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Nixon’s Concessions in China

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Nixon’s Concessions in China

        In 1972 President Richard Nixon broke with tradition and traveled to communist China to sit down and speak with Mao Zedong. This meeting was heard around the world and changed much of the diplomatic relationships the United States had with China and the entire Indochina region. Nixon signed the Shanghai Communique, which slowly started an unofficial relationship between the United States and China. However, this had ramifications from both ends of the agreements. During the Cold War the United States was dedicated towards preventing communism, therefore, Nixon’s trip to China attempted to help delay the spread of the communist ideals of North Vietnam from spreading to the non-communist South. Furthermore, Nixon was able to strengthen the United States ties with China by opening relationships with Mao Zedong. However, all of these decisions came with a cost; and that was recognizing the one China state.

        The Cold War was a period of economic and hostile tensions between nations of communist and anti-communist beliefs. Nixon himself had always polled based on a platform of being very vehemently anti communist. Previous to his tenure as President, the United States became involved in a war on the Vietnam peninsula. The United States was supporting the non communist South, while China and The Soviet Union were supporting the communist North. The War had become a point of political unrest in the United States and Nixon himself knew that it would have to end. The relationships between China and the United States had been non existent before Nixon’s journey in 1972. By traveling and attempting to work out an agreement between the two nations he hoped that he would be able to ease tensions both between the nations and the war in Vietnam (Haldeman 410-112).

        Nixon’s had always favored the sphere of international politics and affairs as compared to the domestic affairs in the United States, much of which he pushed on to his appointees. So when given the opportunity to be the first President in several decades to visit China, Nixon seized the opportunity and travel with his team including Henry Kissinger to Peking (Beijing) (Leuchtenburg 490). When Nixon first met Mao Zedong upon his arrival, Nixon described him as in relatively good shape but said he struggled to walk and move around. His mood was happy and upbeat, had a great sense of humor, and Nixon walked away from the meeting feeling like he had accomplished something (Haldeman 415). After that first interaction between the two leaders much of the negotiations for the agreement were passed off to Nixon and Zedong’s subordinates. Henry Kissinger, Nixon right hand man and his National Security Advisor, handled a majority of the talks for the United States (Leuchtenburg 498-500).

The whole process of meeting China was an overall success, running smoothly from the start. In Haldeman’s diaries dated to his time in China with Nixon, he discussed the successes they have when meeting Chinese political leaders. The Chinese throughout the trip worked hard to make the Americans feel as comfortable and accepted as possible. During a dinner hosted by the Chinese they had the red Army Band sing “America the Beautiful” to the President because he had it preformed at his inauguration so the Chinese believed it to be his favorite song (Haldeman 415).  At certain points in his diaries Haldeman makes a note of the Chinese press and some of the scenes that they fabricated for the American people, most of whom had not seen photos inside of China in over 2 decades. On his visit with the President to the Great Wall of China, Haldeman recounts the park area near the tombs being surrounded by multiple staged groups. There were children jumping rope and groups playing cards, as well as a family sitting down for a picnic. All this was in an effort for the United States citizens to see these photos in the press and give a more positive view on China.

The press was generally very positive and supportive of Nixon’s endeavors in China, many of whom were generally shocked to see the very anti-communist president traveling to China in the first place. In Haldeman’s Diaries he recounts moments of him and Nixon in the guest house discussing the news and events that the American press was writing about his trip. One of the areas that the press did criticize President Nixon over was his decision to take troops and United States representation out of Taiwan.

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