By Benjamin Cost
On July 15, 1971, a historic day for both China and the United States, President Richard Nixon announced his intention of traveling to China and meeting with Chinese premier, Zhou En Lai, to discuss normalizing relations between the two superpowers as part of a campaign to ease global tension in the testy “Cold War” political climate. Nixon, a formerly staunch anti-communist, proclaimed:
“As I have pointed out on a number of occasions over the past 3 years, there can be no stable and enduring peace without the participation of the People’s Republic of China and its 750 million people. That is why I have undertaken initiatives in several areas to open the door for more normal relations between our two countries……The meeting between the leaders of China and the United States is to seek the normalization of relations between the two countries and also to exchange views on questions of concern to the two sides……..I have taken this action because of my profound conviction that all nations will gain from a reduction of tensions and a better relationship between the United States and the People’s Republic of China.”
However, Nixon, a “Cold War” warrior to the last, would go on to use the meeting as his political chess-board, strengthening the United States’ ties with China while exacerbating China and Russia’s already rocky relationship. Nixon’s Assistant for National Security Affairs, Dr. Henry Kissinger would provide top secret intelligence briefing to the Chinese on Soviet military forces arrayed against China, a move that could possibly be foreshadowed in the line, “In pursuance of that goal [normalizing relations between the U.S. and China], I sent Dr. Kissinger, my Assistant for National Security Affairs, to Peking during his recent world tour for the purpose of having talks with Premier Chou En-lai.”
Nixon’s announcement ultimately marks an important chapter in Sino-U.S. relations and embodies the atmosphere of double-speak and secrecy that characterized the “Cold War” epoch.
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