Memoirs shed light on Nixon's Beijing visit

By CAI HONG | China Daily | Updated: 2019-08-12 09:14
The latest Chinese edition of RN: The Memoirs of Richard Nixon was published in May to mark the 40th anniversary of the normalization of Sino-US ties.

New edition marks 40th anniversary of normalization of ties

At 7:30 pm on July 15, 1971, United States President Richard Nixon spoke to the nation from a television studio in Burbank, California.

"I have requested this time tonight to announce a major development in our efforts to build a lasting peace in the world," he began, before reading an announcement that was also being made in Beijing.

It said that Premier Zhou Enlai and Henry Kissinger, Nixon's assistant for national security affairs, had met for talks in Beijing from July 9 to 11. Knowing that Nixon wanted to visit China, Zhou, on behalf of the Chinese government, had invited him to come to the country at an "appropriate date" before May 1972. Nixon had accepted the invitation "with pleasure".

Nixon said, "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."

More than two years of complex, subtle and determined diplomatic efforts and negotiations preceded the announcement.

Nixon wrote in his memoirs, published in 1978: "Despite the almost miraculous secrecy we had been able to maintain, the China initiative was actually one of the most publicly prepared surprises in history."

The latest Chinese edition of the book, RN: The Memoirs of Richard Nixon, was published in May this year to mark the 40th anniversary of the normalization of China-US ties. Different translated versions were also published in 1979 and 2001.

The 1,166-page book, an intensely personal examination of his life and career, sheds light on the Nixon administration's behind-the-scenes decisions for dealing with a then-isolated China.

In an article published by Foreign Affairs magazine in October 1967, Nixon stressed the importance of Asia to the US and the world, concluding with a section on US policy toward China.

"For the short run, then, this means a policy of firm restraint, of no reward, of a creative counter-pressure designed to persuade Peking (Beijing) that its interests can be served only by accepting the basic rules of international civility. For the long run, it means pulling China back into the world community-but as a great and progressing nation, not as the epicenter of world revolution," Nixon said.

According to the book, shortly after taking office in 1969, Nixon urged Kissinger to explore the possibilities of rapprochement with the Chinese.

The book tells how China and the US sent signals to each other.

Nixon wrote, "The first serious public step in the China initiative had been taken in February 1970 when I sent the first Foreign Policy Report to Congress."

The report called the Chinese "a great and vital people who should not remain isolated from the international community".

"It is certainly in our interest, and in the interest of peace and stability in Asia and the world, that we take what steps we can toward improved practical relations with Peking," the report read.

Nixon said Chinese leaders clearly understood the significance of the language in the report, because two days later, during a meeting in Warsaw, Poland, with US Ambassador Walter Stoessel, the Chinese charge d'affaires, Lei Yang, suggested moving their previously unproductive meetings to Beijing. He also hinted that China would welcome a high-ranking US official as head of the delegation.

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