BRIAN LAMB, HOST: Patrick Tyler, author of "A Great Wall," you tell a story about February, the 19th, 1997, Kazakhstan, the China border. Could you retell that for us?
Mr. PATRICK TYLER, AUTHOR, "A GREAT WALL": February 19th, 1997, in Kazakhstan, that was the day that Deng Xiaoping died, the paramount leader of China, and I was as far away from Beijing, the capital, where I was supposed to be, as you could be and still be in China. And I came across that border because I was trying to get out West where there was some Muslim unrest in the Muslim communities of western China. And, boy, I came off the bus, and the police were all over me and saw my journalist stamp and my passport and put up a call. And they took me to a hotel and did a four-hour inspection of my luggage to see if anything was wrong. And I thought I was going to be arrested and, basically, carted back to Beijing when the call came through from one of my colleagues that Reuters, the news agency in Beijing, was reporting the death of Deng Xiaoping.
And I tore out of there in the middle of the night. I broke out of that hotel, ran down a darkened road with all my luggage bouncing off my back and some secret police agents in pursuit way behind and hitched a ride--eight-hour ride across the desert, got on a plane and the last plane going East that day. And I was sitting there in relief, thinking, `I'm going to make it back to Beijing 24 hours after he died.' And I thought, `I'm sitting on a plane full of Chinese who must be just full of turmoil about the moment in history that we are passing through.'
And my nervous anxiety and energy bolted me up out of that chair, and I walked the aisles of that plane for the next two hours, asking these Chinese, `What's it mean to you? What are you thinking about today?' And they were all almost thinking about the same thing: with Deng gone, the man who ignited the transformation, the economic revolution in China with his agricultural reforms and then his industrial reforms in 1978 and through the '80s that had caused a quadrupling of the Gross National Product of China, what was going to happen? Was China going to fall back into the mess and the chaos of the Mao period with constant political struggles, or was somebody going to carry the reform period forward? These Chinese, all of whom were trying to just--out to better the circumstances of their family, their businesses and change China, were mostly focused on that core economic, political question.
LAMB: In February of 1997, what were you doing in China?
Mr. TYLER: I was the bureau chief of The New York Times. I was in my final year, and I'd already decided that Deng Xiaoping was going to outlive my tour, and I was sure that he was going to be a healthy man when I left China. And he had been in a long deterioration because of Parkinson's disease and finally succumbed. It was quite surprising. It's always surprising the moment it comes, no matter how many years you've been waiting for it.
LAMB: How long had you been in the country?
Mr. TYLER: I had been in the country since the summer of 1993 and had been in every province of the country and seen every corner and every issue from the river valleys to the agricultural lands to the mountain areas and to the industrial heartland of China. And as I say, I thought I was going to leave the country with Deng Xiaoping still laying there nominally in charge of the party apparatus.
LAMB: See this map of China you've got inside your book, and you have to go--say Beijing's over on the right-hand side. You were all the way over to the left, where...
Mr. TYLER: I was way over there, almost to Afghanistan. That's how far it was. Kazakhstan is in Central Asia. I think it was probably 3,500 miles from Beijing.
LAMB: The thing that--you know, you tell a story, but did you have freedom to go anywhere in the country?
Mr. TYLER: Nominally, I did not. I was supposed to have permission to go anywhere I want. So I had flown to Kazakhstan to get around the rules 'cause if I went to another country and then re-entered China, I could say I was simply on my way to Beijing and pass through the sensitive region, where the Muslims had been rioting during the holy month of Ramadan.
LAMB: And you could enter that part of China, and they would not ordinarily have given you any trouble at all?
Mr. TYLER: I didn't know. I mean, you could certainly--you--there are entries to China where I had come across the border, say from Hong Kong, where I had never been bothered before. You would come in in a seaport, and it was not sensitive. You could fly into Shanghai. I had never crossed this border, and I was taking a gamble because I was really curious about what the state of Muslim unrest was in far west China.
LAMB: Had you ever been in any trouble like this before during your time in China?
Mr. TYLER: Yeah. Brian, you can't work there as The New York Times correspondent or as The Washington Post correspondent for four years and not get in trouble because you--you have to break the rules in order to do your job. In order to get down to those villages and see what life is like in real China, you have to go by yourself or with a Chinese friend who's your friend and not working for the state security apparatus. And so you're always breaking the rules and that builds up. It kind of--they punch a lot of holes in your card, and, finally, your card is full of holes.
LAMB: Did you have any fear that night when they got you at the border?
Mr. TYLER: No, because the Chinese security apparatus is extremely public relations conscious. They know that the Foreign Ministry has an important race--relationship with the Western press, with The New York Times and with major newspapers in the United States. And they try to enforce--they try to accomplish their pragmatic goal, which is to get you out of the sensitive area you're in and punish you in a subtle way so that you won't do it again, by tying you up with endless bureaucracy, perhaps taking away your computer or your car, perhaps calling you in for endless meetings once you get back to Beijing; or your Chinese assistant, putting subtle threats or pressure on him or his family. And so you're always balancing these risks and trying, at the same time, to get your job done.
LAMB: Five years in China.
Mr. TYLER: Right.
LAMB: Where were you from originally?
Mr. TYLER: I grew up in the center of the country. I was born in Missouri and grew up in Texas. My father was an S.S. Kresge store manager, and we moved around a lot.
LAMB: How did you get into journalism?
Mr. TYLER: I had started at the University of Texas in physics. I really wanted to work in the space program or work on the fusion reactor that they were building at Princeton University. And I didn't study hard enough. I was flunking out after a year. It was 1969. The Vietnam War had our--the college campuses, and particularly the University of Texas campus in Austin, Texas, in turmoil.
And I had to get away from all that, and I went out to South Carolina, where my folks had moved, and I got into school there, went through English and political science. And then during the time of the Pentagon Papers case, you remember, and right before Watergate, I took a survey course in journalism. And I realized, `Here's a profession where they pay you money to go around the world and indulge all of your interests, kind of like a graduate student. And all you have to do is write something about it that's interesting.' And I thought that was a great career.
LAMB: Where'd you start then?
Mr. TYLER: I started at the two-county seat weekly newspapers in the swamp country of South Carolina called the Allendale County Citizen and the Hampton County Guardian. And I was the editor at the tender age of 20, 21 years old. And I did that for a year, and I really learned courthouse politics, general sessions court, land transactions, all the things that are available in local government and school boards, city council. Learned all of those issues at the grass roots, and it continues to serve me today.
LAMB: How many years did you spend with The Washington Post?
Mr. TYLER: I came to The Post in 1979 and I was there almost 12 years. I came in just as Bob Woodward was coming back from writing a book called "The Brethren" about the Supreme Court. And I worked very closely on his staff, first on Metro and then the investigative staff we set up at The Washington Post for about five years.
LAMB: When did you go to The New York Times?
Mr. TYLER: When Ben Bradlee announced that he was going to retire. And not because he was going to retire, but because I had a very close friend named Howell Raines, who was the chief of the Washington bureau of The New York Times. He and I had worked at a newspaper in Florida for several years together. We're close fishing buddies and whatnot. And he convinced me to come over and work at The Times. I'd always been interested in the paper, always admired the paper. And with Ben leaving, it seemed the right crossroads to make the move. I love The Washington Post. It's a great newspaper today, but I also wanted to--I wanted to try it out at The New York Times.
LAMB: Then how many total years did you spend at The New York Times?
Mr. TYLER: I've been there almost a decade. I left in 1990. Next year, it'll be a decade.
LAMB: Are you still at The Times?
Mr. TYLER: I am. I'm--just been posted to Moscow. I spent five years in China. The editor at The Times, Joe Lelyveld, was nice enough to give me 18 months to get this book out of my system and to do this history that I saw a niche for--on the China bookshelf. And I came back on the payroll last February and moved to St. Petersburg, Russia, for a couple of months and lived with a little old lady pensioner who didn't speak a lick of English, trying to learn my Russian, get started and going to the ballet every chance I got. I saw more of the Kirov Ballet than I'll ever get to see again in my life, and it was wonderful.
LAMB: Now did you speak Chinese?
Mr. TYLER: I spent a year on my--my Chinese is OK. It's now rapidly receding as I--replacing it with Russian. I think it's there to come back if I go and rehabilitate it. But I studied very hard for a year, every day, eight hours a day in Taiwan before I went up to Beijing and started work. So my Chinese got pretty good by the middle of my tour.
LAMB: "A Great Wall: Six Presidents in China, An Investigative History"--what is new in this book that people have never seen before?
Mr. TYLER: I think one of the most interesting things for me is that this book adjusts--not changes, but adjusts the legacy of Richard Nixon on China. He is the president who, despite everything that happened to his reputation and his presidency because of Watergate, we have continued to say that he showed farsighted, geostrategic vision by opening the relationship with China again. And I have been able to reconstruct in this book the context of his first few months in office, in which he came into office so focused, Brian, on getting the country out of Vietnam that he wanted to know what kind of deal he could make with the Soviet leadership because the Soviet leadership, as you'll recall, was the major supporter of the North Vietnamese war effort, was supplying the bulk of the war material.
And Nixon wanted to know from Brezhnev what it would take to get Soviet help to bring Hanoi to the negotiating table, and that's when the Sino-Soviet border went up in flames and Brezhnev got obsessed with his China problem, began to get very, very concerned that China, in 10 or 15 years, would be a nuclear power as big as the United States and the Soviet Union, but would be unconstrained and that Mao was a reckless actor and would use nuclear weapons and--possibly against the Soviet Union. And he wanted to neuter Mao. He wanted to take away that capability.
So there, in the first few months of Nixon's presidency--and there's--I've marshaled the evidence for it here--you had the makings of a deal: help with Vietnam, getting America out of Vietnam; help with a joint US-Soviet venture to neuter China, prevent it from becoming a major nuclear power. It was under active consideration, I believe, for several months. Secretary Mel Laird, who was President Nixon's Defense secretary, has talked to me on the record about it. I found it--some documentary evidence that supports it. Dr. Kissinger's waving his arms saying I'm completely wrong, but I have others on Dr. Kissinger's staff that say it was under active consideration at the time. So I believe it was considered.
It wasn't acted on, but I--having resurrected it, I felt it was--an obligation to--not to understate what the considerations were of the first several months of the Nixon administration because Nixon then got back on the road to China. Why? Because the Soviet Union, in the end, decided it wasn't in Moscow's interests to help Richard Nixon end his Vietnam War problem. And, secondly, Moscow began to think that because America had brought this initiative several times during the Kennedy and Johnson administration to Moscow, a proposal to neuter the Chinese nuclear capability, maybe they could just go ahead and do it unilaterally and say that, `We're just doing what--doing the world a favor. And, after all, this is only what Washington has encouraged us to think about doing for about 10 years.'
LAMB: What was Chestnut?
Mr. TYLER: Chestnut was the first tangible, concrete, cooperative and very secret effort of intelligence cooperation between the United States and China to spy on the Soviet Union and its military forces arrayed in the Far East. It was the same kind of signals intelligence stations that the shah of Iran had allowed us to put in his northern mountains to spy on the Soviet Union. We had arms limitations agreements coming up with the Soviets, where we needed to be able to monitor their rocket test flights in the Soviet Far East. But more importantly, we needed to be able to monitor and China needed to be able to monitor Soviet military forces all through the Far East because they were a threat to invade China and Japan or to take military action against China and Japan in the event of World War III, which, of course, never happened.
And so these monitoring stations were set up by the CIA. It was a level of cooperation, Brian, that was extraordinary and brought the two countries very close together on one level that was not revealed publicly.
LAMB: When did it happen?
