By Will Banyan, Copyright ©, 03 October 2015 [Revised and updated 13 February 2016]

US President Richard Nixon’s historic visit to Beijing in 1972 is considered by some analysts to be the “master stroke in modern American diplomacy”, if not the most visible aspect of Nixon and Henry Kissinger’s effort to “reshape American foreign policy”, one that “transformed the Cold War.”[1] Yet, according to Daniel Estulin, it was the Bilderberg Group that “took the decision for the U.S. to establish formal relations with China before Nixon’s administration made it public policy.”[2] This is a contentious allegation, for which Estulin provides no evidence of in his book The True Story of the Bilderberg Group (2007). Estulin has attributed the claim to documents shown to him by the late Jim Tucker,[3] although Tucker made no such claims in his Bilderberg Diary. It also seems that the American Free Press, Tucker’s former employer, do not possess such documents,[4] with none of their reporting displaying knowledge of such material. A 2014 report by Tucker’s successor Mark Anderson, for example, claimed the Bilderbergers “apparently worked well in advance on what became normalized relations with China,” citing two Bilderberg conferences as evidence:

The 1969 [Bilderberg] meeting included just two admitted topics: “Elements of instability in Western society,” along with a look at “conflicting attitudes within the Western world toward relations with the U.S.S.R. and other Communist states of Eastern Europe.”

At the 1956 meeting, the Bilderbergers considered the causes of growth of anti-Western nations within the United Nations, along with “a common approach by the Western world toward China and the emergent nations of South and East Asia.”[5]

The source for Anderson’s information, however, appears to be no more than the topic lists for each meeting at the official Bilderberg Meetings website (see Figure 1).[6]

Figure 1: Agenda Topics for 1956 Bilderberg Meeting

11-13 May 1956, Fredensborg, Denmark

  • Review of developments since the last Conference
  • The causes of the growth of anti-Western blocs, in particular in the United Nations
  • The role played by anti-colonialism in relations between Asians and the West
  • A common approach by the Western world towards China and the emergent nations of South and East Asia
  • The communist campaign for political subversion or control of the newly emancipated countries of Asia
  • How the West can best meet Asian requirements in the technical and economic fields

A less ambiguous source was given, however, in a report from the mid-1990s in the American Free Press’s predecessor publication The Spotlight. The report, by Trisha Karson, quoted from an interview with Jack Sheinkman (1926-2004), Chairman of the Board of the Amalgamated Bank and President of Amalgamated Clothing and Textile Workers Union, and a member of the Bilderberg Steering Committee. Sheinkman had admitted how in “some cases the discussions [at Bilderberg] do have an impact and become policy.” He gave as an example how: “We had a discussion about the U.S. establishing formal relations with China before [former President Richard] Nixon actually did it.”[7]

Despite Estulin’s failure to document it, Sheinkman’s statement suggests his claim that Bilderberg was behind Nixon’s decision to recognise Communist China may be more plausible than it would otherwise seem. The purpose of this paper is to examine the evidence to see how close Estulin and Anderson’s respective claims are to the truth. Drawing on confidential Bilderberg meeting reports from the period in question, and other historical materials, this paper will attempt to shed more light on this controversial subject.

It is the contention of this paper that while there is no proof of a Bilderberg “decision”, as such, there is substantial evidence that America’s non-recognition policy was heavily criticised at four Bilderberg Group meetings. Furthermore, a number of senior US Bilderberg Group members and meeting participants went on to play critical roles in the effort, largely under the auspices of the Council on Foreign Relations (CFR), to bring about a change in US policy towards Communist China in the 1960s. That effort arguably influenced Nixon’s thinking on this issue, culminating in his historic visit. This indicates the Bilderberg Group did play a role in the shift in US policy towards the People’s Republic of China (PRC), consistent with its purpose of shaping and influencing trans-Atlantic elite opinion.

The Bilderberg View

The Bilderberg Group first challenged the US hard-line policy towards the Communist regime in Peking—of not recognising it as the legitimate government in China, enforcing a comprehensive trade embargo and opposing its membership of the United Nations—at its 1956 conference in Fredensborg. This was driven by the Bilderberg Steering Committee’s concern there was “less mutual understanding between Western Europe and the United States on this issue than any other.”[8] The introductory paper was delivered by Sir John Slessor (1897-1979), the former Chief of Britain’s Royal Air Force (1950-52), who criticised America’s “refusal to recognize the government of, or trade with, the biggest nation in the world”, suggesting that it made “no political or economic sense.” Slessor warned this approach was undermining the West’s standing in Asia and was driving China further into the Soviet camp. There needed to be a common approach that recognised the Communist regime as the legitimate government of China and gave it China’s seat on the UN Security Council, then held by the Nationalist government in Taiwan.[9]

According to Thomas Gijswijt from the University of Tübingen, whose 2007 thesis Uniting the West closely examined the Bilderbergers, the American participants acknowledged the shortcomings of their policy, but argued that the “political reality in the United States dictated that without an important change of attitude on the part of communist China any change of US policy was [im]possible.” They also pointed out that any compromise on the current US stance would be seen as a “sign of weakness.” In short, it was up to China to improve its behaviour before the US would consider changing its policy. Another obstacle, raised by the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace President Joseph E. Johnson and Rockefeller Foundation President Dean Rusk, was America’s military obligation to protect Taiwan from Communist Chinese aggression. In response a British participant proposed that this responsibility be handed over the UN;[10] Slessor would later publicly recommend this policy in an address to the American Chamber of Commerce in London in 1958.[11]

It is worth noting that even just after the first Bilderberg meeting where “the problem of China” was discussed, Bilderberg Chairman Prince Bernhard of the Netherlands (1911-2004) seemed convinced the recent Bilderberg meetings had confirmed there was “no basic difference of outlook between the United States and Europe”, on that particular issue and five other areas of “potential disagreement.” The only “specific differences”, he told Chatham House (home of the Royal Institute for International Affairs) in July 1956, “concern methods rather than objectives, details or shadings rather than broad lines of policy.”[12] The response from US participants at Fredensborg indicated this was partially true: the shortcomings of the US policy were acknowledged, as were the significant domestic and international obstacles to changing direction. But Fredensborg was not the end of the matter, and the frozen US-PRC relationship was raised at subsequent Bilderberg meetings.

At the 1958 conference, held in Buxton in the UK, the US approach was again criticised with a European speaker suggesting US thinking on China was irrational, that it was “tinted with strong moral feeling.” America’s missionary efforts in China had produced a mindset that regarded the Chinese as America’s “spiritual children”; with the Communists as the “bad Chinese who had defeated the good ones.” An American speaker agreed that China had become an emotional “sticking point” for American popular opinion. This was reflected in the opposition of American participants to Chinese admission to the UN, supposedly on moral grounds, while the Europeans were more pragmatic. The Europeans suggested that China’s strategic relationship with Russia was a key problem and the aim should be to “break this alliance”, and that allowing China’s entry into the UN would help achieve this goal.[13]

Also of major concern at the Buxton meeting was the crisis over Quemoy and Matsu, two small islands close to the mainland and occupied by Chinese Nationalist forces, that were being shelled by the Communist Chinese. President Eisenhower had committed the US to defending Taiwan’s claim to the islands, a position opposed by most European participants.[14] At Buxton it was noted that the issue was “creating serious differences between Europe and America”, with most Europeans believing it was the “wrong case” for demonstrating US resolve to oppose the use of force.[15] European participants considered the dispute as little more than an episode in the Chinese Civil War, with public opinion in Europe and Canada “unwilling to support the defence of the islands…” This attitude was reflected in a poll taken of Bilderberg participants, with the Europeans showing an “unanimity of opinion…regardless of their politics” (Childs) in opposing going to war over the islands. Remarkably, this view was also shared by many of the US participants. For example, in his responses, former US Secretary of State Dean Acheson had criticised the Eisenhower Administration’s policy, stressing “the threat to the Atlantic alliance inherent in the American stand.”[16] Some American participants assured their European counterparts that, despite its “firm” stance on the islands, the US was in fact “seeking to extricate itself from this unpleasant situation.”[17]

US-China relations were again raised at a special session during the 1959 Bilderberg meeting held at Yeşilköy in Turkey. “The problem of China” had been proposed as an agenda topic by Bilderberg co-founder and éminence grise, Joseph Retinger (1888-1960); with the apparent concurrence of Bilderberg’s US Secretary General.[18] At Yeşilköy two speakers discussed their recent visit to Communist China acknowledging that regime’s “inhuman ruthlessness”, but also its “undoubted achievements.” Noting China’s emerging place in the world, “one speaker felt that the United States should modify its attitude towards that country.” American non-recognition of Communist China could not be maintained indefinitely, its policy would: “either have to be scrapped or America would have to go to war in [its] defence.” Bilderberg participants who agreed with this, however, noted that due to the complexity of the problem they “favour[ed] a cautious and gradual approach and no one ventured to urge immediate recognition of China and its admission to the United Nations.”[19] Some US participants continued to push-back, though, with one claiming that “some Asians who have formerly advocated a change in American policies were now privately urging the contrary.”[20]

