On October 25, 1971, the United Nations General Assembly passed a resolution introduced by the Albanian and Cuban delegations to admit mainland China to the United Nations and to expel Taiwan (Nationalist China).
It was a major defeat for the Nixon administration's foreign policy. U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations George H.W. Bush publicly blasted the vote as a "moment of infamy." Newspapers reported that Bush was "visibly shaken." Vice President Spiro Agnew∇ charged that the United Nations had become a "paper tiger."
It stung all the more because the Nixon administration was caught by surprise. Bush had gone into the UN∇ debate confident that he had the numbers to defeat the measure, having been assured by a number of African nations that they would vote with the United States. At the last minute, however, a number of those delegations switched their vote in favor of the Albanian resolution or abstained. In succeeding days, US officials identified a list of seven nations that they believed had betrayed them by renegging on commitments they had given: Belgium, Cyprus, Morocco, Oman, Qatar, Tunisia, and Trinidad and Tobago.
A frequent source of frustration for the United States and other large nations has been that in the UN General Assembly each member nation, regardless of size or power, has one vote. The intentional effect of that is to give a voice to smaller nations, such as Botswana, and new nations, such as Qatar, which had achieved independence only a month before this conversation took place (September 3, 1971).
At the time of the vote, National Security Advisor Henry Kissinger∇ was about to return from Beijing where he was laying the groundwork for Nixon's own visit. He was informed of the result enroute to Washington.
David D. Newsom was Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs.