Nixon Goes to China

Published: 1972
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President and Mrs. Nixon walk down the receiving line upon their arrival on February 28, 1972 at Andrews Air Force base in Maryland upon completing his trip to China. From Nixon are LTR: Transportation Secretary Volpe; George Schultz (Nixon holds his coat), director of office of Management and Budget; and United Nations Ambassador George Bush. (UPI Photo/Frank Cancellare/Files)

Ed Karrins: The "March of the Volunteers", played by a Chinese Army band at Peking Airport, greeting the President of the United States.

A week later in Shanghai, Richard Nixon exalted over the Joint Communique, summarizing the Summit.

President Richard M. Nixon: "This was the week that changed the world, as what we have said in that Communique is not nearly as important as what we will do in the years ahead to build a bridge across 16,000 miles and 22 years of hostilities which have divided us in the past. And what we have said today is that we shall build that bridge."

Ed Karrins: The bridge-building began even before the trip, of course; but the girders really began to close with the walk down the ramp of Air Force I, described by Don Fulsome.

Don Fulsome: "There they are, the President and Mrs. Nixon. Mr. Nixon, clapping his hands just briefly to himself, now shaking hands with the Premier of China, Yo Han Li, the 74-year old, number-2 man in the People's Republic of China."

Ed Karrins: Within hours of the formal greeting at the airport, Mr. Nixon held his first talk with Chairman Mao, Peking's aging number-one man. They were to meet again, but the key work was done in a he series of meetings between the President and Premier Yo and between State Secretary Rogers and his Chinese counterpart.

Henry Kissinger described his role as that of a go-between and previewed the Joint Communique with newsmen. But News Secretary Ron Ziegler was the man who read it for U.S. consumption.

News Secretary Ron Ziegler: "There are essential differences between China and the United States in their social systems and foreign policies. However, the two sides agree that countries, regardless of their social systems, should conduct their relations on the principles of respect for sovereignty and territorial integrity of all states, nonaggression against other states, noninterference in the internal affairs of other states, the quality and mutual benefit and peaceful coexistence."

Ed Karrins: China showed what may have been its satisfaction by permitting a relatively low-level official, the Shanghai Revolutionary Chairman, to praise the communique almost immediately.

Unknown Speaker: "We people of Shanghai, like the people throughout our country, welcome this positive action which conforms to the common desire of the peoples of China and the United States."

Ed Karrins: The communique acknowledges that there is but one China on both sides of the Taiwan Strait. Some people were not happy that the United States accepted the position that, quote, "Taiwan is a part of China." Chief Diplomatic Correspondent Stewart Hensley.

Stewart Hensley: "The United States has promised ultimately to pull all its forces out of the island of Taiwan and to begin reducing forces on Taiwan as soon as the tension eased; but these were things, as the Presidential Advisor Henry Kissinger pointed out, that that United States was going to do anyway. So they really didn't give away too much."

Ed Karrins: To Chang Kai-shek's regime, it was too much. Allen Dawson was on Taiwan that February morning.

Allen Dawson: "The statement by Dr. Kissinger that the U.S. would live up to its treaty commitment with something to relieve the shock of the communique, however. The 1956 treaty with the Nationalists says that if necessary, the United States will even send combat troops to fight off any attack on the island. Allen Dawson, Taipei, Taiwan."

Ed Karrins: Even today, the full import of the China visit is not clear. Contacts have been expanded, visits exchanged and Congressmen have gone to China, something that would have been unthinkable just a few years back. Boeing has permission to sell Peking 707 jetliners, and American wheat is feeding parts of China.

The Peking regime reportedly pushed North Vietnam to move toward peace in Indo-China. Not only the years ahead will tell what the China visit means. By contrast, Mr. Nixon's Moscow visit produced some immediate tangible results.