China received a further airing at the conference in Williamsburg, Virginia, in March 1964. This vexed matter had re-emerged in the discussion on the conference’s first topic: the “consequences for the Atlantic Alliance of apparent changes in the Communist World…and possible changes in the attitude of the USSR to the West.” It was during consideration of Soviet policy toward conflicts in the “Afro-Asian” countries, that “certain speakers took up the problem of recognition of Communist China” and its admission to the United Nations.[21]

The discussion was noteworthy for the continuing intransigence displayed by some US participants. A Danish speaker had argued that China’s continued isolation “might provoke dangerous difficulties” due to its “growing importance…on the international scene” and the need to “induce it” to follow the rules should it be admitted to the “family of nations.” A French participant also argued for recognition, noting that “ignoring that country’s existence” would neither impact on its development, nor overcome the fact its position was crucial to solving a number of problems in South-East Asia.[22] The response from US participants, however, was to vigorously defend the policy. For example, one American speaker,

warned the meeting of the grave dangers which might arise from recognition of Communist China and its admission to the United Nations, developments which would weaken the free world’s resistance and which many undecided nations would regard as a reward for China’s aggressive and subversive policy in many regions of the world…[23]

Driving this inflexibility was the massive escalation of the US war in Vietnam; the hard-line on Communist China was considered integral to this effort. One US participant had defended non-recognition as part of the US strategy to “save South-East Asia” from the “Communist grasp”, and to ensure that expatriate Chinese in the region would owe their allegiance to a “non-Communist Chinese regime.” Another American speaker said the US Government had “serious apprehensions” about France’s new policies towards Communist China and North Vietnam, and sought “some reassurance on this point”, given that the US had “committed all of its strength” to the region with “no thought of compromise.”[24]

Clearly the claim that Bilderberg had somehow already made the “decision” to resume relations with the PRC is not borne out by the meeting minutes. But, at the same time the Bilderberg Steering Committee had decided to raise the issue, at least four times, with the clear objective of challenging US participants to rethink their country’s policies towards the PRC. Hence, there were no instructions issued; instead the US policy was criticised and some alternatives proposed and debated. This was consistent with the Bilderberg Group’s shaping and influencing role—as articulated by Bilderberg Secretary, Joseph Retinger—of targeting the “men of real international standing” or people of “considerable influence”, the “general opinion leaders” from each country.[25]  It also conformed with the Group’s principal objective to “smooth over difficulties between Western Europe and the United States…”[26] The “problem of China” being one of the difficulties requiring some intervention, with the expectation that Bilderberg’s deliberations would in time seep into the public sphere.

Nixon’s Gambit

The American responses at the 1964 conference also gave few clues as to the sea-change in US policy towards Communist China that was to occur just a few years later. Perhaps the most important indicator of what change was in store had come from former Vice-President Richard Nixon, who had built his political career on being a strident anti-Communist and, through his close connections to the so-called “China Lobby” (including allegedly receiving campaign funds),[27] as a supporter of the policies of non-recognition and the embargo against Communist China. Now aiming for the presidency again (after his failed bid against John F. Kennedy in 1960), Nixon had hinted at a new approach to China in an article in Foreign Affairs, the CFR’s prestigious journal, published in October 1967.

In his Foreign Affairs piece Nixon had cautioned against “rushing to grant recognition to Peking, to admit it to the United Nations and to ply it with offers of trade—all of which would serve to confirm its rulers in their present course.” But at the same time, to take the “long view”, Nixon argued the US could not “afford to leave China forever outside the family of nations, there to nurture its fantasies, cherish its hates and threaten its neighbors.”[28] Nixon also held out the prospect of dialogue with Communist China, but only when the strategic environment in Asia was no longer in China’s favour:

Only as the nations of non-communist Asia become strong—economically, politically and militarily—that they no longer furnish tempting targets for Chinese aggression, will the leaders in Peking be persuaded to turn their energies inward rather than outward. And that will be the time when the dialogue with mainland China can begin.[29]

His overall prescription for dealing with Peking, coincidentally, echoed some of the words and concerns uttered by European critics at the 1964 Bilderberg conference:

For the short run, then, this means a policy of firm restraint, of no reward, of a creative counterpressure designed to persuade Peking that its interests can be served only by accepting the basic rules of international civility. For the long run, it means pulling China back into the world community—but as a great and progressing nation, not as the epicentre of world revolution.[30]

As a number of biographers have observed, Nixon’s Foreign Affairs article was not only a “bid for respect of America’s elite,”[31] but the “first public signal that he had changed his thinking on China.”[32] Reprinted in Reader’s Digest and the U.S. News & World Report, Nixon’s article “drew a great deal of attention because of its author and content” as it “marked a major turning point in Nixon’s rhetoric about the PRC.”[33] But were the Bilderbergers behind Nixon’s policy innovation? Despite his well-documented participation with the exclusive Bohemian Grove gathering,[34] and his brief dalliance with the CFR in the 1960s,[35] there is no evidence that Nixon ever attended a Bilderberg meeting.

Nixon wrote his article with assistance from his speechwriters Raymond Price, a former chief editorial writer from the New York Herald-Tribune, and William Safire,[36] neither of whom were Bilderbergers. In his memoirs Nixon suggests he came round to the idea of reaching out to China after a number of world leaders had urged him to do so when he visited Europe and Asia in 1963, 1964 and 1967. Key European influences were French President Charles de Gaulle and German Chancellor Konrad Adenauer. It was Adenauer who advised Nixon in 1967 that the US should “tilt” towards Communist China to counterbalance the Soviet Union. Various Asian leaders also advised Nixon that a “new and direct relationship” between the US and China was essential “to build a lasting peace in Asia.”[37] Singapore’s Prime Minister, Lee Kuan Yew, also told Nixon that there was “much to be gained by engaging China.”[38] In his last autobiographical book, In The Arena (1990), Nixon credited de Gaulle, Adenauer, and Philippine Foreign Minister, Carlos Romulo with having “urged me to explore the possibility of developing a new relationship between the United States and China. Three years later, I reflected their view in an article in Foreign Affairs.”[39]

The Bilderberg Connection

Yet there are some intriguing Bilderberg connections to Nixon’s new policy. According to Kissinger biographer Robert D. Schulzinger, Nixon’s Foreign Affairs article was also influenced by the recently completed eight-volume CFR project “The United States and China in World Affairs.”[40] Concluded in 1966, the four-year project involved contributions by numerous China specialists. Although presenting their personal views, there was a “consensus” in the studies on “the need to introduce more flexibility into China policy and begin serious consideration on the recognition question.”[41] The fifth volume, The United States and China in World Affairs (1966), called for a more realistic policy towards Peking, arguing that Communist China “cannot be denied an important place in the world”; it could neither be “ignored nor eliminated.” Moreover, the US did not have the power to “determine what sort of government or what form of society China will have”, and would have to accept that in Asia, “it will be necessary to live with regimes of which we do not approve.”[42] The study went further recommending that the US,

take whatever steps it can to remove existing obstacles to a more normal relationship with Communist China, and it should be prepared to change policies that no longer serve a useful purpose or correspond to the requirements of the present situation. We should permit and even encourage trade with Communist China… We should make a more vigorous effort to open up channels of contact with mainland China[43]

The CFR volume also argued the US should “no longer attempt to maintain the fiction that the Chinese Nationalist Government [in Taiwan] is the government of all of China…”[44] Consequently it recommended the US “should be prepared to accept the full participation of the Chinese Communists” in the UN and other international institutions.[45] With its radical prescriptions for changing US policy towards Communist China, The United States and China in World Affairs was lauded by China specialists for its “calm objectivity” and “constructive recommendations” for improving relations with China (Younger). It was a “tract for the times”, wrote John Lindbeck from Harvard University, that argued “carefully and persuasively for a change in United States policy towards China.”[46]

Although much of the focus on the restoration of relations between the US and mainland China is on Nixon and Kissinger, the CFR project is considered by a number of analysts to have played a critical role in reshaping elite opinion towards favouring recognition of the Communist regime. In their study of the CFR, Imperial Brain Trust (1977), Laurence H. Shoup and William Minter credit the Council’s China project with having “laid the basis for the change in policy” and thus demonstrating the CFR’s “catalytic role” in “changing a climate of opinion.”[47] More recent assessments, such as that of Associate Professor Priscilla Roberts from the University of Hong Kong, conclude that “the publication of CFR studies on China helped to change the climate of public opinion and prepare the ground for recognition.”[48] The CFR’s official history also cites the China project as an instance where the Council had demonstrated that it was “endowed to repair” the “political stalemate” that had prevented US policies towards China from progressing.[49] Given its obvious importance, it is worth noting the strong Bilderberg connections to the CFR China project.

