CWIHP and PRC Foreign Ministry Archive Expand Document-Sharing Agreement

New Agreement Signed at the Wilson Center

Sep 17, 2008

Continuing a major cooperative venture launched three years ago, CWIHP and Cornell University's Cold War Project have signed an agreement with the Chinese Foreign Ministry Archive for the release, translation and publication of newly declassified Chinese documents on the 1955-1970 Sino-U.S. ambassadorial talks. The documents will be published in an upcoming edition of the CWIHP Bulletin as well as on the CWIHP website (www.cwihp.org). The Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) was signed at the Wilson Center during a visit by a high-level delegation from the PRC led by Vice Foreign Minister Qiao Zonghuai.

The Sino-U.S. ambassadorial talks began in the wake of an overture towards the U.S. from Premier Zhou Enlai during the 1955 Asian African Conference, and continued off and on for the next 15 years. The newly released documents will provide scholars with new insights into China's role in the talks, as well as into the process by which the PRC crafted its foreign policy.

Following the recent publication of PRC documents on the Geneva Conference of 1954 in CWIHP Bulletin No. 16—the first ever publication of Cold War era Foreign Ministry documents released by the Chinese government—Wilson Center President and Director Lee Hamilton invited a delegation from the PRC Foreign Ministry Archive to visit the Woodrow Wilson Center and to meet with top officials and experts at the Library of Congress, the U.S. National Archives and Records Administration, and George Washington University's National Security Archive.

During the visit, CWIHP Director Christian Ostermann, Prof. Chen Jian (Cornell University), and Ambassador Guo Chongli, the PRC Foreign Ministry Archive director, negotiated and signed an MOU regarding the Sino-American ambassadorial talks. Vice Minister Qiao then officially handed over the first set of documents (duplicates of the archival originals) to Center President Hamilton. CWIHP Advisory Committee member Warren Cohen (UMBC) and Prof. Nancy Bernkopf Tucker as well as Ambassador Julia Chang Bloch also participated in the events at the Center on the occasion of Qiao's visit.

The delegation's visit to the U.S. and the signing of this agreement solidified the ongoing cooperation between CWIHP, Cornell University, and the Foreign Ministry Archive. Similar MOUs covering declassified documents on the 1954 Geneva Conference and the 1955 Bandung Conference were signed in Beijing in 2005 and 2007 respectively. In 2006, CWIHP hosted Foreign Ministry archivist Zhang Sulin as a scholar at the Center. CWIHP's China initiative builds on a close partnership with the PRC's leading Cold War Studies Center at East China Normal University (Shanghai).

Foreign Ministry Archive Director Guo pointed out during the opening phase of the negotiations that the agreement with the CWIHP (Wilson Center) was the first venture of its kind with an academic institution outside of China. The Chinese side emphasized the importance of the project as indicated by the fact that the delegation was led by Vice Minister Qiao.

Ostermann said that the agreement as an important next step in making internal Chinese documents accessible to the international scholarly community and allowing experts to reassess China's foreign policy history and strategic culture.

CWIHP's China project has been made possible through the support of several foundations, including the U.S.-China Education Trust.

For more information on the project, see "China's Archival Thaw" (CWIHP Bulletin No.16 (Winter 2007/Spring 2008) as well as future updates on the CWIHP website.