News / Asia

Nixon's China Visit Marked Turning Point in Sino-American Relations

William Ide

It has been 40 years since former U.S. President Richard Nixon made his historic trip to China.  That visit marked the beginning of what experts say has become one of the world's most far-reaching and challenging international relationships.

Nixon's trip to China was such a grand drama on the world stage that years later, it, indeed, became an opera.

The historical record is much simpler:

He arrived on February 21, 1972 at a time when the two countries were far apart diplomatically.  He had only one meeting with Chinese leader Mao Zedong.  But near the end of his visit, Mr. Nixon remarked that it was “the week that changed the world.”

“Usually that’s hyperbole and spin and pumping up an occasion.  In this case, it was true.  It really did change the world.  We [i.e., the United States] had been at war [in Vietnam] and [China was] totally isolated -- the two countries -- one with the most people, the other with the most power.  And this log jam was broken,” said retired diplomat Winston Lord, who traveled with the president.

The two countries disagreed on many issues, but they shared a common concern -- the Soviet Union.

The late Zhang Hanzhi was Mao’s interpreter during Mr. Nixon's visit.

“The real threat to China was from the north and its vast border with the Soviet Union.  And Chairman Mao would often talk about the millions of [Soviet] troops along China’s border.  And while the Soviet Union and the U.S. were rivals, they could frequently find room for compromise.  China’s relations were tense -- both with the Soviet Union and the United States,” Hanzhi said.

Common interests helped the two countries to find common ground.  And Sino-American relations expanded over the years, with the formalizing of diplomatic ties in the late 1970s and the opening of China’s economy under former Chinese leader Deng Xiaoping.

Brent Scowcroft was Mr. Nixon’s military assistant.

“It was a narrow bilateral discussion and relationship, but it served to get us used to talking to each other and to get to know each other and it went very well.  But with the collapse of the Cold War and the Soviet Union, the glue of that relationship fell apart,” Scowcroft said.

Now, mutual military concerns, human rights, trade and a host of pressing issues dominate relations between the world’s two biggest economies.

You May Like

Turkey's Controversial Reform Bill Giving Investors Jitters

Homeland security reform bill will give police new powers in search, seizure, detention and arrests, while restricting the rights of suspects, their attorneys More

Audio Slideshow In Kenyan Prison, Good Grades Are Path to Freedom

Some inmates who get high marks could see their sentences commuted to non-custodial status More

Ali Regained Title in Historic Fight 40 Years Ago

'The Champ' knocked Foreman out to regain crown he had lost 7 years earlier when US government accused him of draft-dodging and boxing officials revoked his license More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Victorious Secularists Face Challenge to Form Government in Tunisiai
X
Henry Ridgwell
October 30, 2014 11:39 PM
Official results from Tunisia show the Islamist Ennahda party has failed to win the second free election since the so-called "Arab Spring" uprising in 2011. Ennahda, which handed power to a government of technocrats pending the elections, lost out to the secular party Nidaa Tounes. Henry Ridgwell reports from London that the relatively peaceful poll offers some hope in a volatile region.
Video

Video Victorious Secularists Face Challenge to Form Government in Tunisia

Official results from Tunisia show the Islamist Ennahda party has failed to win the second free election since the so-called "Arab Spring" uprising in 2011. Ennahda, which handed power to a government of technocrats pending the elections, lost out to the secular party Nidaa Tounes. Henry Ridgwell reports from London that the relatively peaceful poll offers some hope in a volatile region.
Video

Video Africa Tells its Story Through Fashion

In Africa, Fashion Week is a riot of colors, shapes, patterns and fabrics - against the backdrop of its ongoing struggle between nature and its fast-growing urban edge. How do these ideas translate into needle and thread? VOA’s Anita Powell visited this year’s Mercedes Benz Fashion Week Africa in Johannesburg to find out.
Video

Video Smugglers Offer Cheap Passage From Turkey to Syria

Smugglers in Turkey offer a relatively cheap passage across the border into Syria. Ankara has stepped up efforts to stem the flow of foreign fighters who want to join Islamic State militants fighting for control of the Syrian border city of Kobani. But porous borders and border guards who can be bribed make illegal border crossings quite easy. Zlatica Hoke has more.
Video

Video China Political Meeting Seeks to Improve Rule of Law

China’s communist leaders will host a top level political meeting this week, called the Fourth Plenum, and for the first time in the party’s history, rule of law will be a key item on the agenda. Analysts and Chinese media reports say the meetings could see the approval of long-awaited measures aimed at giving courts more independence and include steps to enhance an already aggressive and high-reaching anti-corruption drive. VOA’s Bill Ide has more from Beijing.
Video

Video After Decades of Pressure, Luxembourg Drops Bank Secrecy Rules

European Union finance ministers have reached a breakthrough agreement that will make it more difficult for tax cheats to hide their money. The new legislation, which had been blocked for years by countries with a reputation as tax havens, was approved last week after Luxembourg and Austria agreed to lift their vetoes. But as Mil Arcega reports, it doesn’t mean tax cheats have run out of places to keep their money hidden.
Video

Video Kobani Refugees Welcome, Turkey Criticizes, US Airdrop

Residents of Kobani in northern Syria have welcomed the airdrop of weapons, ammunition and medicine to Kurdish militia who are resisting the seizure of their city by Islamic State militants. The Turkish government, however, has criticized the operation. VOA’s Scott Bobb reports from southeastern Turkey, across the border from Kobani.

All About America

AppleAndroid