Commenced in 1962 with generous grant of $450,000 from the Ford Foundation, the CFR’s China project was directed by a Steering Committee lead by former CIA Director Allen Dulles.[50] Of the nine members of the Steering Committee,[51] three were Bilderbergers who had participated at those meetings where the US-China relationship had been debated:

  • Joseph E. Johnson (1895-1990), President of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, was the Bilderberg Group’s Honorary US Secretary-General from 1954 until 1976. Johnson, who was present at all four meetings where China was discussed, had gradually shifted his position from opposing to supporting US recognition of Communist China. Visiting Pakistan in 1952, for example, Johnson had questioned whether Britain had “gained anything” from its recognition of Communist China. He had also reaffirmed that US public opinion would remain opposed to recognising the Peking regime “so long as the Communist Chinese are killing their boys in Korea.”[52] But, in 1954 he had co-chaired a roundtable discussion held by the American Assembly, a private convocation of “sixty experts in diplomacy education, industry, and labor”, that while rejecting giving Communist China its UN seat at present, had also “deplore[d]” the “rigid policy of permanent opposition” to the Peking regime being admitted to the UN.[53] And it was Johnson who had seemingly acquiesced to Retinger’s proposal that the “problem of China” be discussed at the Yeşilköy meeting – a fact he passed on without comment to the other US members of the Bilderberg Steering Committee.[54]
  • Arthur H. Dean (1899-1987), a lawyer with Sullivan and Cromwell, occasional diplomat and Bilderberg Steering Committee member. Dean, who had attended the 1956, 1959 and 1964 Bilderberg conferences, had advocated a “two Chinas” policy as early as 1954.[55] That year, in his role as US Chief Negotiator in Korea, he had also sparked controversy for saying: “I don’t think we ought to recognise Red China at this time.”[56] Syndicated columnist Drew Pearson claimed that Dean favoured “an eventual deal with China” and believed that “sooner or later” the US would “have to do business with China.”[57] This was subsequently confirmed when Dean, by that stage no longer working for the US Government, argued in the pages of Foreign Affairs in 1955 that unless the US was prepared to “embark on all-out war or see our position deteriorate” it would have to “accommodate to  a  hard  fact  that  seems  unlikely to  change  in  the  near  future”, namely the “possession and control” of the Chinese mainland by the Communists.[58]
  • John J. McCloy (1895-1989), described by some as the “Chairman of the Establishment”, due to his extensive resume in and out of Government, participated as President of the Ford Foundation. McCloy, who had attended the 1958 and 1964 Bilderberg conferences, also “thought the Eisenhower administration’s China policy was as wrong as the Europeans believed it to be.”[59]

Furthermore, the first director of the CFR’s China project, and the principal author of its crucial fifth volume, was Robert Blum (1911-1965), a former diplomat, former CIA official, and former President of the Asia Foundation. Although not included in the official list of participants at the 1956 Bilderberg Meeting in Fredensborg, Blum is mentioned as a speaker several times in notes taken at the meeting by Paul Nitze.[60] In addition, Blum’s papers archived at Yale University include memoranda and reports from the meeting.[61] As a participant he would have been aware of the various obstacles to recognition acknowledged by the US participants and of the arguments put forward by America’s European allies favouring the abandonment of this policy.[62] Indeed, on the latter point, Blum’s report noted that the “major countries of Europe”, including Britain and France, were among those who differed with the US on its approach to China.[63]

Spreading the Word

The dissemination into the public domain and the policy-making sphere of the ideas and concepts raised at each meeting is key objective of the Bilderberg Group. The meeting minutes for the third Bilderberg conference, held in Barbizon, France in 1955, for example, note that Bilderberg participants were encouraged to “put forward ideas and suggestions made at Bilderberg…” at the various other meetings and conferences they might attend, and that “particular use would be made of the press by all concerned for this purpose.”[64] A confidential internal paper prepared by Retinger in 1956 stressed that Bilderberg’s role was not to “contemplate taking any direct action”, but to “draw the attention of existing organizations to the points in question; what those organizations do remains their own responsibility.”[65] Since Bilderberg was “not a policy-making body”, Retinger continued somewhat disingenuously, any “new ideas and initiatives” emerging from its meetings would be “passed on to some persons or organization who could further develop them.”[66]

Such guidance was consistent with the essentially political role of the Bilderberg Group—and contrary to the soothing public explanations of its most senior spokesmen that it was a genteel discussion group aimed at building transatlantic understanding—of shaping and influencing elite opinion, and ultimately government policies. It also goes some way to explaining the potential influence of the four Bilderbergers in the CFR’s China project and their involvement, along with other Bilderberg alumni, in numerous other initiatives in the late 1950s and 1960s devoted to promoting Sino-US rapprochement. A review of this activity also provides an insight into how the Bilderberg Group is able to both influence policy making processes and at the same time effectively shield itself from public scrutiny by delegating policy development and the public promotion of those policies to other groups.

One of the first of these initiatives occurred in 1957 when Bilderberg’s US Secretary General Joseph E. Johnson, in his role as Chairman of the CFR’s Committee of Studies, had given his support to a one-year study on “the United States and Communist China in Asia.” “No group in the United States is better qualified”, he had stated, “to undertake a careful study of this subject than the Council.” The primary output of that study was the book Communist China and Asia: A Challenge to US Policy (1960), written by scholar A. Doak Barnett, which had portrayed the Communists as being in firm control of mainland China, and after a review of policy options had proposed a “two Chinas” policy as a basis for future US relations.[67]

Also in 1957, Johnson, and fellow Bilderberger, President of the Rockefeller Foundation, Dean Rusk had attempted to challenge the prevailing anti-PRC consensus in their contributions to the Rockefeller Brothers Fund Special Studies Project. Rusk was Director of Panel 1, which produced the first report, “The Mid-Century Challenge to U.S. Foreign Policy”; Johnson was also a member of that panel.[68] During the third meeting of the Panel in January 1957, Rusk had argued that the US could no longer oppose granting the UN seat to Peking, the US had to accept that it was “in a losing position on this matter”; while Johnson had challenged the view of another panellist that China was inherently dangerous and no change in US policy was necessary. Rusk later reported to the “Overall Panel” that his Panel on the whole believed Washington should make its PRC policy more flexible, especially on the UN question; but the process of developing the final draft of the Panel’s report saw most of these proposals progressively removed in favour of less contentious advice.[69]

Indeed, when all the Rockefeller Panel reports were published as Prospect for America (1961), China was repeatedly accused of “aggressive tendencies” that, it was claimed, would persist “whether China was in the United Nations or not, whether officially recognised by the United States or not.”[70] The only concession to some sort of future relationship came later in in a wistful paragraph about the need for the US to bridge the East and West divide:

We can hope for bonds of friendship and ties of interest with the East; we must not let emotion or differences of ideology close the door to such possibilities of better relations with the Chinese people as may arise in the years to come.[71]

The 1958 Bilderberg meeting in Buxton had perhaps the most direct, though short-term, impact on US policy towards Communist China. According to a little noticed news report, one of the US participants, John J. McCloy had taken it on himself to personally inform US Secretary of State John Foster Dulles of the “unanimity of opinion” among Europeans at the Bilderberg meeting at Buxton that if US were to go to war to defend the islands of Quemoy and Matsu it would imperil the Atlantic alliance. In response Dulles later walked back America’s commitment to defend Taiwan’s offshore islands.[72]

In 1964, one of the Bilderberg’s founding US members, Bilderberg Steering Committee member, CFR Director and banker David Rockefeller publicly called for establishing “limited commercial contacts” with Communist China, telling the New York Times that it was “very difficult to con­tinue to ignore a country as big and as important as China.”[73] Rockefeller had prior form on this issue, having reportedly called the non-recognition of Communist China “political foolishness”, as early as 1955.[74] He had also been a signatory to the American Assembly’s 1954 declaration which had questioned the US Government’s “rigid” opposition to Peking assuming China’s seat at the UN.[75]

Some of the most effective advocacy took place in 1966. Senator J. William Fulbright (1905-1995), a participant at Bilderberg’s 1964 meeting,[76] initiated a series of hearings by the Senate Foreign Relations Committee throughout March 1966 into US relations with the People’s Republic of China. Dominating the testimony at the hearings were 12 scholars, of whom at least half – A. Doak Barnett, Alexander Eckstein, John K. Fairbank, Robert Scalapino, Morton Halperin and Benjamin Schwartz – were involved in the CFR’s China project or had done prior work on China for the CFR.[77] The hearings are now considered important because the speakers not only “repeatedly encouraged the [Johnson] administration to soften its approach to the PRC” (Chang), they also “spread a new image of the PRC across the nation”, one that ultimately lead to a “national opinion shift on China” (Klinefelter).[78] According to Gordon Chang’s account, the “parade” of scholarly witnesses,

urged the United States to adopt a “one China, one Taiwan” policy, permit Beijing to enter the United Nations, develop further communications and contact with the mainland and generally pursue a less antagonistic policy toward the PRC.[79]

