In sheer status, it is probably the most coveted invitation to a White House dinner yet given by Jimmy Carter in the two years he has been president. In sheer numbers, tonight's black-tie affair honoring Vice Premier Teng Hsiao-ping of the People's Republic of China is also one of the largest.
The big question, however, is not so much who is coming to dinner, as who will be sharing Richard Nixon's table among the 140 guests sitting down with Carter, Teng and their wives.
One, apparently, who will not is Millie O'Neill, wife of Speaker Thomas P. O'Neill Jr. who was going to refuse the invitation upon learning that Nixon had been invited, but finally told her husband she would go "as long as I'm not sitting at the same table with Nixon."
According to Newsweek, O'Neill inquired about the locatior of their table and was able to reassure his wife that they would not be sitting anywhere near the former president.
Normally, White House Social Secretary Gretchen Poston does not make final seating arrangements until the day of the dinner.
Nixon will arrive, as will Teng and his wife, Cho Lin, by the North Portico while other guests are entering by the East Gate.
Among the evening's omissions, for whatever reason, will be William P. Rogers, who as secretary of State accompanied Nixon on his historic trip to China in 1972. Rogers' successor will be at the dinner although Henry Kissinger's wife Nancy sent regrets because of the death of close friend Nelson Rockefeller.
Extra women at the dinner will be Mrs. Alan Cranston, wife of the California Democrat who will join her later at the Kennedy Center gala, and film star Shirley MacLaine whom Kissinger often escorted during his bachelor days in Washington.
Teng's party includes 24 ranking members of the People's Republic of China government, three of whom were permitted to bring their wives.
Nixon will join Ambassador Chai Zemin, chief of the Chinese liaison, and Madame Li Youfeng in their box at the Kennedy Center gala. In terms of protocol, that box ranks fourth after those occupied by the Carters, Vice President and Mrs. Mondale, the O'Neills and their Chinese companions.
Dinner guests also will include six members of Carter's cabinet, 14 U.S. senators and seven members of the House, most from key departments and committees with a stake in U.S.-China relations or some aspect of the Teng visit.
Senators from two of the three states Teng will visit in his cross-country tour, are on tonight's list. They are Democrats Warren G. Magnuson and Henry M. Jackson of Washington, where Teng will spend three days inspecting the Boeing aircraft facilities, and Democratic Sen. Sam Nunn of Georgia, where Teng will tour the Ford Motor Co. plant.
Sen. Edward Kennedy (D-Mass.) is escorting his sister, Mrs. R. Sargent Shriver.
Missing from the list are Georgia's senior senator, Democrat Herman Talmadge, who is being treated for alcohol abuse in California, and Sens. John Tower (R) and Lloyd Bentsen (D) of Texas, where Teng will tour the Lynodn Baines Johnson Space Center.
Filling that void, perhaps, are Democratic National Committee Chairman John C. White and Carter's special representative for trade negotiations, Robert S. Strauss, both Texans.
Others at the dinner include heads of nearly a dozen leading U.s/. corporations which as members of the National Council for U.S.-China Trade are underwriting the $250,000 production costs of the Kennedy Center gala.
Among them will be J. Paul Austin of Coca-Cola, whose firm will begin construction of a bottling plant in China next year; William A. Hewitt of John Deere, Inc., program chairman for the gala, and National Council Chairman John C. Brizendine of Douglas Aircraft.
Another guest will be Robert W. Anderson, chairman of Atlantic Richfield Co., which is underwriting the $500,000 production costs of televising the gala and its transmission by satellite to China.
UAW President Douglas Fraser, author Theodore H. White, China scholars A. Doak Barnett of Brookings Institution, John K. Fairbank of Harvard and National Academy of Sciences President Philip Handler are others on tonight's guest list.
The White House Guest List
Guests at President and Mrs. Carter's state dinner tonight at the White House for Chinese Vice Premier Teng Hsiaoping and Madame Cho Lin include:
(Spelling follows the new Chinese transliteration system.)