Mr. TYLER: It happened under President Carter, when Deng Xiaoping came to Washington to formalize the declaration of recognition, a formal diplomatic recognition between the United States and China. It was first brought up and put on the table by Zbigniew Brzezinski, President Carter's national security adviser. And that began--and Deng Xiaoping said he would take it home and consider it. Deng Xiaoping being very much willing to take on these kind of cooperative efforts and arrangements with the United States than Mao Tse-tung had ever been. Mao didn't trust getting in bed with America like this. Deng was much more of a hard-liner and activist on the Soviet Union, and he was willing to go ahead.
So a few months later, he came back and--during Vice President Mondale's trip to Beijing in the summer of 1979, and said, `We've thought it over. Come ahead.' And the CIA flew some military transports out to Beijing, set up a school for Chinese technicians to learn how to use these computers and antennas and intercept stations. They set them up in what's called the Tien Shan Mountains, the mountains of heaven, those beautiful mountains in northwestern China. And those mountains have a perspective down on to the plain of the Soviet Far East and Siberia that allows you to have an open look at every military and commercial signal: radar signal, telephone communications, microwave communications, radar communications, everything that was wired or going through the air in the Soviet Union.
LAMB: When did Chestnut first become public?
Mr. TYLER: It was revealed in early 1981 in The New York Times, in The Washington Post. It leaked after the Carters left office and the Reagan administration came in. All sorts of people had motivation to--if you believe the people who say the Carter people leaked it, the motivation might have been to show that they actually were getting tough on the Soviets. If you believe that it was the Reagan administration people who leaked it, the motivation might have been to show that we were--that Reagan was getting tough on the Soviets and had embraced this program. Either way, somebody in the bureaucracy had an interest to get it out, and it leaked.
LAMB: You have a number of footnotes I want to ask you about in here.
Mr. TYLER: Sure.
LAMB: It'd probably be better just to read this. This is on page 369 in the George Bush chapter. `Kissinger, as a commentator for ABC News, argued on the evening of June 4th against imposing economic sanctions on China. Over the next several months, he rationalized Beijing's crackdown in a series of newspaper columns and media appearances. It was not until September 1989, however, that Kissinger acknowledged that he was in the midst of launching a multimillion-dollar investment syndicate, China Ventures, in which he was the managing partner and stood to gain millions in fees and profits. Kissinger's conflict of interest was disclosed by Richard Cohen of The Washington Post and John Fialka of The Washington--of The Wall Street Journal.'
Mr. TYLER: Mm-hmm.
LAMB: What's behind all that footnote? How much money has Henry Kissinger made off of his contacts that he made with China?
Mr. TYLER: Well, Dr. Kissinger's a private businessman now. He doesn't have to disclose that. He has certainly become a wealthy man out of office off of the business that's called Kissinger Associates. And he gets paid six-figure fees by Fortune 500 corporations who are interested in going to China and doing business in China. And, of course, he portrays himself as the architect of the China opening, although I think it's much fairer to say that President Nixon was the architect and that Dr. Kissinger was a staff man, who staffed all the papers and did a lot of the secret diplomacy, at the direction of his president. There's no question that this was President Nixon's opening.
In any case, I disclosed it in this history because it was disclosed in a meaningful way that had impact at the time. We have a number of former statesmen that hold forth on foreign policy issues that affect a current administration that is in office, and we don't, of course, enforce and can't enforce, really, any disclosure rules on them about their private businesses, but this kind of thing ought to be disclosed. It ought to be the first thing out of Dr. Kissinger's mouth, before he then makes the argument he would like to make. I think he's perfectly entitled to make that argument, and often that argument is very compelling, but the business interests ought to be disclosed. I think that's a fundamental in our political discourse.
LAMB: Well, let me then combine that with another footnote several pages later. `It is likely that Li Peng'--Is that the right way to pronounce that?
Mr. TYLER: Mm-hmm.
LAMB: `...invoked the "losing China,"' in quotes, `argument because he understood how powerful it was in American domestic politics. After so many years of dealing with American officeholders and then having them return to China after their terms of office as highly paid consultants, Chinese leaders had learned many of the American pressure points.' How many human beings that you know of, and following this over the last five, six years, do you find that have been in government and then parlayed that into lots of money by being a consultant or--on China?
Mr. TYLER: Oh, I think first of all, the most obvious is Dr. Kissinger, but then you've got also very significant policy--former policy officials. Alexander Haig, who was Secretary of State under President Reagan, has a going business that's very much related to China. He's on a board of directors of the China--or has served on the board of directors of one of--a major Chinese shipping corporation. He has represented the interests of United Technology Corporation, which owns Sikorsky Helicopter which has sold equipment to China over the years and would like to sell more; has a big turbine business and whatnot. And Secretary Haig holds forth on China policy quite often and has--he's gone into the Oval Office in the Clinton administration and lectured President Clinton on how he ought to carry out his policy toward China.
And this, again--this is an issue of disclosure. I don't think it's well-known by the public when these former officials stand up and give their views, again, which may be very legitimate views. But there is a real compelling disclosure issue here. It ought to be disclosed.
LAMB: How much of our foreign policy is conducted by people that are either planning to go into this kind of a business or people who now are in that business? I mean, is this a problem in the motives of people who are interacting with foreign government?
Mr. TYLER: Brian, as long as I've been working as a foreign correspondent, I have found, you know, foreign service officers and political appointees who have served in government who then go out and advise foreign governments or American corporations on foreign policy issues. I don't think this is necessarily a nefarious business, but it--after all, they take their expertise learned about the issue and often give very good advice to foreign governments or corporations on how to be successful, but also out of how to be constructive in--in doing business or operating in another country.