Barnett, who was responsible for editing Blum’s posthumous CFR volume and was one of the first to testify, was a key driver of this. It was Barnett who recommended a policy towards China of “containment without isolation,” but who also urged the US government to acknowledge the “Chinese Communist regime as the de facto government of the China mainland and state our desire to extend de jure recognition.” Barnett’s approach was subsequently endorsed by many of the other academic speakers.[80] According to Katherine Klinefelter from the University of Phoenix, the China hearings even inspired some mid-level officials in the White House and State Department to prepare an “unprecedented memoranda advocating an expansion of Sino-American trade and communication, along with American acquiescence to the PRC’s possible U.N. membership.”[81]

The China hearings were soon followed by another project with Bilderberg involvement: in October 1966 a National Policy Panel (NPP), established by the United Nations Association of the USA, released a 64-page report advocating a “two China” policy, with both Communist China and Taiwan to become separate members of the UN. This was motivated by the belief that UN membership would moderate Communist Chinese behaviour:

Sustained exposure to the force of international opinion and of widened diplomatic contact may well, over the long run, effect some moderation of mainland China’s present belligerency and promote peace.[82]

The report also made the familiar observation the People’s Republic of China “with its vast land area and its 700 million people” was “an undeniable part of the international scene”, one that was “too formidable to attempt to ignore, and too important to remain in isolation.”[83] Although focused on Communist Chinese representation at the UN, the NPP also helpfully encouraged the US Government to “give further study to the possible terms under which it could enter into full diplomatic relations with Peking.”[84]

The 27-strong NPP was described in glowing terms as “distinguished” by the editorial board of the academic periodical International Organization,[85] and as comprising “prominent business executives, scholars and bankers” by the Associated Press.[86] Less well known was that nearly a fifth of its members were Bilderbergers. In addition to Joseph Johnson and Arthur Dean, the NPP also included the following Bilderbergers: NPP Chairman Robert Roosa, a partner with Brown Brothers Harriman & Company; Professor Marshall Shulman from Harvard University; and Franklin Lindsay, President of Itek Corporation.[87] Shulman and Lindsay both attended the 1964 Bilderberg meeting; Roosa was a participant at the 1965 meeting. Incidentally, the Vice-Chairman of the NPP, Frederick S. Beebe, Chairman of the Board of Newsweek, went on to attend the 1967 Bilderberg meeting.[88]

Bilderberg members and participants also played key roles in the formation of the National Committee on US-China Relations (NCUSCR), a pressure group established in June 1966 with the objective of promoting “a public discussion of our current China policy…”[89] The NCUSCR had emerged from the National Conference on China, a series of conferences that took place at Berkley and Washington DC in 1965 and 1966 , where numerous speakers had spoken in favour of recognising Communist China and supporting its admission to the UN. The purpose of the NSUSCR was to maintain this momentum for change, although its first statement of its aims suggested its purpose was a benign and balanced affair:

The Committee – representing a wide-range of Americans in public life from business, labor, religious, academic and nongovernmental organizations – exists to encourage and facilitate a nationwide educations program on United States China relations…

We do not intend to advocate any proposals, but are hopeful that out of a national dialogue on the subject there will emerge a consensus as to whether any modifications in our existing policies are desirable.[90]

By the time of Nixon’s presidency, however, the NCUSCR’s real objectives were plain, evident in its portrayal by some journalists as the “new ‘China Lobby’”, that comprised “scholars, politicians, former Kennedy and Johnson administration officials and some journalists”, and who believed “present U.S. policies towards Communist China are outdated, mistaken and in need of urgent change.” The NCUSCR, claimed one report, is seeking to “persuade President Nixon to adopt a policy of contact and accommodation with mainland China…”[91] Columnist John Chamberlain complained about the NCUSCR’s “be-nice-to-Red China convocations”, accusing of it being “a fraud, a sham, a fake” for holding events where “be-nice-to-Peking” speakers outnumbered opponents on a “10-to-1 basis.”[92]

The claims of the National Committee’s entrenched bias towards the US restoring relations with Communist China are less surprising when one considers the extent to which Bilderberg and CFR advocates of that policy were involved in its establishment. The NCUSCR was initially set up by Cecil Thomas, a Quaker, with assistance from China specialist Robert Scalapino, who was then part of the CFR’s China project. Scalapino, in turn, recruited A. Doak Barnett and the CFR China project’s new director, Lucien Pye (who had taken over after Blum’s death). Thomas also secured support from a number of Eastern Establishment notables, among them Bilderberg’s US Secretary General Joseph E. Johnson, as well as funding from the Ford and Rockefeller Foundations. Membership, although initially exclusive and limited to just sixty, was gradually expanded, though people likely to disagree with its consensus position apparently did not make the roster.[93]

Some of the Bilderberg alumni involved with the NCUSCR into the early in 1970s include: Scalapino (1972); Robert Roosa (1965); Senator Jacob Javits (1964); Professor Daniel Bell of Harvard University (1969); W. Michael Blumenthal, President Bendix Corporation (1972); Professor Harlan Cleveland President of the University of Hawaii (1967); John Diebold, CEO of the Diebold Group (1967); Joseph Slater, President of the Aspen Institute (1971); and Senator Adlai Stevenson III (1971).[94]

The impact of the NCUSR was considerable. On February 2, 1968, President Lyndon Johnson met with eight “China Experts” sponsored by the NCUSR. The group included five CFR scholars – Professor Edwin O. Reischauer (Harvard), Scalapino, Eckstein, Pye and Barnett – and other experts including George E. Taylor from the University of Washington and Carl F. Stover from the National Institute for Public Affairs. Leading the delegation was NCUSR founder and Executive Chairman Cecil Thomas. Much of the advocacy for change came from the CFR scholars. Reischauer suggested the disorder China provided a good opportunity for the US to show “flexibility”; both Eckstein and Barnett advocated relaxing the economic embargo against Peking and supported admitting Communist China to the United Nations. Pye recommended engaging with China on the big issues, such as non-proliferation of nuclear weapons. Thomas and Eckstein both emphasised that the national mood was changing and the American people across a wide range of business, labor and civic organizations, were more open to engaging with Communist China.[95]

President Johnson’s responses were no doubt encouraging to this group. He observed with regards to restoring trade relations with China, they would need to “keep hammering away at this.” He also immediately took on board Barnett’s recommendation that Johnson appoint advisor on relations with Communist China, seeking suggestions from the group on who could fill this proposed role. Johnson also lamented that he had “tried hard to bring about communication” with Communist China, but felt the he had “failed.” In closing, Johnson requested the group submit to him through the Secretary of State a directive on “what ought to be done concerning China” and recommendations for a potential China advisor.[96]

Another contributor to the public debate from the Bilderberg Steering Committee was former Under Secretary of State for Economic and Agricultural Affairs and former US Ambassador to the UN, George W. Ball (1909-1994). In his book The Discipline of Power (1968), Ball had dismissed the US policy that treated the Nationalist government in Taiwan as the legitimate government of mainland China. It was a “myth no other nation believes”, he argued, if not an “outworn fiction”, a “fanciful proposition”, and a “fantasy” (echoing Blum’s earlier description of that policy as a “fiction”). Ball, though, rejected the “two Chinas” policy, doubting that “Red China” would accept it. He also criticised the trade embargo on mainland China for costing the US “hundreds of millions of dollars in foreign exchange” and for bringing the US into an “abrasive collision with friendly governments.”[97]

A number of Bilderberg participants also contributed to the debates. Senator Henry “Scoop” Jackson (1912-1983), an early icon of the neoconservatives and enemy of Nixon’s détente, had attended the 1964 meeting. In 1966 Jackson had spoken about the importance of developing “a livable relationship with the Chinese Communists”, and apparently went on to play a “significant behind-the-scenes-role” in bringing about recognition of China.[98]  Nixon’s future National Security Advisor, Henry Kissinger, who had been a participant at the 1964 Bilderberg meeting,[99] had also contributed to the emerging consensus, writing a speech for Nelson Rockefeller in 1968 that promised to “begin a dialogue with communist China.”[100]

