Nixon’s Visit to China in 1972 Essay

Category: History

In the early 1970s, the Sino-Soviet split resulted in the further escalation of tensions on the continent. By this time, the Soviet Union had reached a nuclear parity with the United States, which meant that the latter could not afford to miss an opportunity to remedy its souring relations with the People’s Republic of China (PRC). In a bid to pave the way towards rapprochement between the two countries, President Nixon paid a visit to his Chinese counterpart Mao Zedong. The leaders had a full-dress discussion about the impact of a possible thaw in relations between their countries. Nixon’s trip to China is important because it ushered in a new milestone in the history of Sino-American relations and reinforced the effects of a policy of detente. This watershed event in the US history had an importance far beyond the bounds of Nixon’s bilateral relations with China. Many analysts and political scientists imply that President Obama could draw a lesson from Nixon’s dealings with the PRC in his efforts to mend diplomatic fences with the rogue state of Iran. For the sake of brevity, Nixon’s globetrotting in general and trip to China, in particular, demonstrate that the US can succeed by going the extra mile diplomatically rather than resorting to sapping sanctions and other coercive measures.

Although no concrete proposals were put forward during Nixon’s visit to the PRC, it was important for its symbolic value. Tad Szulc, the author of the article, emphasized the fact that President Nixon was the first American leader to go ahead with a state visit to the communist state. Three years earlier, he departed in Rumania, another bastion of communism on the Eurasian continent. This is interesting because Nixon was one of the most fervent opponents of communism on the American political horizon. It is worth mentioning that the US had not maintained diplomatic relations with the PRC at that point, as it supported the Chinese government-in-exile in Taiwan. Both Richard Nixon and his Secretary of State Henry Kissinger during their official visits to China did all the necessary spadework for the normalization of relations with the PRC. Eventually, the countries established diplomatic ties in 1979.

 

Works Cited

Szulc, Tad. “President Leaves on Trip to China; Stops in Hawaii.” The New York Times 17

Feb. 1972: 17-18. Print.

 

Article Cited

President Leaves on Trip to China; Stops in Hawaii

Washington, Feb. 17 -- President Nixon left for China today. He is to reach Peking on Monday morning, China time (Sunday night, New York time), for a week's stay on the mainland that is to include two conferences, with Chairman Mao Tse-tung and meetings with Premier Chou En-lai. Addressing 'Vice' President Agnew, the leaders of Congress, members of his Cabinet and a large crowd assembled on the White House lawn this morning to bid him farewell, the President said in a brief statement that the United States and China must "find a way to see that we can have differences without being enemies in war."

"If we can make progress toward that goal on this trip," he declared, "the world will be a much safer world and the chance particularly for all of those young children over there to grow up in a world of peace will be infinitely greater." As he uttered those words he pointed to a cluster of children facing him from behind the ropes holding back the many thousands at the departure ceremony. The White House said 8,000 were on hand- newsmen thought the figure was smaller- including 1,500 school children. Most of the youngsters had been bused from public schools in the capital and the Virginia and Maryland suburbs.

At the departure ceremony, Mr. Nixon, speaking without notes, concluded his remarks by citing, as the suggested "post-script" for his journey- which follows more than 20 years of hostile relations- the words inscribed on the plaque left on the moon by the first American astronauts in 1969: "We came in peace for all mankind."

With that the President, holding Mrs. Nixon by the arm, walked briskly to a waiting Marine Corps helicopter. It was 10:15 A. M. and a cold wind swept the White House lawn. Seventeen minutes later they landed at Andrews Air Force Base, in Maryland, and at 10:36 A. M. the blue-and-white Presidential jetliner, the Spirit of '76, took off for Hawaii on the first leg of Mr. Nixon's 20,000-mile journey. Mr. Nixon's aircraft left six minutes behind schedule, disappearing into the clouds just as the first heavy snow of the winter fell here.

In Kaneohe, Hawaii, where the Nixons will stay at the residence of Brig. Gen. Victor Armstrong, commander of the First Marine Brigade, the President will have 46 hours of rest and privacy before leaving on Saturday for Guam, an overnight stop. After a refueling stop in Shanghai, the official schedule provides for Mr. and Mrs. Nixon to arrive in Peking on Monday at 11:40 A.M., local time, which is 10:40 P.M. on Sunday, Eastern Standard Time. The President is to be formally greeted by China's leaders in a ceremony to be televised live to the United States via satellite by the three American networks.

