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September 21, 1961

Transcript of Conversation between Zhou Enlai and Bernard Law Montgomery

This document was made possible with support from Chun & Jane Chiu Family Foundation




(SEPTEMBER 21, 1961)


FIELD MARSHALL MONTGOMERY (hereafter shortened to Montgomery):  I’d like to ask how the Premier sees the current international situation?  I’ve been through two world wars, and each time after the war political leaders all said that there will not be another war, but both times war, revolution, and national movements again caused the world to descend into chaos. Western political leaders have no way to break free of this chaotic situation.  At the banquet hosted by Marshall Chen Yi I proposed three principles, which I feel may bring the world out of this chaotic situation.  I had mentioned these three principles separately in the past, but I hadn’t brought them up all at once, but that evening I presented them together.  Of course, the United States won’t like them, but then, many of my positions are not welcomed by the U.S., and I don’t care.  I believe that the majority of people in the West, the ordinary common people, would agree with my opinion, and quite a few governments also would agree with my opinion.  The British government also agrees, but it doesn’t dare say so, out of fear of offending the U.S.  I’ve come to the conclusion that it is necessary to mobilize international opinion in support of these three points.  I don’t believe there can be lasting peace before foreign armies withdraw.  As long as there are still foreign armies occupying other countries’ territory, prepared at any time to carry out military actions, that will surely poison East-West relations, and can only increase the mutual suspicion and lack of trust between East and West. Some political leaders want to achieve disarmament, but they don’t understand that only by bringing all troops back to their home countries will it be possible to achieve disarmament.  But, on the contrary, they keep increasing the military forces stationed overseas – resulting in increased mutual suspicion and distrust.  I think this shows a complete lack of common sense.  I believe that ordinary people would agree with this point. I have this conviction, that is only when all occupying forces are withdrawn, and all military preparedness is abandoned, then it will be possible to have a lasting peace.  If we maintain the present situation, the stalemate will continue and it will be dangerous if the stalemate continues for a long time.  Although there might not be nuclear war, there will be other threats.  To put it simply, they are trying to use the wealth of the world to destroy the world’s wealth, instead of to raise the standard of people’s lives, education and health.  I think this is simply madness.  But, political leaders have no way to get out of this kind of stalemate; maybe it would be better without those politicians.


Premier Zhou Enlai (hereafter shortened to Zhou): I was delighted to hear your speech at Marshall Chen Yi’s banquet, and I also read your article, in which you summarized your three basic principles, which we completely agree and support.  At tomorrow’s banquet, I intend to express our support for your three basic principles.

These three basic principles are interrelated, and can be implemented separately, or can be implemented simultaneously.  First, there can only be one China, and Taiwan is Chinese territory.  This is a just claim, and in accordance with the public opinion of the Chinese people and progressive world public opinion.  This issue was first encountered at The Sixteenth General Assembly of the United Nations, and now there are already two proposals.  New Zealand’s proposal represents the U.S. position, advocating that the question of restoring China’s right of representation be treated as an “important question,” which, according to Article 18 of the United Nations Charter, requires a two-thirds majority in order to pass.  The objective of this is to shelve the question, or to put it off for another year, or turn it over to a small committee for study, with the result being procrastination.  This meets the U.S.’s needs.  The other proposal is the Soviet Union’s, which advocates restoring China’s lawful right of representation at the United Nations and expelling the Chiang Kai-shek [Jiang Jieshi] clique from the United Nations.  I believe that the Soviet Union’s proposal is in accordance with your principles.  The question of restoring China’s right of representation is a procedural question.  Who can represent the six hundred and fifty million people of China?  Only what you refer to as the “Beijing government,” and not the Taiwan of Chiang Kai-shek.  If the proposal of the United States and New Zealand is accepted, and the question of China’s representation is discussed under the rubric of an “important question”, then the discussion will be about China’s existence, which will be an interference in China’s internal affairs, which therefore would be contrary to the United Nations’ Charter.  The General Assembly can only discuss international issues as “important questions” and not the internal affairs of a single country.  How can domestic political questions be appropriate for discussion by the United Nations?  This conflict at the United Nations is a test, a test of how many countries are friendly towards China, how many are for the position that you have expressed, how many countries are opposed to this position, and how many countries are wavering in between the two.

The second is the question of the two Germanies.  At present there can only be two Germanies, it isn’t possible for a single Germany to appear. At present we can only accept this fait accompli after the Second World War.  This is necessary if we are to create a more amicable situation.


The third point is even more critical, that is for all foreign military forces return to their own national territory. This is a more just and more comprehensive position.  Not only do we support it, but Khrushchev, in his July 8th commencement address at the Soviet Military Academy, has also voiced his support.


Montgomery:  I have read it.


Zhou: We not only support the return of all foreign military forces to their national territory, we have even already implemented it.  We withdrew the Chinese People’s Volunteers from South Korea without waiting for the United States to agree to withdraw its forces from South Korea.  At present American forces are still in South Korea, but we have not a single soldier overseas.  On the contrary, the United States has troops stationed on Chinese soil in Taiwan and the Taiwan Straits.  So, we raise both hands in support of your position.

The United States is most unwilling to accept the withdrawal of military forces stationed overseas.  The United States has built military bases in over half of the world, to station its forces: if they were all to be withdrawn, it would lose control over those places.  In fact, I think that not withdrawing its forces will be offensive to the local people, the result will be as Chairman Mao has said, all the bases will turn into nooses, immobilizing the United States, and in the end it will be chased away anyway.  

If the United States were to accept your position, it could in fact get out of this reactive situation, and would bring about the conditions for peaceful coexistence.  If both sides all withdrew their overseas based troops, perhaps the United States might feel concerned, and worry about removing them too far away all.  They say, China is very close to North Korea, just on the other side of the Yalu River.  If the United States were to withdraw, the nearest it could withdraw to would be Japan, or to American territory on the eastern shores of the Pacific.  We believe there is a way to resolve this.  The major countries could make a treaty; the Security Council has the five major countries, and with the addition of some neutral countries, can convene a major power conference to discuss and resolve [this issue].  We have already proposed that the countries of the Asia-Pacific region make a mutual non-aggression treaty.  Therefore we are very much in favor of your third proposal, which may be used as a pre-condition for achieving complete disarmament.


* This is an excerpt from a conversation with British Field Marshall Bernard Law Montgomery.

Premier Zhou speaks with Viscount Montgomery of Alamein about propositions to ease international tensions. Zhou agrees with Montgomery's three propositions one of which is withdrawal of foreign troops from other countries territory. Zhou proposes withdrawal of U.S. troops from South Korea and Taiwan cross straits. Also, on the Taiwan issue, Zhou says that there is only one China and Taiwan is a part of China. Zhou believes that Taiwan issue is a internal domestic issue that should not be discussed by the UN.

Document Information


Zhou Enlai Waijiao wenxuan [Selected Diplomatic Papers of Zhou Enlai] (Beijing: Zhongyang wenxian, 1990), pp. 311-315. Translated by Simon Schuchat.


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