Some were latecomers to the debate despite their early exposure, highlighting the simple fact that not all Bilderberg participants are easily taken in by the consensus position that the Steering Committee attempts to establish. Republican Senator Clifford P. Case (1904-1982), for instance, despite attending the 1958 Bilderberg meeting and being on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee during the 1966 China Hearings did not publicly advocate lifting the trade embargo and admitting Peking to the UN until 1971.[101]

A somewhat faster conversion was evident in Senator Jacob Javits (1904-1986), who attended the 1964 Bilderberg meeting, but had a strong background in the non-recognition camp as a founding member of the “Committee of One Million Against the Admission of Communist China to the United Nations.”[102] Nearly a year after being at Williamsburg, in his contribution to RKO General Broadcasting Company special on “The United States and Communist China: What Should Our Policy Be?” Javits had seemed steadfast, reaffirming his belief the US “cannot stand at the door of the United Nations and welcome [Communist China]. We cannot even recognise them.” And yet, somewhat uncharacteristically, he had also acknowledged the need to “open the doors” between the US and PRC, probably through exchanges of journalists and students, followed by “something in the economic field.”[103] But it would be as a Committee member during Senator Fulbright’s China Hearings that his views were transformed. Javits went on to consult with its academic witnesses, endorsed Barnett’s “containment without isolation” approach, publicly withdrew from the “Committee of One Million”, and argued for a more realistic China policy.[104]

The Line of Transmission

The scope of this effort to bring about a change in US policy towards the People’s Republic of China was considerable, and was arguably highly successful in breaking the influence of the pro-Taiwan “China Lobby” and changing the elite’s consensus position. Ahead of Kissinger’s secret visit to China, and Nixon’s breakthrough meeting with Chairman Mao, the collapse of the China Lobby was the most notable manifestation of the elite shift. In 1958 columnist Drew Pearson claimed the China Lobby “dominated American foreign policy”, to the extent that President Eisenhower and Secretary of State Dulles were committed to a policy of isolating Communist China and defending Taiwan, even though it “alienates our allies, risks war, and which they themselves, in their hearts do not seem to support…”[105] By 1970, however, the New York Times reported that the China Lobby had been eclipsed, it appeared “moribund, a victim of old age and a lack of interest.”[106]

It also suggests the Bilderberg role in shaping US foreign policy on this issue, though largely unacknowledged and unexplored, was far more significant than is commonly assumed. But did this massive, and seemingly coordinated, effort, really shape Nixon’s decision to seek rapprochment with Peking on coming to office in 1969? Did he even take any notice of it? There is, as noted before, no direct evidence of the Bilderberg Group being able to shape Nixon’s thinking on this issue; he never attended a meeting and none of the foreign leaders he cited as influencing him on this policy were Bilderberg participants. To the extent that the Bilderberg Group did influence Nixon it was largely indirect, and through the various initiatives detailed above.

On one level—as has been implied in innumerable studies on the US-PRC relationship—it seems likely that Nixon was influenced by the Establishment’s public embrace of rapprochement. The mere fact so many Establishment figures were going on the public record, particularly in 1966, arguing that the US should resume trade and reach out to Communist rulers in Peking would have been enough to give Nixon the political green light to shift course and push for this policy. In his memoirs Nixon sought to justify his policy as a venture carefully calculated to exploit new geopolitical realities—specifically the Sino-Soviet split—to achieve Nixon’s own world order vision of an “even balance” between the five great powers. But this happened against the backdrop of the collapse of the “China Lobby” and the notable shift in elite and public opinion.

On another level, though, Bilderberg’s indirect influence on Nixon’s thinking can be seen in the circumstantial and direct evidence that he had indeed “paid close attention” to the CFR China project and some of the other initiatives.[107]  The evidence for this is twofold:

First, although there is, at present, no direct evidence that Nixon possessed any volumes from the CFR’s China Project—incredibly, some 21 years after his death, Nixon’s personal book collection still has not been made available to researchers[108]— a simple comparison of the few pages of Nixon’s Foreign Affairs article that addresses China with the Blum/Barnett volume (see Figure 2) shows some remarkable similarities in both themes and recommendations that strongly suggest that he had read it.

Figure 2: Comparison of Nixon’ Foreign Affairs article with Blum/Barnett Volume


Of course, Nixon did not explicitly advocate all of the Blum/Barnett volume’s prescriptions for establishing relations with Communist China. Most notably Nixon made dialogue with Peking conditional on a change in Asia’s strategic balance and in China’s external policies, while Blum and Barnett attached no such caveats. Decades later former Foreign Affairs editor, Bilderberg US Secretary General and unrepentant Nixon-hater William P. Bundy would grumble that Nixon’s Foreign Affairs article was not in same “forward looking mode” as the Blum/Barnett volume, presenting only “revived and reframed 1950s thinking.”[109] But for Nixon, with his previous record of being largely in the pocket of the “China Lobby”, to even hold out the possibility of dialogue was a significant shift.

Indeed, as a presidential aspirant who had built his political reputation on at times belligerent anti-Communism, Nixon was still being cautious. But at the same time it is inconceivable that someone as ambitious as Nixon would prepare an article for the CFR’s flagship journal, without making himself aware of what consensus view the CFR itself was promoting. The above excerpts certainly suggest that Nixon had made himself aware of the CFR’s China project, and had then carefully repackaged some key themes from the Blum/Barnett book to prove that he was moving towards the new consensus on China. But definitive proof of this will only come when Nixon’s book collection is open to researchers and if his draft notes for the Foreign Affairs article become available.

Second, early in his first term, on April 24, 1969, Nixon and Kissinger had an hour long meeting with a group of “East Asian Consultants” that included three members of the CFR’s China project: A. Doak Barnett, Lucien Pye, and Edwin O. Reischauer (see Figure 3). Information on what transpired at this meeting is, however, scarce. Nixon makes no mention of such a meeting in his memoirs; nor does Kissinger, although he concedes that “many scholars urged a rapprochement with China.”[110] Furthermore, according to the Richard Nixon Memorial Library and Museum, no memorandum of conversation or any other official documentation about the meeting appears to exist.[111] The only information comes from a New York Times interview with Doak Barnett, a year before his death in 1999, where he reportedly “recalled debating the merits of improved relations with China in a private meeting with Nixon and scholars in 1969.” According to The Economist, Nixon had “responded enthusiastically” to Barnett’s policy proposal of “containment but not isolation.”[112]

Figure 3: Detail from President Nixon’s Daily Diary on meeting with “East Asian Consultants”

Source (click picture)

Source (click picture)

This meeting is significant because it shows that Nixon did engage directly with the members of the CFR’s China project who had been at the forefront of the public efforts—including Senator Fulbright’s China Hearings and the NCUSCR—to reshape the foreign policy consensus. Barnett and Pye had also been signatories to a letter to Nixon, prepared by China specialists soon after his election, urging him to “move more positively toward the relaxation of tensions between China and the eventual achievement of reconciliation.”[113] The fact this meeting (and so early into his first term) even occurred also suggests that Nixon had more than a passing familiarity with their work in those forums.

There was one other meeting that may also have played a role in Nixon’s China policy, a meeting with an impeccable Bilderberg connection, which happened a week before Nixon met with the “East Asian Consultants.” On April 19, 1969, according to his Daily Diary, President Nixon had a half hour meeting with the Bilderberg Chairman, Prince Bernhard of the Netherlands; Kissinger, who knew Bernhard solely through his own participation at the Bilderberg Meetings in 1957 (Fiuggi and St. Simons Island) and 1964,[114] was also in attendance (see Figure 4). Kissinger had made the appointment at Prince Bernhard’s request; Bernhard had made it clear his meeting with Nixon was to be on an “informal basis.”[115]

Could Nixon’s evolving China policy have been discussed during this half-hour long get-together? It seems possible, even plausible, although it should be noted that details on the meeting itself verge on the non-existent. According to a brief Associated Press report, complete with a photo (see Figure 5), the “White House described the meeting as a courtesy call by the Prince, who is in the country on private business.” Aside from the Associated Press report and the entry in Nixon’s Daily Diary, there is no other documentation available on their meeting with the Bilderberg Chairman.[116]

Figure 4: Detail from President Nixon’s Daily Diary on meeting with Bilderberg Chairman, Prince Bernhard

(Click Photo For Source PDF)

(Click Photo For Source PDF)

The White House meeting took place just over two weeks before that year’s Bilderberg meeting at the Hotel Marienlyst, in Elinsore, Denmark. It is interesting to note that there was no direct mention of the Nixon Administration’s potential approach to China; no hints that anyone was aware of how far Nixon would go. The future of US-China relations were alluded to in a paper by an “International” speaker in the context of the rise of the “Far East” that would eventually surpass Europe as the primary strategic concern of the contending superpowers.[117] And one American participant later predicted that the “four big powers: the Soviet Union, China, and the United States and Europe” would be compelled to “sit around the table.”[118] So, even if Nixon had confirmed his intentions with Bernhard, there is no evidence this was ever divulged to those assembled at Marienlyst.

