February 22, 1972 - Nixon’s Visit to China
By Caity Reiter
Nixon’s hopes for his presidency were to obtain a stable relationship with China, bring an end to cold war tensions with the Soviet Union, and a peaceful and noble end to the Vietnam War. One of Nixon’s goals was reached on February 22, 1972 when he and his wife arrived in China. Nixon had first announced his visit on July 15, 1971, shocking many. A vast majority of the world saw Nixon’s idea of visiting China as crazy and unheard of. Some equated it to landing on the moon, they say people would have been less shocked if Nixon had announced he would be venturing to the moon than going to China. Nixon was optimistic going into his visit that a good relationship with China would help end the Vietnam war. He believed that Vietnam would see the United States having a relationship with a more powerful communist country and ultimately would lower tensions and aid in bringing the war to an end. Nixon also did not want the country of China as a whole to be isolated, as he felt that the Chinese people had so much to offer to the rest of the world.
Months before his visit to China, Nixon sent his national security advisor on two visits to the country to prepare for his visit. When Nixon and his wife first stepped off the plane in China, he made a point to outstretch his arm and shake the hand of Premier Zhou Enli. Enli and the entire country of China saw this as the first sign of peace as they believe it put to bed 25 years without communication. Upon the first few days of his visit, Mao Zeding insisted in meeting with Nixon. The two met, and had a peaceful conversation lasting just under an hour. During this first meeting, the leaders discussed the idea of the Shanghai Communique.
The Shanghai Communique was the most important outcome of Nixon’s visit. It was a document originally drawn up by the United States. When Premier Zhou Enli read the document, he said it was unsatisfactory because it had no mention of the previous struggles between the two countries. Enli believed it should mention in depth details of the history of the two countries and the way they achieved peace. Enli drew up a new document detailing the countries history along with various conditions of peace and the recognition of Taiwan as a part of China by the United States. This was the most important part of the communique as there likely would not have been peace between the countries without the United States recognizing Taiwan as a part of China. Taiwan wanted to be its own independent country, however, China wanted to keep it under their rule. The United States’ acceptance of this condition was the deciding factor on peace between the two countries.
The final version of the Shanghai Communique was released on the last day of Nixon’s visit. As his visit to China came to a close, Nixon visited the Great Wall. Looking out on the beautiful country, Nixon remarked that no walls, being physical, mental, or philosophical would divide people and everyone should have the opportunity to communicate with each other no matter their ethnic or cultural background. The visit to China was successful in mending the relationship between the U.S and China, which ultimately softened Cold War tensions.