But there is a real problem here. It's the same problem of generals in the Pentagon going through the revolving door and then working for Lockheed or Grumman or General Dynamics and taking all of that inside information about where government spending is going or where Defense requirements are going to that company to give them an advantage. We have to keep an eye on this sector, and there ought to be public disclosure. A friend of mine, Bill Greider, once wrote a book whose title I loved very much. It was called "Who Will Tell the People." I'm sure you had him on. And I think we ought to tell the people, and it's one of the jobs, I think, of journalists to tell the people.
LAMB: Now I noticed in your footnotes a lot of memorandum--or memorandums--memoranda of conversations, a lot of them written by Henry Kissinger that I noticed. How did you get those?
Mr. TYLER: I had the extraordinary luck to be doing this book at a time when a Clinton administration executive order was turning loose about 15,000 new pages of classified material on US-China policy. Most of the Freedom of Information Act and executive order request was carried out by an institution here in town called the National Security Archive, which was founded by Scott Armstrong and carrying on today over at the top floor of the library at George Washington University. And they got an extraordinary--into an extraordinary archive, and they were putting it together for a microfiche collection for researchers to be sold to university libraries and whatnot. And I went to them and I said, `Please, fellas, I'm reconstructing this history of six administrations. Let me have early access to this because I am then going to take it and go out and do about 200 interviews of officials through the six administrations. And I--it'll help me write a very useful reconstruction of this history, which people need to understand.'
LAMB: Had the information that you publish here ever been published before?
Mr. TYLER: It has been out and the National Security Archive itself was planning a volume just on the Kissinger dialogues with Chinese leaders. And they published a very useful resource book called "The Kissinger Transcripts" last February. Most of the other information and memoranda, which included all sorts of staff memos to Kissinger and after Kissinger meetings that were extremely useful on understanding the decision-making process, not only in those administrations and then the Carter and subsequent administrations. White House and then CIA assessments and intelligence assessments of leaders and events and the possibility of war in the Taiwan Strait really, really helped me get a fine understanding of the context in which a lot of these decisions were made.
LAMB: You also say that you got an early look at Dwight Chapin's diary. Now who was Dwight Chapin and why the early look, and has the--the rest of it been published yet?
Mr. TYLER: No, it hasn't. I think he'll make it public. I think he'll put it with a library eventually. I think he's been sitting around wondering what to do with it since Watergate. Dwight Chapin had a lot of legal problems after Watergate. He was President Nixon's appointment secretary, and really more clearly on the chart, he was Bob Haldeman's deputy. So he got himself involved deeply into Haldeman's machinations during Watergate relating to finances and all sorts of other issues. And he rebuilt his life. He's got a computer business somewhere up in New York.
And I was looking for him because I realized that he was on all three of the trips with Kissinger and Secretary Haig advancing President Nixon's trip to China, and then he went on that trip also. And he had kept a detailed diary of all the conversations and all of the issues that came up of the advance issues. And like Bob Haldeman, he wasn't a foreign policy expert or a China expert, but he was a very good staff man and he wrote down what he heard and he did that rather faithfully. And I had that to check against the Haldeman diaries and then against what other people were remembering in my interviews with them. And so it was extremely useful.
LAMB: I wrote down from your footnotes in the back a lot of names where you acknowledged interviewing them, and what I want to do is just name them and get you to briefly tell us what comes to mind, how they--how much they cooperated with you, where you might have interviewed them and just whatever, you know, you want to say about them. Henry Kissinger.
Mr. TYLER: Interviewed him several times in his office in New York. I had a tape recorder. He had a tape recorder. Difficult interviews. I should say at the outset of this, I conducted all of these interviews under a ground rule that they would be effectively on background. So I wouldn't talk--I won't talk about the substance of the interview, but I got permission from all them to be able to list their names so that I could say, `In this section, I relied on my interviews on the following people.'
But Dr. Kissinger--and I used a couple of footnotes to point out that I had gone to him on issues where he disagrees with the reconstruction I have made, and I have shown him the evidence, and he still disagrees. But he can't produce anything that marshals the argument on his side, except his assertion that it's not true--the critical issue being whether they considered attacking China in early 1969. So I've tried to give him his due. At the same time, I've tried to stay with the most faithful reconstruction of events that I could marshal through documents and interviews.
LAMB: What do you think of him?
Mr. TYLER: Hmm?
LAMB: What do you think of him?
Mr. TYLER: I think that he lives--his own vision of himself as a Metternich or a Clemenceau or a Cardinal Richelieu, an unsentimental operator with his own vanities, his own bureaucratic imperatives to make sure that he stays on top and to arrogate to himself the maximum amount of bureaucratic power because he thought that made him more effective. He's a man of towering insecurities, a man of great intellect. He certainly made contributions. He certainly also put some of his own personal and bureaucratic interests ahead of national interests, at times, I would argue.
LAMB: Former Secretary of State William Rogers.
Mr. TYLER: A very close friend of President Nixon's who might have succeeded as a decent secretary of State had he not have--had he not been completely undermined by Dr. Kissinger. I think Kissinger has persuaded the world that--that what he did, by pushing Rogers aside, is what Nixon wanted. I don't--I would disagree, to some extent. I think President Nixon thought that his good friend, Bill Rogers, who was a very good political adviser to the president, would work fine as secretary of state, taking guidance from the White House--anonymous guidance from the excellent staff work of Henry Kissinger. But that would have required Kissinger to have a low profile role, and that was unacceptable to him.
LAMB: Did he talk to you?
Mr. TYLER: Secretary Rogers?
LAMB: Mr. Rogers.
Mr. TYLER: Certainly.
LAMB: How much?
Mr. TYLER: Oh, I had almost a morning with Secretary Rogers. It was very helpful.
LAMB: Marshall Green.
Mr. TYLER: Now deceased, so I can talk a little bit more freely.
LAMB: Who was he?
Mr. TYLER: He was the assistant secretary of State for the Far East, the job that Averell Harriman had had. He had a long experience in Asia, particularly in Japan. He was in the--our embassy in Japan at the time of Pearl Harbor. He had shared that Asian experience, that Pacific experience with Richard Nixon and was very kind to Richard Nixon during Nixon's tour through Asia in 1967 as he was preparing to run and, as a result, had Nixon's gratitude, who made him assistant secretary of State.