Figure 5: The “Courtesy Call” – President Nixon, Kissinger and Prince Bernhard, Meeting in the Oval Office, April 19, 1969

Conclusions: More Than Just Talk

The objective of this paper has been to test the claims that Nixon’s much-vaunted opening to China (a bright spot in a political biography now forever blighted by the Watergate scandal, but also by the secret bombing and subsequent invasion of Cambodia) was actually an initiative of the Bilderberg Group. Recent studies, focusing on Senator Fulbright’s 1966 China hearings, and the CFR’s “The United States and China in World Affairs” project, have correctly highlighted how “academics and other members of the foreign policy elite led this national opinion shift on China.”[119] Missing from those studies has been an acknowledgement of the Bilderberg Group’s important role in providing, not only a confidential forum to question and debate what was a highly sensitive issue in the US, but also some of the initial impetus for many of the initiatives that changed the policy. A review of the evidence highlights the extent of the Bilderberg Group’s role:

  • It was at the instigation of the Bilderberg Steering Committee that the “problem of China”, or more specifically, US policies towards Communist China, was discussed at four Bilderberg meetings: 1956, 1958, 1959 and 1964. In each case European participants criticised the US policy of non-recognition; in response US participants either agreed with the criticism, but cited the domestic obstacles to changing it, or they tried to defend it.
  • But the meetings did more than just discuss and debate the issue; they also identified existing supporters of change, influenced and changed the minds of some participants, and helped established networks of the like-minded. Moreover, at the 1958 meeting there appeared to be a consensus among some participants that only through a “cautious and gradual approach” could US rapprochement with the PRC be achieved. Much of the work that went into changing the policy occurred outside of the Bilderberg meetings, but in line with Bilderberg’s policies of encouraging participants to use Bilderberg deliberations in other forums and for its policy ideas to be developed by other groups.
  • At least 13 of the US participants present at the four meetings were involved in some capacity either publicly or privately promoting a change in policy, or they contributed to initiatives from various US think-tanks and pressure groups with the same objective. A number of Bilderbergers, such as Arthur Dean and John J. McCloy were involved in multiple projects. One of the most significant actors in this enterprise was Bilderberg’s US Secretary General, Joseph E. Johnson who was involved in advocating rapprochement with Communist China through at least five initiatives including: both of the Council on Foreign Relations’ China projects; the Rockefeller Brothers Fund’s Special Studies Project; the UNA-USA National Policy Panel study on admitting the PRC to the UN; and the National Committee on US-China Relations.
  • Three senior Bilderbergers – Johnson, Dean, McCloy – were part of the Steering Committee of the CFR’s “The United States and China in World Affairs” project, whose first Director was a Bilderberg alumni, Robert Blum. That project has been identified by many observers as critical to changing the climate of opinion in the US; less recognised is that many of that project’s specialists went on to play a leading role in Senator Fulbright’s China hearings and in the National Committee on US-China Relations.
  • There is evidence, both circumstantial and direct; that President Nixon’s thinking on rapprochement with China was influenced by the specialists most closely associated with the CFR’s China project. To be sure, Nixon had also personally consulted with key European and Asian allies, but he was clearly aware that elite and public opinion in the US had begun to shift on this issue towards favouring some type of formal contact, enabling him to propose a dialogue with China—albeit subject to some conditions (that he later disregarded once in office)—in his Foreign Affairs article in 1967. He also met with three of the CFR’s specialists a few months into his presidency.

While it would be inaccurate to claim that the Bilderberg Group had made the “decision” to change the policy – restoring relations with China was hardly a policy they had intellectual ownership of – the group was perhaps more pivotal than is realised in effecting a shift in elite opinion towards recognition. Nixon was not a Bilderberg stooge, but he was moving and making decisions in a political landscape where one of the biggest domestic political obstacles to change—the anti-Communist “China Lobby”—had finally been overwhelmed; mainly due to a changed attitude towards Communist China that key members of the Bilderberg Group had a role in creating. This is not to discount the other factors at work that influenced Nixon’s thinking, in particular the significant shifts in the geopolitical landscape such as China’s acquisition of a nuclear capability, the Sino-Soviet split, and the America’s need to reorientate its strategic posture in Asia.[120] But the evidence that the Bilderberg Group was part of, if not at times central, to a concerted elite-driven effort that successfully changed US perceptions of the PRC cannot be denied.

In a little noticed article that was published in a Dutch journal in 1959, Bilderberg Chairman Prince Bernhard, in what is now a common custom for the mainstream media, mocked those “odd people” who might find a “sinister conspiracy” in the activities of the Bilderberg Group. The “true facts would disappoint them”, he claimed, describing the Bilderberg Group’s annual meetings as little more than a gathering where people of “outstanding qualities”, could conduct “discussions” with “complete openheartedness.” Its primary aim was to “promote closer relations” between America and Europe by providing a confidential avenue for both sides to freely explain their respective points of view and thus “try to kindle an understanding of the things that move the citizen in the other country to think and act as he does.”[121] The Bilderberg Group’s role in shifting US foreign policy towards recognising Communist China, however, suggests that in some ways the “odd people”—in this case Jim Tucker, Daniel Estulin and Mark Anderson—were closer to the truth than either they realised or that Prince Bernhard would ever have been willing to concede.

Bilderberg is more than just talk…

* * * * *

Reference Notes:

[1] Gordon C. Chang, “Nixon in China and Cold War I and Cold War II”, Diplomatic History, (June 2008), p.493.

[2] Daniel Estulin, The True Story of the Bilderberg Group, Trine Day LLC, 2007, p.46.

[3] Personal communication with Daniel Estulin, May 04, 2014.

[4] In a subsequent communication, Estulin indicated he been unable to obtain any supporting documents from the American Free Press (Personal communication with Daniel Estulin, March 11, 2015).

[5] Mark Anderson, ‘Bilderberg Says it Will Meet in Denmark’, American Free Press, April 02, 2014.

[6] See 11-13 May 1956 Fredensborg, Denmark; and 9-11 May 1969, Marienlyst, Denmark.

[7] Trisha Karson, “Some U.S. Bilderbergers Break Silence”, The Spotlight, June 24, 1996. Karson’s report is also cited in Jim Marrs, Rule by Secrecy: The Hidden History That Connects the Trilateral Commission, the Freemasons, and the Great Pyramids, HarperCollins, 2000, p.42.

[8] Thomas W. Gijswijt, Uniting the West: The Bilderberg Group, the Cold War and European Integration, 1952-1966, Dissertation zur Erlangung der Docktowürde, Ruprech-Karls-Universität Heidelberg, June 2007, p.149, quote from Bilderberg memorandum, cited in fn.40.

[9] ibid, pp.149-150.

[10] ibid, p.150.

[11] “‘Make Formosa U.N. Responsibility’: Sir John Slessor’s advice to U.S.”, The Times, September 5, 1958, p.8.

[12] H.R.H. Prince Bernhard of the Netherlands, “American-European Relations”, International Affairs, (October 1956), p.412. In his address to Chatham House, which took place on July 17, 1956, just two months after the Fredensborg conference, Bernhard did not mention Bilderberg by name, but instead referred to having attended “four major private gatherings” in the previous two years.

[13] Bilderberg Meetings, Buxton Conference, 13-15 September 1958, not for publication either in whole or in part, pp.9-10.

[14] Gijswijt, Uniting the West, p.221.

[15] Bilderberg Meetings, Buxton Conference, p.10.

[16] ibid, p.11; Gijswijt, Uniting the West, pp.221-222; and Marquis Childs, “Washington Calling”, Ocala Star-Banner, October 9, 1958, p.3. The overlooked Childs article is a remarkable leak from a Bilderberg conference (even though it never refers to the Buxton meeting by that name), as it actually describes the positions taken by identified participants, such as former US Secretary of State Dean Acheson, and a number of European “bankers and industrialists.”

[17] Bilderberg Meetings, Buxton Conference, p.11.

[18] Memorandum from Joseph E. Johnson, “Subject: September Bilderberg Conference”, February 25, 1959, p.1.  Box 36, CD Jackson Papers, Dwight D. Eisenhower Presidential Library.

[19] Bilderberg Meetings, Yesilkoy Conference, 18-20 September 1959, not for publication either in whole or in part, p.10 (emphasis added).

[20] ibid, p.11.

[21] Bilderberg Meetings, Williamsburg Conference, 20-22 March 1964, not for publication either in whole or in part, p.21.

[22] ibid, pp.46-47.

[23] ibid, p.47 (emphasis added).

[24] ibid, p.47.

[25] Retinger, The Bilderberg Group, pp.6-7.

[26] ibid, p.11.

