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02.20.12

Winston Lord on Crafting the Shanghai Communique with Kissinger

Winston Lord, then an adviser to National Security Adviser Henry Kissinger, recalls how they wrote the ‘Shanghai Communique’ on a 1971 trip to China, months before Nixon’s historic summit.

On our October 1971 trip Kissinger gave Zhou En-Lai our draft of a joint communiqué for the looming summit. Per diplomatic custom, it accentuated the positive. After checking with Mao, Zhou treated our effort with scorn and derision. It did not reflect two decades of hostility and would unnerve our respective friends and publics. Each side should state its own positions and then converge on a few points.

We were leaving Beijing in 48 hours, and so, controlling our panic, we went to work. I finished a first draft at 4 a.m. and woke up Kissinger to revise it. There were still tough negotiations on Taiwan ahead, but the unprecedented Shanghai Communiqué was essentially written overnight.