Mr. Nixon will actually be on Chinese soil an hour and 40 minutes earlier, when the Spirit of '76 spends 50 minutes refueling in Shanghai. According to the program, he will alight briefly, but no ceremonies are planned.

Mr. Nixon will be the first American President to visit China. He was the first to visit a Communist nation when he went to Rumania in 1969. And he will be the first to pay an official visit to the Soviet Union when he flies to Moscow in May. (President Franklin D. Roosevelt attended the Yalta Conference in the Crimea in 1945 but did not go to Moscow.)

As Mr. Nixon emphasized once more this morning, he had undertaken the journey, which is the culmination of three years of secret diplomacy, to seek peace and understanding, without harboring expectations of great immediate achievements. "As we look to the future," he went on, "we must recognize that the government of the People's Republic of China and the Government of the United States have had great differences. We will have differences in the future. But what we must do is to find a way to see that we can have differences without being enemies in war."

President Nixon spoke to Vice President Agnew and 18 Congressional leaders and friends from both parties at a 45-minute briefing in the Cabinet Room at 9:20 A.M. He told them that no agenda had been prepared for his conferences with Chairman Mao and Premier Chou. Henry A. Kissinger, the President's assistant for national security, informed the group, according to the Senate Republican leader, Hugh Scott of Pennsylvania, that Mr. Nixon's principal objective would be to "open up a wide band of communications" between Peking and the Western world.

Senator Scott reported that Mr. Kissinger said that it was necessary to open communications with the Chinese but that he did not "necessarily expect the immediate resumption of diplomatic relations." Administration officials had indicated that the President was aware that Peking would not agree to full relations as long as the United States maintains formal ties with the Nationalist Government on Taiwan. Inasmuch as the Administration plans to keep those ties indefinitely, the expectation here is that, as a compromise nondiplomatic representatives, such as trade missions, might be exchanged.

In addition to President and Mrs. Nixon, the Spirit of '76 carried an official party of 13 senior advisers and aides. Also aboard the Presidential jetliner, a Boeing 707, and back-up aircraft were some 100 Government employes, including interpreters, secretaries, Secret Service agents and communications technicians. About 100 Government and network advance men are in China. Two chartered jets, flying ahead of the President, left this morning with 87 newspaper, magazine, news agency, television and radio correspondents and technicians.

Besides leaders from both sides of the aisle, Mr. Nixon had invited Senator Barry Goldwater, the Arizona Republican, and unsuccessful 1964 Presidential candidate. This was presumably done to deflect conservative criticism of the trip. Also, on hand were the full Cabinet and scores of ranking Administration officials and their families. The White House said that 6,200 invitations were issued to others, mainly Federal workers, besides the children.

The whole ceremony was unusual. Normally, the President leaves on foreign trips without White House farewells and is seen off by the Cabinet at Andrews. In keeping with the occasion, there was an honor guard from the services and a red carpet at the door of the helicopter. The White House had no use for unscheduled events, however. When a group of giggling children raised a hand-painted sign saying, "Be a nice guy to Chou En-lai," three White House policemen confiscated it.

The departure ceremony lasted a little over 15 minutes. The President, bareheaded in the 35-degree weather, walked along the line of Cabinet members and Congressional leaders shaking hands, chatting and smiling. Mrs. Nixon, wearing a full-length blond mink coat, followed him, extending farewells. They both kissed their daughters, Mrs. David Eisenhower and Mrs. Edward Finch Cox. Then, led by Secretary of State William P. Rogers, the Presidential group strolled to the helicopter. Mr. Kissinger hugging two newspapers, followed. In addition to Mr. Rogers and Mr. Kissinger, the official party includes.

H. R. Haldeman, assistant to the President; Ronald L. Ziegler, White House press secretary; Brig. Gen. Bren Scowcroft, new military assistant to the President, Marshall Green, Assistant Secretary of State for East Asian and Pacific Affair; Dwight Chapin, deputy assistant to the President; John A. Scall, special consultant to the President; Patrick J. Buchanan, special assistant to the President. Also Rose Mary Woods, the President's personal secretary; Alfred L. Jenkins, director of the State Department's office of Asian communist affairs; John H. Holdridge, a senior staff member of the National Security Council, Winston Lord, a special assistant to Mr. Kissinger.