[27] In 1950s and 1960s, syndicated columnist Drew Pearson made a number of allegations that Nixon had received significant funding from representatives of the so-called “China Lobby”, a cabal of Taiwanese “politicians and influence peddlers” whom he charged with manipulating US foreign policy to favour the Chinese Nationalist regime in Taiwan. Nixon, he alleged, had received a “large roll of cash” from the nephew of Chinese Nationalist leader Chiang Kai-shek to support his Senate bid in 1950, and further “generous” cash injections to support his vice-presidential campaigns in 1952 and 1956 (See Drew Pearson “Record on the China Lobby”, The Tuscaloosa News, March 17, 1966, p.4; Drew Pearson, “National China’s Support Puts Nixon Out On Limb”, The Gadsen Times, October 16, 1960, p.4;  and Drew Pearson & Jack Anderson, “Nixon Grateful to China Lobby”, The Free-Lance Star, July 29, 1969, p.4).

[28] Richard M. Nixon, “Asia After Viet Nam”, Foreign Affairs, 1 October 1967, p.121.

[29] ibid, p.123 (emphasis added).

[30] ibid, p.123 (emphasis added).

[31] Stephen E. Ambrose, Nixon Volume Two: The Triumph of a Politician 1962-1972, Simon & Schuster, 1987, p.115.

[32] Tom Switzer, “Lee’s Advice to Nixon, 1967: End China’s Isolation”, The American Interest, March 31, 2015.

[33] Denise Bostdorff, “The Evolution of a Diplomatic Surprise: Richard M. Nixon’s Rhetoric on China, 1952-July 15, 1971”, Rhetoric and Public Affairs, (Spring 2002), pp.40 & 42.

[34] In his memoirs Nixon makes a number of references to the Bohemian Club’s annual retreat at the Bohemian Grove, describing it as a “prestigious private men’s club”, where in 1948 he had witnessed a speech by future President Dwight Eisenhower. Nixon also makes much of how he gave an off-the-record speech at the Grove in 1967, which he regarded as “the first milestone” on his “road to the presidency”, as it gave him an “unparalleled opportunity to reach some of the most important and influential men…from across the country” (Richard Nixon, Memoirs, Arrow Books, 1978, pp.80-81 & 284).

[35] Nixon was a CFR member from 1961 to 1965. The circumstances surrounding the termination of his CFR membership are disputed, with journalist Godfrey Hodgson claiming that Nixon was “one of the few distinguished Americans who have ever resigned from the Council on Foreign Relations” (Hodgson, “The Establishment”, Foreign Policy, Spring 1973, p.25). The CFR’s official history, however, claims that Nixon had been “dropped from the rolls” for failing to pay his membership dues (Peter Grose, Continuing the Inquiry: The Council on Foreign Relations from 1921 to 1996, Council on Foreign Relations, 1996, 2006, p.41).

[36] Ambrose, Nixon Volume Two, pp.106, 115; and William Safire, Before the Fall: An Inside View of the Pre-Watergate White House, Transaction Publishers, 2005, pp.367-368. Nixon also describes Price as his “principal idea man” (Nixon, Memoirs, p.279).

[37] Nixon, Memoirs, pp.280-281, 283.

[38] Switzer, “Lee’s Advice to Nixon”.

[39] Richard Nixon, In The Arena: A Memoir of Victory, Defeat and Renewal, Pocket Books, 1990, p.165.

[40] Robert D. Schulzinger, Henry Kissinger: Doctor of Diplomacy, Columbia University Press, 1989, p.20.

[41] Gordon H. Chang, Friends and Enemies: The United States, China, and the Soviet Union, 1948-1972, Stanford University Press, 1990, p.274.

[42] Robert Blum, edited by A. Doak Barnett, The United States and China in World Affairs, CFR/McGraw-Hill Book Company, 1966, pp.262-263, 266. Blum had died suddenly in 1965 before completing his manuscript. Barnett edited the final version of the manuscript for publication.

[43] ibid, p.266 (emphasis added).

[44] ibid, p.267.

[45] ibid, pp.267-268.

[46] Kenneth Younger, “Review of China and the United States in World Affairs By Robert Blum”, The China Quarterly, (April-June 1967), pp.189-190; and John M.H. Lindbeck, “Review of China and the United States in World Affairs By Robert Blum”, The Journal of Asian Studies, (August 1967), p.688.

[47] Laurence H. Shoup & William Minter, Imperial Brain Trust: The Council on Foreign Relations and United States Foreign Policy, Monthly Review Press, 1977, pp.210 & 212.

[48] Priscilla Roberts, “The Council on Foreign Relations and the Making of US China Policy, 1950-1980”, Paper delivered at Transatlantic Studies Association, 14th Annual Conference, 6th-8th July 2015, Roosevelt Study Center, Middleburg, The Netherlands, p.23.

[49] Grose, Continuing the Inquiry, p.43.

[50] Roberts, “The Council on Foreign Relations and the Making of US China Policy, 1950-1980”, pp.4-5.

[51] Allen W. Dulles, “Foreword”, in Blum & Barnett, China and United States in World Affairs, p.vii.

[52] Joseph E. Johnson, “United States Foreign Policy”, Pakistan Horizon, March 1953, p.24.

[53] Associated Press, “Experts Oppose UN Seat for Present Red China”, Schenectady Gazette, August 3, 1954.

[54] See Memorandum from Joseph E. Johnson, “Subject: September Bilderberg Conference”, February 25, 1959, p.1.  Box 36, CD Jackson Papers, Dwight D. Eisenhower Presidential Library.  Johnson’s Memorandum of Conversation notes that “Retinger and I did not discuss the first suggestion…”, which subsequently became a topic of a special evening session at Yeşilköy. Johnson had enclosed a copy of the memorandum about his meeting with Retinger, in a memorandum to members of the Bilderberg Steering Committee (see Memorandum from Johnson to Messrs: Dean, Heinz, Nebolsine, Rockefeller, Rusk, Jackson, Ball and Ferguson, “Subject: Bilderberg Group”, March 9, 1959, Box 36, CD Jackson Papers, Dwight D. Eisenhower Presidential Library).

[55] Shoup & Minter, Imperial Brain Trust, p. 209. On Dean’s Bilderberg participation see Gijswijt, Uniting The West, p.150; Bilderberg Meetings, Yesilkoy Conference, p.3; and Bilderberg Meetings, Williamsburg Conference, p.3.

[56] Associated Press, “Paper Says Dean Urges U.S. Review China Policy”, St Petersburg Times, January 3, 1954, p.11A (emphasis added). Dean was later forced to repudiate this stance by Alfred Kohlberg, a former businessman who became the bête noir of the Institute for Pacific Relations, with which Dean had been associated (see John N. Thomas, The Institute for Pacific Relations: Asian Scholars and American Politics, University of Washington Press, 1974, pp.36-64 ). In a letter to Kohlberg, Dean affirmed that he had “not now and never have been in favor or recognizing Communist China” and made a similar declaration with regards to admitting Communist China to the United Nations or the “family of nations” (quoted in George E. Sokolsky, “Dean Apparently Recants Statement on Red China”, The Milwaukee Sentinel, February 23, 1954, p.16).

[57] Drew Pearson, “The Washington Merry-Go-Round”, Spokane Daily Chronicle, January 22, 1954, p.4.

[58] Arthur Dean, “United States Foreign Policy and Formosa”, Foreign Affairs, April 1955, pp.369, 360.

[59] Kai Bird, The Chairman: John J. McCloy The Making of the American Establishment, Simon & Schuster, 1992, p.474. On McCloy’s Bilderberg participation see ibid, pp. 472-474; Bilderberg Meetings, Buxton Conference, p.4; and Bilderberg Meetings, Williamsburg Conference, p.5.

[60] Personal Communication from Thomas Gijswijt, University of Tubingen, March 20, 2015.

[61] See Yale University Library, “Guide to the Robert Blum Papers”.

[62] Gijswijt, Uniting The West, p.150.

[63] Blum, The United States and China, pp.149-150.

[64] Bilderberg Meetings, Barbizon Conference, March 18th-20th, 1955, not for publication either in whole or in part, p.56 (emphasis added).

[65] Dr. J.H. Retinger, The Bilderberg Group, August 1956, not for publication either in whole or in part, p.5.

[66] ibid, p.11.

[67] Johnson, quoted in Roberts, “The Council on Foreign Relations and the Making of US China Policy, 1950-1980”, p.4.

[68] Rockefeller Brothers Fund, Prospect For America: The Rockefeller Panel Reports, Doubleday & Company, 1961, pp.7 & 8.

[69] Chang, Friends and Enemies,  pp.179-181

[70] Rockefeller Brothers Fund, Prospect for America, pp.46, & 48.

[71] ibid, p.75.

[72] Childs, “Washington Calling”, p.3.

