Shanghai Communiqué

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The hall at Jinjiang Hotel, site of the signing of the communiqué.
Shanghai Communiqué
Simplified Chinese中华人民共和国和美利坚合众国联合公报

The Joint Communiqué of the United States of America and the People's Republic of China, also known as the Shanghai Communiqué (1972), was a diplomatic document issued by the United States of America and the People's Republic of China on February 27, 1972, on the last evening of President Richard Nixon's visit to China.[1][2][3]


National Security Advisor Henry Kissinger was sent to China for secret diplomatic missions in 1971, which included early deliberations over the communiqué and planning for Richard Nixon to visit the country.[4] Premier Zhou Enlai served as the Chinese liaison in the negotiations, with whom Kissinger had 25 hours of documented meetings. Kissinger did not use translators from the State Department due to concerns of leaking.

Kissinger's secret visits involved seven drafts over the contents of the Shanghai Communiqué. Kissinger was initially interested in drafting a communiqué that only mentioned the mutual interests between the United States and China, but Zhou sought to include disagreements between their respective states in order to create a more meaningful document. This move towards an honest representation of relations impressed Kissinger, who increasingly held a favorable view on Chinese leadership.[5]: 160–161 

Further negotiations over the communiqué took place with White House Chief of Staff General Alexander Haig representing the United States while preparing in China a month prior to Nixon's visit. Informed by the 1969 Sino-Soviet border conflict, Haig emphasized the border threat that the Soviet Union posed to China and argued that there was a significant mutual interest between the United States and China in information sharing and otherwise militarily countering the Soviet Union. Zhou and Mao Zedong both viewed the remarks as disingenuous and ignorant of Chinese defense capabilities. However, they believed that Haig's statements reflected a genuine desire from the United States for détente.[5]: 173–175 

Nixon's visit[edit]

During the February 1972 visit, the narrative of shared Sino-American interests in counteracting the Soviet Union were repeated numerous times by Nixon and Kissinger. Mao, when updated on Zhou Enlai's meetings with the American delegation, continued to be skeptical of the helpfulness of the security proposals. Zhou was somewhat responsive towards specific offers from Kissinger for aid in early warning detection.[5]: 239–244 

On February 25, disagreements over the contents of the communiqué arose within the American delegation. The communiqué at that point had recognized the security treaties the United States had entered with Japan and South Korea. Then Secretary of State William Rogers and diplomat Marshall Green rejected Nixon and Kissinger's intentional lack of mention of the Sino-American Mutual Defense Treaty signed with Taiwan in 1955, claiming that the absence was a betrayal of a close ally. Working with Qiao Guanhua,[6] Kissinger resolved the disagreement on February 26 by removing all language pertaining to treaties.[7]

The finished communiqué was signed on the evening of February 27, 1972 at the Jinjiang Hotel in Shanghai.[8][6] Nixon left China the following morning.[9]


The United States formally acknowledged that "all Chinese on either side of the Taiwan Strait maintain there is but one China". The use of the word "acknowledge" rather than "accept" is often cited as an example of the United States' ambiguous position regarding the future of Taiwan.[10] The agreed Chinese translation renders "acknowledges" as cheng ren (承认), which connotes recognition and acceptance.[11]: 131 

The communiqué also included wishes of a peaceful coexistence and to expand the economic and cultural contacts between the two nations through bilateral trade, although no concrete steps were mentioned. The communiqué stated that the normalization of relations would contribute "to the relaxation of tension in Asia and the world."[1]


"[W]hat we have said in that communiqué is not nearly as important as what we will do in the years ahead to build a bridge across 16,000 miles and 22 years of hostility which have divided us in the past."

