of passing through Beijing for an exchange of views with him on the issue of relations between the two parties and the two countries. He also said that the Soviet delegation after visiting was not going to visit other Southeast Asian countries and that, after a visit of four days to Vietnam, it remained for them to pass through Beijing on their return to the Soviet Union.
6. Andropov indicated that the Soviet delegation intended for an exchange of views with him regarding the 1 March Meeting. He also said that the Communist Party of the Soviet Union has already had another thought about this, that now they should in a new environment seek a good attitude, and that the Chinese comrades also should change their own position.
7. [First Deputy Foreign Minister Vasily V.] Kuznetsov said that [President Lyndon B.] Johnson and [Prime Minister Harold] Wilson both want to visit the Soviet Union and that Kosygin also will visit the United States and Britain, although the exact time remains undecided.
8. [Air Marshal Yevgeny F.] Loginov indicated that in future talks between the two sides on civil aviation (reference to negotiations on revision of the civil aviation agreement and its protocol), Soviet civil aviation will take heed not to harm the interests of Chinese civil aviation.
Record of Premier Zhou’s Conversation with Kosygin
(Interpreter: Yan Mingfu)
Kosygin: This is my first time to come to Beijing. How is your life?
Comrade Zhou Enlai (hereafter Zhou): Fine, a little busy.
Kosygin: If there is much work, that is good. If there is little work, ... [ellipsis in original]
Zhou: How are you?
Kosygin: Fine, thank you.
Zhou: The wind here is a bit stronger, and it is dry.
Kosygin: As I saw along the way, it certainly is dry.
Zhou: We have less snow here. How is it for you over there?
Kosygin: There is a great deal of snow in Irkutsk. I arrived last night in Irkutsk. The time difference was five hours. Not wanting to sleep, I took a walk in Irkutsk. There was a great deal of wind and snow, but the climate was very comfortable.
Zhou: Snow is good for you.
Kosygin: We also have a great deal of snow in Moscow. It has snowed heavily throughout Siberia. It has also snowed heavily in Kazakhstan.
Zhou: With much snow, it will be good for your harvest this year.
Kosygin: Of course it is good, but it does not have a decisive effect. In the end there are many unknown variables.
Zhou: Well, that is the way it is with agriculture.
Kosygin: That is not the way it is in the factory. In the factory, it is all clear. In agriculture, when people say it will be good, the result may be bad; when people say it will be bad, the result may be good.
Zhou: There are times when, seen from the surface, there is much growth, but in harvesting you see that all the grains have not fully ripened.
Kosygin: This is my first time to come to Beijing. All of our comrades asked me to give you their regards. The day before yesterday we had a meeting of our Central Committee Presidium. Brezhnev, [Presidium Chairman Nikolay] Podgorny and the other comrades all send you their regards.
Zhou: Thank you. Is Comrade Brezhnev well?
Kosygin: He is well. He is working.
Zhou: Is he not in worse health than you? He told me that he has heart trouble.
Kosygin: It is hard to figure out whose health is good and whose health is bad (laughs). He is in good health. [Former Central Committee Secretary Frol] Kozlov recently died.
Zhou: Yes, we all know about that.
Kosygin: He had been ill for two years. He could not move about on his own and needed two people to hold him to stand up. On the day he died, others took him to the table to eat. As soon as he was in his chair, he collapsed and died without uttering a word.
Zhou: Yes, people with such paralysis dread shaking.
Kosygin: He did not shake. He simply sat there and died. How is my schedule today? What are your thoughts?
Zhou: From here we go to the hotel. It will take some time, so we can talk a bit. Later, you will have lunch and rest in the afternoon. In the evening we can dine together. Before dinner you can rest.
Kosygin: Do you think it possible for us to go call on some people?
Zhou: What do you have in mind?
Kosygin: How shall I put this? If I may say so, if it were appropriate and acceptable, I would like to call on Comrade Mao Zedong and Comrade Liu Shaoqi, that is, if it would not be troublesome for you.
Zhou: This afternoon our comrades on the Central Committee must have talks with Comrade [Che] Guevara’s Cuban delegation. I will not participate. These comrades here and I have come specifically to receive you. They [Guevara’s delegation] arrived the day before yesterday. We already had discussions with them once yesterday and are going to continue talks today.
Kosygin: Of course, what I have just said is my personal remark. Although we are neighbors, we do not have much contact, so today we have an opportunity to talk a bit.
Zhou: I shall pass you remarks to them.
Kosygin: If anything comes of it, let me know.