Fang Yi, vice premier of the State Council of the People's Republic of China, and Madame Yin Sen;
Huang Hua, minister of Foreign Affairs of the People's Republic of China, and Madame He Liliang, deputy director of the Department of International Organizations and Conferences and Treaty and Law, Ministry of Foreign Affairs;
Chai Zemin, chief, Liaison Office of the People's Republic of China, and Madame Li Youfeng;
Zhang Weniin, vice minister of Foreign Affairs;
Ling Yun, special assistant in charge of security affairs;
Special Assistant Pu Shouchang;
Wang Ruilin, chief of Vice Premier Deng's office;
Information Assistant Peng Di;
Wei Younging, director of the protocol department, Ministry of Foreign Affairs;
Wu Mingyu, departmental director, State Scientific and Technological Commission;
Zhu Qizhen, deputy director of the American and Oceania Department, Ministry of Foreign Affairs;
Adviser Deng Yumin;
Adviser Tan Wenrui;
Adviser Li Shenzhi;
Ji Chaozhu, Vice Premier Deng's interpreter, deputy director of the Department of International Organizations and Conferences and Treaty and Law, Ministry of Foreign Affairs;
Chen Yang, deputy departmental director, Ministry of Foreign Trade;
Sun Yong, deputy director of the Central Security Bureau;
Chen, Chu, permanent tepresentative of the People's Republic of China to the United States; Han Hsu, deputy chief, Liaison Office of the
People's Republic of China; Tsao Kuei-sheng, counselor, Liaison Office; Vice President and Mrs. Walter Mondale; The Speaker & Mrs. Thomas P. O'Neill; Richard Nixon; Secretary of State & Mrs. Cyrus Vance; Secretary of the Treasury and Mrs. W. Michael
Blumenthal; Secretary of Defense and Mrs. Harold Brown; Secretary of Agriculture and Mrs. Bob Bergland; Secretary of Commerce Juanita M. Kreps; Secretary of Energy and Mrs. James Schlesinger; Zbigniew Brzezinski, assistant to the president
for National Security Affairs, and Mrs. Brzezinski; Robert S. Strauss, special representative for Trade
Negotiations, and Mrs. Strauss; Sen. and Mrs. Warren G. Magnuson; Sen. and Mrs. Russell B. Long; Sen. and Mrs. Henry M. Jackson; Sen. and Mrs. Frank Church; Sen. and Mrs. Jacob K. Javits; Sen. and Mrs. Robert C. Byrd; Sen. and Mrs. Edmund S. Muskie; sen. and Mrs. Harrison A. Williams Jr.; Sen. Edward M. Kennedy and guest, Mrs. R.
Sargent Shriver Jr.; Sen. and Mrs. Howard H. Baker Jr.; Sen. and Mrs. Charles H. Percy; Sen. and Mrs. Henry L. Bellmon; Mrs. Alan Cranston, wife of the senator from
California; Sen. and Mrs. Sam Nunn; Sen. and Mrs. John H. Glenn; Rep. Clement J. Zablocki and guest, Miss Jane
Frances Zablocki; Rep. and Mrs. John J. Rhodes; Rep. and Mrs. Dante B. Fascell; Rep. and Mrs. Jim Wright; Rep and Mrs. William S. Broomfield;
Rep. and Mrs. John Brademas;
Rep. and Mrs. Lester L. Woff;
Henry A. Kissinger;
Frank Press, director, Office of Science and Technology Policy, and Mrs. Press.
Chief of Protocol Kit Dobelle and Evan S. Dobelle;
Richard C. Holbrooke, assistant secretary of State for East Asian and Pacific Affairs, and Mrs. Holbrooke;
Michel Oksenberg, staff member, National Security Council, and Mrs. Oksenberg;
Leonard Woodcock, ambassador-designate to the People's Republic of China, and Mrs. Woodcock;
Philip Handler, president, National Academy of Sciences, and Mrs. Handler;
A. Robert Abboud, chairman, The First National Bank of Chicago, and Mrs. Abboud;
Robert O. Anderson, chairman, Atlantic Richfield Co., and Mrs. Anderson.
William S. Anderson, chairman, NCR Corp., and Mrs. Anderson;
J. Paul Austin, chairman, Coca-Cola Co., and Mrs. Austin;
Charles Balley, editor, Minneapolis Tribune, and Mrs. Bailey;
A. Doak Barnet, senior fellow, Brookings Institution, and Mrs. Barnett;
John C. Brizendine; president, Doualas Aircraft Co., and Mrs: Brizendine;
Kenneth F. C. Char, vice chairman, Aloha Airlines, and Mrs. Char;
John K. Fairbank, faculty, Department of History, Harvard University, and Mrs. Fairbank;
Douglas Fraser, president, United Auto Workers, and Mrs. Fraser;
William A. Hewitt; chairman, John Deere, Inc., and Mrs. Hewitt;
Michael L. Hall, president, Great Plains Wheat, Inc., and Mrs. Hall;
Reginald H. Jones, chairman, General Electric Co., and Mrs. Jones;
Mr. and Mrs. Norman Lau Kee;
Miss Shirlev MacLaine;
Thomas A. Murphy, chairman, General Motors Corp., and Mrs. Murphy;
William T. Seawell, chairman, Pan American World Airways, Inc., and Mrs. Seawell;
John C. Whiteman, Democratic National Committee, and Mrs. White;
Mr. and Mrs. Theodore H. White.