LAMB: Did he talk to you much?
Mr. TYLER: Oh, yes. We had long sessions together, and he gave me a--you know, a completely different look at how the Shanghai negotiations that Dr. Kissinger ran in Beijing in 1970 and '71 took place. And he found the critical flaw in Henry Kissinger's Shanghai communiqué and when he pointed it out to him, it caused a great stir. And it almost undermined the success of the whole visit until it had to be tamped down. It was essentially this.
The communiqué was going to list all of the United States' security commitments in Asia, but because it was with China, they decided to leave out our defense treaty with Taiwan, which had existed since the mid-1950s. Marshall Green saw this, and he said, `This is as terrible a mistake as the mistake of leaving out South Korea,' in our defensive perimeter that Acheson--the mistake he made in 1950. And weeks later, North Korea invaded South Korea. And everybody immediately saw that Marshall Green was right, and Kissinger--Kissinger went crazy and tried to question the loyalty of the State Department by even pointing this out. But it was a valid criticism, and as a result, they went back to the Chinese and just scratched out the whole section because the Chinese weren't about to let them stick in a reference to Taiwan. And so the only thing to do was to take out the whole block of the reference to the security commitments, which is one of the reasons people ask about the Shanghai communiqué, `Why is there no reference to what our security commitments are in Asia?'
LAMB: As you know, there's a thread throughout the entire book, and it's, in one word, Taiwan--every chapter, almost every page. Taiwan is located where?
Mr. TYLER: Hundred miles off the coast of southeastern China. It is almost a part of China's geography. It is an island that's 250 miles long, about 70 miles across and has 21 million Chinese and Taiwanese living on it, and they've built one of the great economies of Asia.
LAMB: How long has it been a whatever it is? Is it a country?
Mr. TYLER: `How long has it been whatever it is?' That's a good question. It is not a country by the recognition of the United States or the United Nations. It is certainly a territory that has been in charge of its own political destiny since 1949 or since 1945, when it came back to the nationalist Communist--the nationalist leadership in China and then with--under Chiang Kai- shek, when he fled there, as Mao and the Communists won on the mainland.
Brian, I really wrote this book--and not only because I wanted--I saw a need for this history, but I wanted to sound a bit of a warning about the Taiwan issue because I think we could be dragged into a military confrontation again in the Taiwan Strait in the next 10 years. The trend lines of diplomacy and political dialogue are now descending. They were ascending during the first two decades after normalization, but since the crisis in '95-'96, when we had aircraft carriers and missiles flying out there, the trend lines of diplomacy are clearly going down. The dialogue is less than it was, less sincere than it was, and the trend lines of military planning and contingency planning are going up...
LAMB: What is...
Mr. TYLER: ...and it's dangerous.
LAMB: What is our commitment right now to Taiwan?
Mr. TYLER: It's stated very clearly in the Taiwan Relations Act. And you'll hear people say, `It's not an absolute commitment. It's not as strong as the Mutual Defense Treaty we had from 1955 to 1979,' but it is very strong. I've stated it at the first couple pages of my book to make sure everyone understood. It says that the United States will basically take action and consider as a grave threat to the security of Asia if there's any attempt to blockade or bring coercion--military coercion against Taiwan.
LAMB: Do we sell them arms?
Mr. TYLER: We sell Taiwan more arms than almost any country in the world, in fact, second only to Saudi Arabia. And I don't think most Americans understand that. And it is shrouded in far too much secrecy. I believe this defense commitment that is well--the reasons for it well understood. I mean, we have to stand for a peaceful transition in that part of the world, but we have to understand that the mainland is never going to give up its option to use force on what it considers a sovereign question. And so we have to be vigilant. And it is a genuine, genuine problem. And we are selling arms there in a way that is a non-transparent process. Americans don't understand it, and $18 billion worth of commitments from 1990 to 1997, and more every year.
And we made a commitment. Most people don't remember this, but in the Reagan administration, we made a commitment in what was called the 1982 Communiqué to gradually reduce both the quality and the quantity of arms sold to Taiwan.
LAMB: Let me ask you to go down this list of six presidents that you write about and just give me a brief synopsis of how they dealt with China before we run out of time. We start at the top with Richard Nixon. You've kind of talked about that.
Mr. TYLER: Mm-hmm.
LAMB: What kind of marks do you give him?
Mr. TYLER: Excellent marks. He came to Mao with a very cold-blooded, strategic proposition: `Let's move closer together because it's in both of our interests.' And Mao understood that and took him up on it.
President Ford, moving down the list, a very difficult relationship, because he couldn't muster the political will at home to take on his own critics, his own conservative critics in his party--Ronald Reagan and Barry Goldwater being the principle ones--to complete the process that Richard Nixon started, though he supported it. And interestingly, when President Carter finally took the final step, one of the few people who was willing to stand up and support what President Carter did was President Ford. And I think that their relationship ever since has been affected by that. You know, they're very close.
President Carter benefited from the fact that both--he was determined to complete the next step, the final step. But also, Mao Tse-tung died, and in Deng Xiaoping, he had a man who was willing to take bigger risks on getting closer to America to put pressure on the Soviet Union, and Deng much more the hard-liner against the Soviets and, therefore, that drove them together to make the final step.
President Reagan, the most muddled of all presidents. He and President Clinton, I would argue, came into office with this sentimental attachment to a bygone era that was just not relevant today. Taiwan, Chiang Kia-shek, had stood with us against communism. And he had this notion that he was still standing against communism, even though he saw the benefits of an alliance--a rough alliance with China against the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan and against Soviet expansionism more broadly. And he could never quite get it straight. He could never quite support his secretary of state, Al Haig, and they finally just parted over this and other issues. And he got George Shultz, who calmed things down and then stabilized the relationship for the rest of their term.
George Bush, the president who thought, perhaps, more strongly than any others that he understood the relationship and was going to protect it, being forced, really, to undermine it as a reaction to the Tiananmen massacres in 1989. And because he was somewhat paralyzed in his reaction to the Tiananmen massacres, he ended up getting railroaded by Congress to do things that he didn't want to do, and always looked like he was on the run in front of this tidal wave coming off the Hill and in public opinion of revulsion against what was seen on TV during the Tiananmen crackdown.
And President Clinton, who emerged in the campaign of 1992, in a period of--in which tactical moralism became very fashionable in his campaign as a way to puncture President Bush's image as the foreign-policy president. And so tactical moralism, Brian, became those bumper-sticker slogans like, `President Bush has been coddling tyrants from Baghdad to Beijing.' And then, of course, when they won and swept into office, there they are with a absolutely wretched relationship with this regime that they have to do business with, because we've got North Korea, we've got interests. We've got an agenda of issues to do business on. And it--I think the relationship became very cynical in that period.
LAMB: This is way off the subject, but in their book, you talk about Mao Tse-tung not believing in treating cancer.
Mr. TYLER: Mm.
LAMB: What's that about?
Mr. TYLER: Mm. I think he thought that he had seen too many incidences where it got treated and the person died anyway. And he would say these things like, `Oh, you know, let him go back to work or get some enjoyment out of the last few months of his life instead of wasting it with these horrible hospital treatments in which he loses his hair or has to go through surgery and is miserable and then dies anyway.'
LAMB: Did he...
Mr. TYLER: He believed in this very pragmatic way that you're going to die anyway if you get cancer, so you might as well make the best of it.
LAMB: Did he prevent Zhou Enlai from having treatment?
Mr. TYLER: I believe he did. He certainly prevented Kang Sheng for a period of time, another one of the revolutionary politburo members, at the time. And then Kang Sheng's family finally convinced him to let him have some exploratory surgery. Zhou Enlai ultimately went into the hospital but was on a very, very tight leash on what the chairman was willing to let him do. He-- ended up dying from three separate cancers and they didn't do exploratory surgery on them. He had bladder cancer, lung cancer and I think a lymphoma. I'm not sure of the third one.
LAMB: The diagnosis in here about Mao Tse-tung was he had Lou Gehrig's disease?
Mr. TYLER: Yes. Yes. I think that was the surprise that his own doctor emerged about six years ago in his first tell-all story that was published first in Chinese and then with Anne Thurston here in the United States in a very good book called "The Private Life of Chairman Mao."
LAMB: Let's go back to that list again. Winston Lord.
Mr. TYLER: Winston Lord, Henry Kissinger's close aide when history was being made at the creation on China, always came from a--born with a silver spoon, came from a very rich family, the Pillsbury food family. And--but on his own, went to Tufts, went to the Fletcher School of Diplomacy, married a wonderful and talented artist, Betty Bao Lord, and had his own ambitions to someday become a--first an ambassador and then a--and then secretary of state. But because in the Bush administration he hit the ceiling over President Bush's trip to China, which turned into kind of a public relations disaster, in which Win Lord was blamed for, he then bolted the Republicans, basically, and advertised himself as a human rights liberal to the incoming Clinton administration and carried that torch into the first year of the Clinton administration and, I think, lost some of his credibility as a result of that, certainly with the Chinese. And he had a--I think, a reputation of zigzagging within our own bureaucracy.
LAMB: Best I can tell, you interviewed Gerald Ford, Jimmy Carter and George Bush by letter.
Mr. TYLER: Mm.
LAMB: George Bush would only answer questions by letter. Why was that?
Mr. TYLER: I don't know. I think many of his advisers, including Brent Scowcroft, spent a good bit of time with me. And George Bush has done a couple of interviews, but he has shied away from historical reconstructions of this nature. My colleague, Bob Woodward, in his recent book "Shadow," I think, tried to get President Bush to sit down and got the same treatment, that he responded to questions in writing.
LAMB: What did you find when you talked to both Jimmy Carter and Gerald Ford?
Mr. TYLER: A great...
LAMB: How much time did they spend with you?
Mr. TYLER: A great deal of honest reflection. I had a morning with President Ford down in Palm Springs. And I had a long phone conversation with Jimmy Carter, went through all the things I wanted to go through. I think both of them very reflective and, I think, tried to be very open. And both helped me trying to get access to their own archives, some of which are still classified, on US-China policy.
LAMB: Zbigniew Brzezinski.
Mr. TYLER: Toughest interviews I had. Unrelenting. Pugnacious toward me. At one point he said to me--he said, `You're not writing history, you're writing hysteria,' because I was trying to document, you know, how personal the fights became. And there was a civil war going on in the Carter administration between Brzezinski and his staff and between Cyrus Vance and his staff. And it was personal. I mean, you saw the scene in there where Richard Holbrooke and Michael Oxenberg are literally throttling each other on an airplane coming back from China, trying to get control of the transcript of the meeting.
LAMB: What about Richard Holbrooke?
Mr. TYLER: Mm. Well, I think he comes--he made a very useful contribution. He was basically cut out by Brzezinski and punished by Brzezinski, because Richard Holbrooke had, I think, been the eyes and ears of the Averell Harriman camp of Soviet specialists, who didn't want Zbigniew Brzezinski to be President Carter's adviser, because they knew him as a hard-liner on the Soviet Union and were afraid that he would use China as a club against the Soviet Union and there would be so much contentiousness that there wouldn't be progress on arms control on a SALT II Treaty, for instance.
Holbrooke then became ostracized from the White House but made very useful contributions when he could, because he's a thoughtful, very smart guy. He has a big ego. I don't think that's a secret in this city. But at the last minute, when he finally got a hold of the Normalization Agreement, he said, `Fellas, you got a problem here on Taiwan. You haven't got anything in this document that reserves the right of the president of the United States to continue to sell arms to Taiwan so that they feel secure that they've got access to defensive armaments during this period when we expect them to have a political dialogue about re-unification with the mainland.'