Zhou: We are very happy that you went this time to visit Vietnam. This is because Vietnam is at the forefront of the struggle against the United States. If we were to speak of a hot war, then that would be the region where the most intense fighting would take place. As for the United States, that area is also for them the greatest headache, which they have brought about themselves.
Kosygin: The Americans are very uneasy about our trip to Vietnam.
Zhou: They are paying great attention to it. They have sent [National Security Advisor McGeorge] Bundy to South Vietnam but declared multiple times that it had nothing to do with the Soviet Premier’s visit. The armed struggle of the people of South Vietnam is progressing very well.
Kosygin: Very well.
Zhou: This is a war of the entire people. Even in their dense waterway net regions, they have beaten the US military and the puppet army. One can say that at present they are fighting even better than when we resisted Japan. The newcomers come to the fore.
Kosygin: They have put to use your experience.
Zhou: They have put to use yours and our positive experience and negative experience.
Kosygin: You and we both fought long battles and we know what war is.
Zhou: They need support and need assistance. Therefore, you going this time and being able to support them is a good deed.
Kosygin: Yes, I think that it would be good if we can act together on this problem. One should even say that it would be better.
Zhou: For victory in the struggle against the United States, we should act together. At present the United States is feeling that it is in exceptional difficulty and is continuing to fight. The United States has no confidence and no way out. Did you not tell us the key point of [Foreign Minister Andrei] Gromyko’s conversation with the Americans? Did they also not talk about this issue? However, they certainly will not willingly withdraw.
Kosygin: We need to help them to find a way out of Vietnam. It is not a matter of finding a way out for them, but it is one of letting them in Vietnam open a way out.
Zhou: Right. Opening a way out is what is called their withdrawal. They still do not dare.
Kosygin: Withdrawal is their only way out.
Zhou: They themselves broke the 1954 Geneva Conference Accords. We both participated in the Geneva Conference. The Geneva Accords said that Vietnam had to implement a policy of non-alignment. The Democratic Republic of Vietnam adheres to the agreement. South Vietnam, however, from Ngo Dinh Diem to Nguyen Khanh, has broken this agreement. The United States has directly carried out armed interference in violation of the Geneva Accords. It is the United States that has incited armed interference. By no means have we incited it. Therefore, we are perfectly justified in helping the Democratic Republic of Vietnam and helping the people of South Vietnam. If they withdraw, the people of South Vietnam themselves will resolve their own problems themselves. North Vietnam will not interfere. The people of Vietnam themselves will choose their own system and government. Only in a second step would the people of the two Vietnams themselves choose their own system and government.
Kosygin: Comrade Zhou Enlai, excuse me for interrupting you, but why are there so many people here wearing masks?
Zhou: There is sand blown by the wind, people want to block the wind, are afraid of catching a cold, and are preventing colds. This is particularly the case for people walking on the road for long distances. Some people have experience. Accustomed to walking long distances on the road, they do not wear a mask. See, there are also people not wearing masks.
Kosygin: Excuse me for interrupting your talk.
Zhou: It doesn’t matter. Therefore, as we see, in accordance with the 1954 Geneva Accords, that issue can be resolved. But the Americans say that this is a problem of face and say that they would lose face. However, this face is what they themselves are going to lose. Therefore, the problem is like this: They are in a very awkward situation, one into which they have fallen and cannot beat, but still they refuse to leave. They are clamoring that they have to stay there and fight for 10 years. Then let them fight there for 10 years. However, this is empty talk. No sooner does South Vietnam’s puppet regime have any problem than the White House immediately becomes nervous. They have also threatened that they are going to expand the war and fight a Korean-style war. Fine, let them go ahead.
Kosygin: When [Secretary of State Dean] Rusk and I discussed this problem, I also spoke that way.
Zhou: Only in speaking about the issue this way with them will they begin to consider it.
Kosygin: This problem, as they see it, is a simple one.
Zhou: Yes. Of course, for them it is also an issue of domestic politics, an issue of allies, and an issue of influence in Asia.
Kosygin: They mainly consider it a problem of face.
Zhou: This problem is one that they have brought about themselves. Nobody asked them to go there.
Kosygin: I agree with your general assessment regarding the situation in Vietnam.
Zhou: Nor have we been the ones who have gone and incited. We are strictly protecting our own borders. Of course, there is gathered on our border a large number of soldiers.
Kosygin: We know.
Zhou: However, by no means do we make one move beyond. We do this in order to prevent any contingency and prevent US provocations. They sent many U-2 aircraft and unmanned aircraft to take photographs and conduct reconnaissance. We shot down several aircraft. They also know that we have gathered a large number of soldiers. We have declared to them that we are well prepared but that we do not want to expand the war. If you make a move there, then we will make a move there. The Korean War, also, has not extended to a global scope. We have always adhered to these principles. We do not make the first move. If they make the first move, then we follow and make a move. They have to consider this. Therefore, it is good that you went this time to see things.