[73] “U.S. Business Ties with China Favored by David Rockefeller”, New York Times, January 18, 1964.

[74] William Hoffman, David: Report on a Rockefeller, Lyle Stuart Inc., p.127. On his participation see Bilderberg Meetings, Buxton Conference, p.4; Bilderberg Meetings, Yesilkoy Conference, p.4; and Bilderberg Meetings, Williamsburg Conference, p.5.

[75] “Peking Claim to U.N. Membership”, The Times, August 9, 1954, p.5.

[76] Bilderberg Meetings, Williamsburg Conference, p.4.

[77] The scholars who testified at the hearings are listed in Katherine Klinefelter, “The China Hearings: America’s Shifting Paradigm on China”, Congress & the Presidency, (Issue 1, 2011), p.63. Their CFR affiliations are detailed in Roberts, “The Council on Foreign Relations and the Making of US China Policy, 1950-1980”, pp.3, 8 & 9.

[78] Chang, Friends and Enemies, p.273; and Klinefelter, “The China Hearings”, pp.72 & 70.

[79] Chang, Friends and Enemies, p.274.

[80] Barnett quoted in Klinefelter, “The China Hearings”, p.63.

[81] ibid, p.73.

[82] National Policy Panel (NPP), “China, the United Nations and United States Policy: An analysis of the issues and principal alternatives for US policy”, International Organization, (Autumn 1966), pp.705-706.

[83] ibid, p.706 (emphasis added).

[84] ibid, p.720 (emphasis added).

[85] ibid, p.705.

[86] Associated Press, “U.S. urged to support Red Chinese for U.N.”, The Oneonta Star, October 21, 1966, p.21.

[87] NPP, “China, the United Nations and United States Policy”, pp.720-721.

[88] Bilderberg Meetings, Williamsburg Conference, pp.4-5; Bilderberg Meetings, Villa D’Este Conference, 2-4 April 1965, not for publication either in whole or in part, p.5;  and Bilderberg Meetings, Cambridge Conference, 31 March – 2 April 1967, not for publication either in whole or in part, p.3.

[89] Richard Madsen, China and the American Dream: A Moral Inquiry, University of California Press, 1995, pp.33-36, 46-47 (including quote from NCUSCR statement).

[90] NCUSCR Statement quoted in Madsen, China and the American Dream, p.47.

[91] Robert Boyd, “New ‘China Lobby’ Wants Nixon To End Red China Containment, Seek Contact”, Toledo Blade, March 31, 1969, p.12.

[92] John Chamberlain, “China Lobby’s At Work In U.S., Abroad”, The Evening Independent, February 5, 1969.

[93] Madsen, China and the American Dream, pp.46-47; Boyd, “New ‘China Lobby’…”, p.12.

[94] National Committee on United States-China Relations, April 1972, brochure, held at Carnegie Mellon University; and Boyd, “New ‘China Lobby’…”, p.12.

[95] “297. Memorandum for the Record, China Experts Meeting with the President, February 2, 1968”, in Department of State, Foreign Relations of the United States, 1964-1968, Volume XXX, China, United States Government Printing Office, 1998, pp.634-636.

[96] ibid, pp.635-638.

[97] George W. Ball, The Discipline of Power: Essentials of a Modern World Structure, The Bodley Head, 1968, pp.181-183.

[98]Guide to the Henry M. Jackson Papers”, University of Washington

[99] Kissinger is listed as a participant in Bilderberg Meetings, Williamsburg Conference, p.4.

[100] Walter Isaacson, Kissinger: A Biography, A Touchstone Book, 1992, p.334.

[101] “Trade with Red China Is Advocated by Case”, Chicago Tribune, April 4, 1971, p.7. Case is listed as a participant in Bilderberg Meetings, Buxton Conference, p.3.

[102] Bilderberg Meetings, Williamsburg Conference, p.4; and Klinefelter, “The China Hearings”, p.67.

[103] “Exceptional Public Service Rendered by RKO General Broadcasting Co.”, Congressional Record – Senate, Volume 111, Part 3, April 23, 1965, pp.8356-8357

[104] Klinefelter, “The China Hearings”, pp.67-68.

[105] Drew Pearson, “China Lobby Too Potent for Ike”, Daytona Beach Morning Journal, September 11, 1958, p.9.

[106] “China Lobby Dying as Issues Change”, St. Petersburg Times, May 2, 1970 (from New York Times).

[107] Schulzinger, Henry Kissinger, p.20.

[108] The Richard Nixon Presidential Library and Museum currently does not have possession of Nixon’s personal book collection, estimated at 3000 volumes. Instead these are held by the Richard Nixon Foundation but no part of this collection has been open to researchers (Personal communication from Richard Nixon Presidential Library & Museum, August 29, 2015). The Richard Nixon Foundation has been in the process of preparing these books to be “deeded” to the RNPLM since 2007, where they are to be organized and then made available to researchers (Personal communication from Richard Nixon Foundation, September 3, 2015). However, the Richard Nixon Foundation has, for reasons that are unclear, refused to even confirm if Nixon’s book collection included the Blum/Barnett volume.

[109] Walter Isaacson, Kissinger: A Biography, A Touchstone Book, 1992, p.334.

[110] Henry Kissinger, The White House Years, George Weidenfeld & Nicholson, 1979, p.165

[111] Personal communication from Richard Nixon Presidential Library & Museum, September 25, 2015. I was informed that a search of the relevant archives was “not able to locate any additional information regarding the content of the meeting.”

[112] Patrick E. Tyler, “A. Doak Barnett Dies; China Scholar, 77”, New York Times, March 19, 1999; and “Obituary: Doak Barnett”, The Economist, March 27, 1999, p.125.

[113] Quoted in David D. Perlmutter, Picturing China in the American Press, Lexington Books, 2007, p.189. Kissinger makes a dismissive reference to the memorandum from a “group of distinguished professors from Harvard and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology” that “urged that we moved toward China by such initiatives as relinquishing our ties to Taiwan and inviting the People’s Republic into the United Nations.” Kissinger found fault with their failure to see the “geopolitical opportunities with respect to the Soviet Union…” (Kissinger, The White House Years, p.165).

[114] Kissinger is listed as participant for both 1957 meetings. See Bilderberg Group, Fiuggi Conference, 4-6 October 1957, strictly confidential, p.4; and Bilderberg Group, St. Simons Island Conference, 15-17 February 1957, strictly confidential, p.4. Kissinger’s early participation in the Bilderberg meetings barely warrants a mention in the innumerable biographies of the (in)famous statesman. The subject is briefly raised in Walter Isaacson’s biography, but not in the context of his first two forays into the Bilderberg realm in 1957 (see Isaacson, Kissinger: A Biography, Touchstone, 1992, pp.89, 756). Other more recent biographies examining Kissinger’s early years, such as Jeremi Suri’s Henry Kissinger and the American Century (Belknap Press, 2009), also ignore it. More puzzling, despite a much-vaunted exclusive access to Kissinger’s personal papers, the first massive volume of Niall Ferguson’s authorised biography of Kissinger manages to make just one reference to Bilderberg, but only in the context of “wild allegations” made against Kissinger (see Ferguson Kissinger: 1923-1968: The Idealist, Penguin Press, 2015 p.6). This might reflect a lack of information on the topic in Kissinger’s personal archives, or a peculiar sensitivity to the topic on the part of Ferguson, who has participated in three Bilderberg meetings to date (2009, 2010 and 2012) and was invited to, but was unable to attend the 2015 Bilderberg meeting in Austria.

[115] “TELCON Prince Bernard, Mr. Kissinger, April 16, 1969, 6:45 pm”, at Yale University Digital Collection.

[116] The Richard Nixon Presidential Library and Museum, after reviewing the National Security Council files and the Henry Kissinger office files, was unable to find any additional documents on this meeting (Personal Communication from The Richard Nixon Presidential Library and Museum, December 9, 2015).

[117] Bilderberg Meetings, Marienlyst Conference, 9-11 May 1969, personal and strictly confidential, p.44.

[118] ibid, p.49.

[119] Klinefelter, “The China Hearings”, p.70.

[120] For a more detailed exposition of the argument that the evolution in the discourse about, and thus the perceptions of, the PRC led to the change in US policy see Evelyn Goh, Constructing the U.S. Rapprochment with China, 1961-1974, Cambridge University Press, 2005. For an interesting discussion of Goh’s thesis versus the more common argument that geopolitical changes were the main drivers of the change in policy, see Nicholas Khoo, “Realism Redux: Investigating the Causes and Effects of Sino-American Rapprochment”, Cold War History, (November 2005), pp.529-545.

[121] H.R.H., Bernhard, Prince of the Netherlands, “Minds Across the Atlantic”, Delta: A Review of Arts, Life and Thought in the Netherlands, (September 1959), p.24.