LAMB: You talked to Richard Nixon at The New York Times with a group of reporters off the record, but then you quote him in here. What's the journalism of that? Are you allowed to quote somebody when they die?
Mr. TYLER: Sure. Sure. I can't remember what I quoted from him from that meeting. I think that meeting was looking at George Bush's re-election prospects in 1991. And, of course, actually, after that meeting, even though it was off the record, we then got President Nixon's permission to use a couple of quotes in a story Robin Toner wrote about Bush's political problems in California, which is what President Nixon was focused on at the time. But, generally, when someone passes away, those lifetime restraints on guarding interviews, unless they were otherwise stated to extend into the posthumous period, they kind of dissolve.
LAMB: This is a Century Foundation book published by Public Affairs Press. What's that mean?
Mr. TYLER: As you know, the Century Foundation is dedicated to fostering research on public policy issues, and a fellow named Richard Leone is the president of it. And they were good enough to pair up, in terms of resources, in supporting me for a year and a half with Public Affairs the publisher. And this is a new paradigm of publishing. Peter Osnos, who's the head of the Public Affairs, got this idea that in order to publish more serious non-fiction books, that foundations could be brought in as team members as a way to handle the resource question. And that would help bring books to the market that need to get written that are--that sometimes don't get written, or the reporting is truncated, because you run out of money.
LAMB: Now you have a line in here on page 424, and I wonder how much thought you gave to this. And I wonder if you know how it will trigger a reaction out of some people watching. `The Cox Committee report was too seriously flawed by an ideological tone and technical inaccuracies to stand as any objective assessment of China's military aims.'
Mr. TYLER: Mm-hmm.
LAMB: Did you write that on purpose just like that?
Mr. TYLER: I certainly did. I certainly did.
LAMB: Let me just preface by saying, it was a 9-0 decision by that committee, and Norm Dicks is the Democrat who fully endorsed it.
Mr. TYLER: Right.
LAMB: And you still call it an `ideological tone with technical inaccuracies.' And you can't call them objective assessment of military aims?
Mr. TYLER: Yeah. Brian, I believe deeply that the full story of the Cox Commission is yet to be written. And I'm troubled by the phenomenon of the Cox Commission investigation last year. I think it was focused on a very good issue. I mean, we have to be worried about the security of our nuclear weapons labs, but there was a very strong ideological tone. I think it's inescapable in this report.
And though it was 9-0, Brian, I mean, how does that explain the fact that one of the prominent members, John Spratt, with long years of tenure in armed services, then published such an extensive dissent of that report? And there are all sorts of rumors swirling around town that the Democrats went along with the majority--the Republican majority so that the Republicans wouldn't be handed an election--presidential election-year issue on espionage and that it was a rather cynical, political decision.
And as for the technical inaccuracies, I can only refer you to the--some of the greatest scientists in our country: Richard Garwin at IBM, Pete Penofsky at the Stanford Linear Accelerator, a whole host of physicists and experts who have just picked the thing apart and say it's riddled with inaccuracies and technical flaws.
LAMB: On the previous page, you say, `Though some of the findings that emerge were startling, it was clear that much of the espionage occurred in the 1980s and had not resulted in any militarily significant Chinese advancements that might endanger US armed forces in Asia or American security more broadly.' You're talking about the leaks out of Los Alamos, I assume.
Mr. TYLER: Yes. Yes. You know, what is true, Brian, is that the Chinese have acquired some of their technological capability through espionage, including espionage against the United States, just as many countries acquire those capabilities through espionage. It's also true that Chinese has indigenous scientific capabilities. They have smart physicists and smart scientists. Go to MIT and look at the number of Chinese faces you'll see in those labs. They're good scientists, so--and it is well-known in our intelligence community, Brian, that the Chinese have been trying to upgrade and improve the reliability and the security of their small nuclear deterrent. They have about--less than 20 ICBMs, some of which--that could reach the United States. We have about 6,000 nuclear weapons that could be programmed against China. What they're looking for is the assured capability to respond to any nation that ever launched a nuclear attack against them. I don't think that's a threat to the United States. I think it's predictable that a member of the permanent five of the Security Council, and of a power that large in Asia with such a large border with the former Soviet Union, aspired to that--to have that kind of nuclear capability so as not to be subjected to pressure and international diplomacy--undue pressure.
LAMB: What do you want people to take away from this book? And why did you spend a year and a half on it?
Mr. TYLER: I wanted to bring a larger cut of people into the history in a realistic way, because Americans might have to deal with the issue of whether we make a big sacrifice, if we have to, in getting involved in a military confrontation that could erupt easily with a--outside of our control, between Taiwan and mainland China. It's a very tough issue. It's hard to get it straight. It's hard to understand without understanding the time line from the late 1960s and the time line through each of the administrations and the commitments and conversations we have had. And I just think Americans need a better resource and a readable resource. And I try to make it readable. Some people say I've included too much personal contention, but I think people need to understand how personalities affect making policy. And I think this book will help them do that.
LAMB: Were there people that wouldn't cooperate with you at all?
Mr. TYLER: There were. There were. They were far outnumbered by the people who would. I think most people wanted to contribute to a comprehensive reconstruction of this history.
LAMB: Can you tell us of someone that, you know, was a major player in this that's--for instance, I don't see any Cy Vance located--I mean, I--did you interview him?
Mr. TYLER: You know, Secretary Vance is not well and it was a health reason. He was perfectly willing to. And I talked to all of his major staff people for the book.
LAMB: Did you find, though, people that we should know about that wouldn't sit down and talk to you, and they wouldn't even represent the book?