Kosygin: Yes, we went and understood the situation.
Zhou: Support for the Vietnamese people is not only support for Vietnam but is also related to the Lao Patriotic Front and the Kingdom of Cambodia, as they share common interests.
Kosygin: The situation in Laos, too, is very complicated.
Zhou: This, too, is something that the United States has single-handedly brought about. Look, in 1961 and 1962, we made great efforts, and the Americans signed the 1962 Geneva Accords. [Prince] Phouma went to see you and spoke well. He came to see us here and spoke well. Then he was also prepared to go to France and from there to Britain. He indicated that he wanted to establish a good, unified government. However, as soon as we returned, the United States directed the rightists to carry out a coup d’etat, wrecking the coalition government and resulting in the present situation. Now they are continuously quarreling and fighting among themselves.
Kosygin: Do you mean to say that they started military operations?
Zhou: Yes. All along they have been fighting, and there have been deaths.
Kosygin: Who has been killed?
Zhou: Between them some soldiers on both sides have died. Let them fight among themselves and continuously carry out coups d’etat.
Kosygin: Saigon, too, is continuously experiencing coups d’etat.
Zhou: Since the killing of Ngo Dinh Diem and his brother by the Americans, there have already been eight coups d’etat.
Kosygin: They will carry out 28 coups d’etat there.
Kosygin: They continuously carry out coups d’etat there.
Zhou: Therefore, we need not worry.
Kosygin: We won’t, we won’t. We are not at all uneasy. When I last saw Phouma, it was on his way back from France.
Zhou: He originally was thinking of implementing a policy of neutrality. Because of his having such an inclination, rightist elements carried out a coup d’etat and completely made him their captive. He now entirely listens to the United States and the rightists. Of course, his so-called move to neutrality is nothing more than drawing a bit closer to France. The United States does not permit even this. At present De Gaulle, too, has expressed disappointment in him.
Kosygin: When I had a conversation with him, I asked him, why do you need to accept the Americans’ weapons? He said, then you give me weapons. You give the Lao Patriotic Front weapons, and the Lao Patriotic Front fights us. If they fight, we fight. What on earth am I, this poor peasant, to do? Everywhere I am beaten up. If you gave me weapons, I then would not need US weapons.
Zhou: However, in fact there has never been any major fighting there.
Kosygin: Yes, yes.
Zhou: If we need to talk about really major fighting, there is the US bombing. But now the people there have learned how to shoot down aircraft.
Kosygin: They do not shoot down many of them.
Zhou: The Americans are forcing them to do this, too.
Kosygin: In any event, the situation in Laos is not simple. Laos has many groups with different points of view and different inclinations.
Zhou: It is best to let them fight among themselves.
Kosygin: It is best not to fight.
Zhou: Without fighting, everyone will talk of uniting but will not unite. Did not the three parties go to Paris for a conference? The Lao Patriotic Front also sent people and did not speak of any result.
Kosygin: Yes, all the representatives of the parties passed through Moscow on their return from Paris and met with us.
Zhou: So long as Phouma colludes with the rightists, there will be no results.
Kosygin: Phouma has accused [Prince] Souphanouvong of not wanting to talk with him.
Zhou: That’s the way it is there. Let the rightists stir up trouble among themselves. Let the rightists fight among themselves. So let the rightists and neutralists fight among themselves.
Kosygin: If this were the case, then fine. In fact, however, this is not the case. Mainly, it is that there are external forces there at work.
Zhou: The external forces are the United States. Let the United States become bogged down there.
Kosygin: Sorry, what is that place there? Why is it built with a wall around it?
Zhou: Those there are worker residences.
Kosygin: Why do they all have a wall around them?
Zhou: This is a custom. They also can block the sand blown by the wind.
Kosygin: This building, what place is it?
Zhou: This is a factory.
Kosygin: Which factory?
Zhou: This is the Beijing Automobile Parts Factory. Let the United States get bogged down there up to its mud-covered legs. Its say in the world will weaken and the whole world’s struggle against the United States will develop further.
Kosygin: Yes. Of course, while bogged down the United States goes ahead in this region without even knowing how to disengage.
Zhou: Yes. This is beneficial for the people of the world in their struggle against imperialism and their struggle against the United States.
Zhou: Therefore, since you have come here, we should cooperate in supporting the struggle of Vietnam, Laos, and the people of Indochina against imperialism.
Kosygin: Yes. I think that, if we can find common ground, we can discuss some major measures.
