Bush Diary Entries – June/July ’89

[Representative Steve] Solarz on the left and [Senator Jesse] Helms on the right want us to move much more radically. Helms has always detested this relationship, and Solarz [, who wants me to recall our Ambassador,] is the guy who wants to overthrow no matter who’s involved. He’s the kind of guy that was delighted about the overthrow of Shah, not worrying about what follows on.

I talked to Nixon at 8:00 AM, and he was saying, “don’t disrupt the relationship. What’s happened has been handled badly and is deplorable, but take a look at the long haul.” I told him I was not going to recall [Ambassador] Lilley, and he thought that was good. He doesn’t think we should stop our trade [and should do] something symbolic, but we must have a good relationship in the long run…and that is what I will try to do while denouncing the violence and abuse of power…The reports from China are still crazy…There are rumors that “Li Peng has been shot,” and rumors that “Deng was dead.” All of this tells me to be cautious and calm.

June 10, 1989
Dissident Fang is in our embassy, and it turns out his wife may have been supported by unfriendly elements, and this will make the Chinese even more outraged. We had no choice but to take him in, but it’s going to be a real stick in the eyes to the Chinese.

At the press conference, I pointed out we weren’t sure who was in charge, but then yesterday–the day after the press conference–Deng and Li Peng…reappeared, and the stories are [that] all the hard-liners are in charge. China needs to make a clear statement about reform, and going forward. It would be good if they could make some statement of regret about what happened; but they seem to be circling the wagons, going after students, and showing pictures of soldiers that were abused… I want to preserve the relationship, but I must also make clear that the US cannot condone this kind of human rights brutality. You have the networks, led principally by Dan Rather, pitching everything with the highest emotional content and driving to…almost break relations with China, and that I don’t want.

June 20, 1989
…I’m sending signals to China that we want the relationship to stay intact, but it’s hard when they’re executing people, and we have to respond. We’ve got to stand for what this country believes in–human rights, right for peaceful protests, etc. They killed three guys yesterday who allegedly burned a train in Shanghai, but I hope they won’t go after all the student organizers in Beijing with the same brutality. Dissident Fang is making things much worse and Fang’s son showed up at a hearing under the patronage of Jesse Helms–stupid–and it just makes things worse.

It’s the morning of Wednesday, June 21. I told Brent Scowcroft that I wanted to [ask] Han Xu if he felt [sending an emmissary] was worth doing. I went to a meeting…and during that hour, Brent talked to Han Xu [who] said he wanted to come over. So within a couple of minutes of Brent having set the appointment up–and without me even knowing about it because he had not had time to get back to me–we got a press inquiry saying, is the President going to meet with Han Xu? Absolutely unbelievable. I walked down to Brent’s office to talk about it, and Patty Presock was the only one who had some inkling of it; but the next thing she knew, she got a call from Brent’s office, and it was overheard, apparently, by the press office. A terrible situation. So we immediately canceled the meeting. We cannot have a meeting like this in public–it just escalates our concern or attention to the matter.

June 24, 1989
It’s June 24th…much to our surprise, on Thursday–less than 24hours later–we got back a personal response [from Deng]. He accepts my idea of a personal emissary. [The question is “who?”] Jim Baker does not want to be undermined, so I thought of a lot of alternatives: Kissinger and Nixon–too high profile, and too much propensity for leakage, though both would be very good; [John] Holdridge or other ambassadors–not enough standing; and Jim Lilley–no good, because of the dissident Fang. I don’t want to embarrass Lilley by leaving him out to dry, but I don’t want to undermine Baker’s running foreign policy. I want to get the best expert who knows Deng–and that is Scowcroft. So on Saturday morning, I proposed to Brent that it be him and Eagleburger, and he’s agreeable; I called Baker, and he’s agreeable; and so we’ll have a meeting on Sunday afternoon.

The plan at this point is to have an over-the-top flight in an unmarked plane going into some Chinese base. It’s highly sensitive, China is blasting the United States for interfering in their internal affairs, and we are criticizing China, though not as vociferously as most in the congress would like me to do. This has been a very delicate matter–how to handle this relationship. China is back on track a little with the Soviets, and they could indeed come back in much stronger if we move unilaterally against them and cut them off from the west. Deng still worries about “encirclement,” and so do I.

The dissident [Fang] matter is horrible. There was a little squib in intelligence that they might condemn him and kick him out [of the country], and that would be the best answer right now…So far, we’re getting reasonable marks for the way we’re handling it, and good support from Broomfield, Foley, and Lee Hamilton. The Senate is in a little more disarray, and Lloyd Bentsen told me today that he wants to help. It’s highly complex, and yet, I’m determined to try to preserve this relationship–cool the rhetoric. I feel deeply offended by what China has done with the students and the others who courageously stood their ground. And I’m upset that Zhao Ziyang has been kicked out. But I rememebered his lecture to us on reform and “caution.” I take this whole relationship very personally, and I want to handle it [that way].

July 9, 1989
It’s now July 9th, and we’re three hours out on our way to Poland. Down below is a bright blue Atlantic that you can see forever, and the gleaming blue and silver engines on Air Force One are over my right shoulder…China still worries me. We see nothing that I really want China to do in order to solve the existing problem of strained relations, and I don’t think any other Western country does. I think they’re glad I’m holding the line. They can be out front with more rhetorical overkill, but I will continue to try and hold the line, though I am uneasy about my ability to keep this relationship on track. As long as China tries to say there was no massacre in Tiananmen Square, no lives lost except for the lives of Chinese soldiers, then the matter will not be quiet.