Mr. TYLER: Well, I really wanted to talk to Sandy Berger, who is the current national security adviser, and with President Clinton. And President Clinton, through Mike McCurry, had made a commitment to talk to me for this book and Tony Lake, I think, had advised him to do it. And there--I think it was possible that I was going to see him. And a young lady named Monica Lewinsky came along and--just at the time we were about to have a window to do it. It may not have come off, but I had a good chance. And once he got absorbed in that, my chance, I think, disappeared.
LAMB: Who, in your opinion, is the clearest thinker, the one that knew where they were going in this whole process and never stopped, whether you agreed with them or disagreed with them?
Mr. TYLER: Among presidents? Or...
LAMB: Among anybody that, you know--through this process, intelligent people that are involved in thinking about this issue, who stays on a course that they--you think they really understand?
Mr. TYLER: Mm. I think that the ambassador in China, when I was there, J. Stapleton Roy--who then was our ambassador in Indonesia, and I think he's just about at the end of that tour--is one of the brightest people on China. I think both Sandy Berger and Jim Steinberg, at the National Security Council now, have a very good understanding of what the issues are. They've educated themselves. I think the Clinton administration, unfortunately, is kind of still in a--just a stabilization policy with China and has not taken any great political risks since '95, '96. I may--I may be proved wrong if they get a WTO agreement with China and bring China into the World Trade Organization, but it's been mostly stabilization. And President Clinton hasn't risked his own political profile by really developing a close relationship with a Chinese leader.
Jim Sasser, who's just come back from our embassy there, a former senator from Tennessee, a very good head on China. Leonard Woodcock, the old political war horse of the United Auto Workers who really made the deal on Normalization, steady as a rock on China. And Henry Kissinger, decided--despite his conflicts over business deals, you have to give him his due, has worked very constructively out of office to keep the relationship on track.
LAMB: Is the stuff from Edgar Snow's wife new?
Mr. TYLER: The conversation with Mao, it's been sitting out there in a library in Kansas. I haven't seen it in any other work. I certainly worked very hard with Mrs. Snow, who's over 90 and living outside Geneva, to get it in my hands. And I was fascinated by it. Mao Tse-tung's...
LAMB: Who was Edgar Snow?
Mr. TYLER: Edgar Snow was the journalist who went, as a boy, from the middle of the--middle of America out to China in the '30s, when the Chinese Civil War was going on, to make a name for himself, discovered journalism, and when he was sitting in Beijing realized that the Red Bandits and this fellow named Mao was living out there in caves in western China and Chiang Kia-shek was trying to murder him and bomb him into submission. And he broke through the ordinance and snuck out there with an introductory letter from Sun Yat-sen’s wife, the modern founder of Chinese republicanism, and there he met Mao. And he gave the most amazing description of him as a figure of history. And, of course, Edgar Snow romanticized the Chinese Revolution to the extent that he was ostracized and criticized as someone who was co-opted by the Communists. And I think you have to give his journalism some credit. He did a lot of very good reporting.
LAMB: But you say that--I mean, the stuff that's new in here was this meeting that he had with Mao.
Mr. TYLER: Yeah. The transcript...
LAMB: What year was it?
Mr. TYLER: That was in 1970. And he sat down for a long conversation with Chairman Mao. And Mao thought he was sending a signal directly--of--a communication directly to Richard Nixon through Edgar Snow. And he didn't realize that Edgar Snow hated Richard Nixon and would come back with this incredible conversation and hide it from the Nixon administration.
LAMB: But what did Mao tell Edgar Snow?
Mr. TYLER: `Come to see me. Tell Richard Nixon come see me.' He says...
LAMB: And no one would publish it in the United States?
Mr. TYLER: No. But to be fair to those publishers, Snow didn't bluntly lay it out in his article. He talked around it. He dropped hints. He wasn't clear enough.
LAMB: Have you seen what he wrote?
Mr. TYLER: Yes. Yes. He talked around it too much. It's no wonder that editors were a little leery of his piece. It wasn't clear enough. It wasn't poignant enough. And you know why? He was saving his best material for George McGovern. He was going to feed it into the McGovern campaign.
LAMB: How many times did Richard Nixon watch the movie "Patton?"
Mr. TYLER: People say he watched it night after night during a period there after the May Incursion into Cambodia. I have no idea. You read it in all the Watergate literature. And he got very Pattonesque in his view of himself, just as early in the administration he saw himself as Charles de Gaulle, as the American de Gaulle. He really identified and admired world leaders and tried to, you know, take and project those attributes onto his own political persona.
LAMB: You have a dedication in this book to LaVesta Timberlake Knight and Lorayne Knight Tyler. Who are they?
Mr. TYLER: Mm-hmm. My grandmother, who died when I was overseas in the Middle East, and my mother, who died two weeks after Deng Xiaoping died in 1997.
LAMB: Do you--are you married?
Mr. TYLER: I am. I am.
LAMB: Do you have children?
Mr. TYLER: I do. I have a 20-year-old, Silas Tyler, who's a junior at Emerson College in Boston, and my daughter. They both lived in Cairo with us and went to high school in Beijing in China. And my daughter's coming with us to Moscow and she's already in school right now--they're waiting for me there--in the Anglo-American school, which is now inside the US Embassy compound in Moscow but is about to move to a new campus.
LAMB: What's your wife's profession?
Mr. TYLER: Linda Wagner Tyler has written children's books with Susan Davis, the local artist here--the national artist here, the watercolorist, who does--has done--graced many New Yorker covers and done many murals in this city--Susan Davis and Linda Tyler.
LAMB: Patrick Tyler's book is called "A Great Wall: Six Presidents and China," and he is on his way to Moscow to become The New York Times bureau chief. And...
Mr. TYLER: In two years. We go in succession there. I have several colleagues there. I come behind them.
LAMB: How long will you be there?
Mr. TYLER: Four years.
LAMB: Thank you, Mr. Tyler.
Mr. TYLER: Thank you. Sure was great.
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