Zhou: If so, then why do you still have to open the meeting [Consultative Meeting of Representatives of Communist and Workers' Parties in Moscow] on 1 March?
Kosygin: 1 May, oh, 1 March. If you are willing to listen to me, then I can have a good talk with you and will talk with you about many interesting situations. This is one topic of conversation. If you are willing to listen to what I have to say on this issue, if there is such a desire, then I can talk about many new situations.
Zhou: Yes! I recall, Comrade Kosygin, that when seeing me off you said that you wanted to bear the heavy burden of the past. Well, then, this meeting on 1 March, too, is a heavy burden.
Kosygin: I think that, on this issue, we have a new situation and we have a new attitude.
Zhou: But you continue with this burden! You know our attitude. I talked about it the last time as well. Did I not advise you to start again from scratch? Start from bilateral and multilateral talks! Create the conditions!
Kosygin: Do you know what? I want to tell you that you are completely mistaken. On this issue, you happened to bear burdens it just so happened that you bore burdens that were beneficial for [former Premier Nikita] Khrushchev. This is what I want to say to you. Why do I say this? It is because this way of doing things was advantageous in regard to Khrushchev, but it is not in order to be with us.
Zhou: Not necessarily.
Kosygin: I can explain it to you.
Zhou: The meeting originated with Khrushchev. The meeting that you are going to open on 1 March is related to the meeting of 15 December and the meeting of 30 July.
Kosygin: Everything you have said is correct.
Zhou: Your new leaders at the start could have made another proposal and started from scratch.
Kosygin: Comrade Zhou Enlai, we put forward new suggestions. You did not want to hear them! But this issue cannot be discussed in the car. We can discuss this issue. You must have known that I was passing through Beijing and that we could still discuss it! Can it be that we only can use this chance opportunity to discuss this issue?
Zhou: Well, of course, we have to discuss it!
Kosygin: I think that this is very important issue, one related to the entire International Communist Movement. I say to you in all seriousness that it is you who provided grist to the mill for Khrushchev, not us. We are willing to talk with you, but you are not willing to talk with us.
Zhou: This is a bit strange.
Kosygin: This is the dialectic method. Is this the main street of Beijing?
Zhou: This is the Beijing Hotel. This is the avenue that runs from the east of the palace through to the west of the palace.
Kosygin: This is a very beautiful street.
Zhou: Those are the red walls built in the feudal era. These two buildings were built in 1959: one is the History Museum and the other is the Great Hall of the People.
Kosygin: What monument is this?
Zhou: It is a monument to the people’s revolutionary martyrs, those who sacrificed themselves from the Opium War to the founding of the nation. This is our Gate of Heavenly Peace [Tiananmen].
Kosygin: Is this a place for review of the troops? It is a great place.
Zhou: The building area of the Great Hall of the People is 150,000 square meters.
Kosygin: This is your legislative building.
Zhou: It is the place of the General Office of the Standing Committee of the National People’s Congress. There is also the Great Auditorium and the Banquet Hall.
Kosygin: I like it very much. The building is very beautiful. Bud I wonder: how is the lighting inside?
Zhou: There is not enough sunlight, of course, but the lighting is good.
Kosygin: Where are we now?
Zhou: This is Zhongnanhai, which in the past was the winter residence of the emperors. One could think of it as the Winter Palace. Here now is the area of the CPC Central Committee and the General Affairs Office of the State Council.
Kosygin: This is the Council of Ministers?
Kosygin: Comrade Zhou Enlai, you have occupied the area of the imperial residence. (laughter)
Zhou: Your Kremlin, too, belonged to the emperor in the past!
Kosygin: At that time the czar was living in Petersburg. The Kremlin was not the imperial palace. But Comrade Zhou Enlai, you grabbed the place where the emperor lived. (laughter)
Zhou: The last one was Chiang Kai-shek, who was living at that time in Nanjing!
Kosygin: I myself am a Leningrader. I saw the czar review the troops. I threw stones at the former police. I grew up in the workers’ district – Vyborgsky District.
Zhou: In front of us here is the Cultural Palace of Nationalities.
Kosygin: When was it built? Is it newly built, or is it an old building?
Zhou: It is a new one, also built in 1959.
Kosygin: Is it built according to the old style?
Zhou: It is according to the national style. There is the National Hotel.
Kosygin: Does it have 11 stories? We decided to build buildings of 10 and 11 stories in Moscow. Khrushchev at that time made a mess of it. He ordered that only buildings of five stories could be built. We told him that it was wrong to do it that way. He said: You don't understand anything. We can only build five stories. I said to him: You say that we don't understand anything, but in fact it is you who doesn't understand anything. We have now cancelled that order.