Richard Nixon, speaking at a Shanghai banquet shortly after the issuing of the communiqué,[12] February 27, 1972

The Shanghai Communiqué represented the United States first diplomatic negotiations with People's Republic of China since its 1949 founding, and were the first official communications with the Chinese Communist Party since the 1944 to 1947 Dixie Mission.[citation needed]

In a March 1972 visit to Taipei, US diplomat Marshall Green argued to Taiwanese Foreign Minister Chow Shu-Kai that the acceptance of the communiqué represented a change in PRC priorities. Namely, Green argued the communiqué demonstrated that the PRC valued peace with the United States above confrontation with Taiwan, and subsequently increased the security of Taiwan.[5]: 211 

The aftermath of the Watergate scandal later in 1972 led Nixon to deprioritize further diplomatic efforts with the PRC.[13]

Relations between the two countries were officially normalized with the Joint Communiqué on the Establishment of Diplomatic Relations. The communique was issued on January 1, 1979, the same day that the Taiwan Relations Act also entered into force.[citation needed]

In a February 2017 opinion piece for The Diplomat, National Committee on U.S.-China Relations president Stephen Orlins praised the Shanghai Communiqué for the cross-Strait stability it offered for Taiwan. Orlins said the communiqué helps ensure confidence with Western investment in Taiwan because of the wide-ranging impacts of the opening of China and continued high-level cross-Strait dialogue.[14]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b Foreign Relations of the United States, 1969–1976, Volume XVII, China, 1969–1972, eds. Steven E. Phillips and Edward C. Keefer (Washington: Government Printing Office, 2006), Document 203.
  2. ^ Nixon, Richard M. (2005). Richard Nixon: 1972 : Containing the Public Messages, Speeches, and Statements of the President. pp. 376–379.
  3. ^ "Joint Communique of the United States of America and the People's Republic of China". Taiwan Documents Project. 1972-02-28. Retrieved 2019-02-19.
  4. ^ Chamberlain, Sharon; Gao, Bei; Zhao, Han (May 22, 2002). Burr, William (ed.). "The Lead-Up to Nixon's Trip to China: U.S. and Chinese Documents and Tapes". The National Security Archive. Retrieved 2022-01-30.
  5. ^ a b c d Goh, Evelyn (2005). Constructing the U.S. Rapprochement with China, 1961–1974 From "Red Menace" to "Tacit Ally". New York, United States: Cambridge University Press.
  6. ^ a b Kissinger, Henry (1979). The White House Years, 1968–1972. Little Brown and Co. pp. 1273–1278.
  7. ^ Chinoy, Mike; Stubing, Craig; Dube, Clayton; Saensradi, Venus; Gao, Catherine (2012-01-25). Assignment: China - "The Week That Changed The World". University of Southern California U.S.-China Institute. Event occurs at 50:09. Retrieved 2022-02-10.
  8. ^ "Kissinger warning on U.S.-China ties". CNN World. April 15, 2002. Retrieved 2022-02-23.
  9. ^ Haldeman, Harry Robbins (February 28, 1972), H. R. Haldeman Diaries Collection, January 18, 1969 – April 30, 1973 (PDF), National Archives and Records Administration
  10. ^ deLisle, Jacques (March 9, 2017). "Trump, Tsai, and the Three Communiques: Prospects for Stability in US-China-Taiwan Relations". Foreign Policy Research Institute. Retrieved 10 January 2021.
  11. ^ Marquis, Christopher; Qiao, Kunyuan (2022). Mao and Markets: The Communist Roots of Chinese Enterprise. Kunyuan Qiao. New Haven: Yale University Press. doi:10.2307/j.ctv3006z6k. ISBN 978-0-300-26883-6. JSTOR j.ctv3006z6k. OCLC 1348572572. S2CID 253067190.
  12. ^ "Text of Nixon Toast At Shanghai Dinner". The New York Times. 1972-02-28. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 2022-02-02.
  13. ^ "Shanghai Communiqué Issued | American Experience | PBS". Retrieved 2022-01-29.
  14. ^ Orlins, Stephen (February 28, 2017). "The Shanghai Communique: An American Foreign Policy Success, 45 Years Later". The Diplomat. Retrieved 2022-02-03.