Zhou: That there is the television building.
Kosygin: How many cities in China have television stations?
Zhou: Nearly 10 cities, including Shanghai, Tianjin, Shenyang, and Guangzhou.
Kosygin: Are there many television sets?
Zhou: Not many.
Kosygin: Roughly how many?
Zhou: I cannot answer you right away.
Kosygin: Television is a very interesting problem. Such countries as the United States, Italy, and France are all trapped in black &white television! Everybody has bought a black & white television set. Changing to color will take at least 10 years. We can pass over black & white and directly do it in color. This way, in several years we could run ahead of them. They are talking big now but will fall behind in the future.
Zhou: This would be another example of those who start late passing those who started early.
Kosygin: We want to do something interesting about this problem of popularizing television. I discussed this problem with specialists from France and West Germany. The United States has started to do color televisions, roughly one million of them, while there are 50 million black & white television sets. It is not a simple matter to change. Our black & white sets are nearly 20 million. If we changed at a stroke to color, we could surpass them. The most important thing is not to let US color television invade Western Europe. They are one system, and we are another system. If we promote our own television system in Europe, they cannot enter. The French are now studying this problem. We are cooperating with the French. This way, the Americans will not enter.
Zhou: Cooperating with the French and rejecting the United States is a good decision.
Kosygin: We have had talks on this problem with De Gaulle. On this problem, you also can do the same in Asia.
Zhou: We still do not have such great power.
Kosygin: Let’s do it together! You are always opposing us, saying that we are Khrushchev elements. We have not stuck a label on you. We drove out Khrushchev, and you call us Khrushchev elements. To hell with Khrushchev elements!
Zhou: You drove out Khrushchev, and we are not opposed to it!
Kosygin: But you still call us Khrushchev elements! Comrade Zhou Enlai, this is a weak point of yours. You will see. History will prove you wrong.
Summary of Conversation after Arriving at the Hotel
(notes written from memory after the event)
Kosygin: Do you approve of this trip of ours to Vietnam?
Zhou: I did not say it at the start, but we are very happy that you visited Vietnam and gave support and aid to the Vietnamese people.
Kosygin: Yes. This time we mainly listened to the views of the Vietnamese comrades and spoke of our views. It was mainly internal talks. We went to work. There were fewer mass spectacles.
Zhou: The support of the public support is still necessary, and one can express it in the banquet speech.
Kosygin: They arranged a mass meeting. In my speech I certainly wanted to express my public support in my speech. What made an impression on the Americans was that we had internal talks. I am very busy with work, so I was only able to stay four days in Vietnam.
Zhou: So, you are returning on the 10th.
Zhou: This is your first to visit overseas since taking office.
Kosygin: Yes. Quite a few countries invited me to visit after taking office. For example, there was West Germany. I have already rejected it. Wilson, too, has many times invited me. After he came to power, we still thought that they would be better, but things are worse and worse. Therefore, we have agreed to visit Britain, but we have to discuss separately the specific dates. We will have Gromyko visit there first, and the time for my visit will be delayed. I find that you seem to have a good attitude towards the Wilson government on certain issues, right?
Zhou: What is your basis for talking that way?
Kosygin: For example, you think that Britain’s proposal for a joint nuclear force is better than that of the United States!
Zhou: This is completely the West’s provocation and rumor. Show me the evidence!
Kosygin: I will bring it.
Zhou: When their trade minister arrived, I criticized to his face their policies on the issues of two Chinas, the United Nations, the North Atlantic Treaty Organization’s joint nuclear force, and Malaysia. Labor Party elements, like the Conservatives, are all imperialist elements, but at times they are even worse than the Conservatives. They talk of one thing, and then they do the opposite.
Kosygin: This is a chronic problem. I have had many conversations with that trade minister. I agree with your assessment of him.
Premier Zhou and others meet to discuss the current situations in South Vietnam and Laos, U.S. and Soviet strategy, and Chinese-Soviet competition over civil aviation, among other pressing issues.
- Vietnam War, 1961-1975
- Geneva Conference (1954)
- Soviet Union--Foreign relations--United States
- China--Foreign relations--Soviet Union
- China--Foreign relations--United States
- China--Foreign relations--Vietnam (Democratic Republic)
- Soviet Union--Foreign relations--Vietnam (Democratic Republic)
- Laos--Foreign relations--Soviet Union
- China--Economic conditions
- China--Foreign relations--Laos
- Laos--History--20th century
- China--Economic policy--1949-1976
- Vietnam War, 1961-1975--Soviet Union
- Laos--Politics and government
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