Why Did Richard Nixon Want to Improve Relations With China

Why Did Richard Nixon Want to Improve Relations With China

Written by: Gregory L. Schneider, Emporia Country Academy

Past the end of this section, yous will:

  • Explain the continuities and changes in Cold War policies from 1945 to 1980

Suggested Sequencing

Utilize this Narrative toward the beginning of the chapter to hash out foreign policy during Nixon’s presidency and the importance of his visit to the People’s Democracy of People’s republic of china.


From Feb 21 to 28, 1972, President Richard Nixon became the first president to visit the People’s Republic of China (PRC), traveling there specifically for talks with communist leader Mao Zedong. The visit, which Nixon dubbed “the week that changed the world,” produced smashing theater. Nixon met with Mao in the leader’s study, toured the Great Wall of China with First Lady Pat Nixon, and attended a banquet in his accolade with Chinese Premier Zhou Enlai.

President Nixon shaking hands with Chinese Premier Zhou Enlai immediately upon landing in Red china in 1972. Get-go Lady Pat Nixon is on the left.

Meetings between American and Soviet leaders had happened many times over the preceding years. Called summits, these meetings typically produced improved relations between the two superpowers. For case, Nixon’south meeting with his Soviet analogue Leonid Brezhnev in 1971 led to an arms control agreement known as the Strategic Arms Limitation Treaty (SALT), cultural exchanges, and a merchandise agreement. The thaw in U.S.-Soviet relations was office of a Nixon strategy known as détente, a means to lessen tensions between the ii superpowers and possibly utilize the Soviets to apply force per unit area on their North Vietnamese ally to negotiate an end to the Vietnam War.

That Nixon would be the first president to visit “Communist china” and negotiate with Mao would have shocked partisans on both sides in the 1950s. The communists had established the PRC in October 1949, after a long civil war that resulted in a communist victory over the American-backed government of Chiang Kai-shek. Chiang fled to Taiwan and installed his Guomindang government on the isle. Mao turned to the Soviets for help in building up Cathay, securing economical and armed services aid from Stalin in 1950.

The Americans isolated the PRC and backed Taiwan as the legitimate government of Mainland china, refusing to allow the Cathay a seat in the United Nations (UN). The Korean State of war (1950-1953) pitted the ii countries against each other once more after China intervened in the disharmonize to support North korea. At abode, anti-communists charged the Truman assistants and the Democrats with the “loss” of Mainland china to the communists. During his fourth dimension in the Business firm and Senate, Nixon fervently supported the domestic anti-communism that dominated the politics of the late 1940s and early 1950s, and he strongly backed the effort to keep Mao’s China out of the UN.

Nixon had been called as Dwight Eisenhower’s running mate in 1952 in part because of his anti-communist and conservative credentials. He played the role very well during his eight years as vice president. His defeats in the 1960 presidential ballot (by John F. Kennedy) and in the California gubernatorial race (by Edmund “Pat” Brown) two years later seemed to finish Nixon’s political career. However, he regained his stature in the Republican Party and faithfully supported Barry Goldwater in 1964. By 1967, he was well poised to be the frontrunner for the Republican nomination in 1968. With the Democrats experiencing huge problems as a result of the Vietnam War, anti-war protests, race riots, and civil unrest at domicile, Nixon understood that the GOP had a potent risk of winning the election that year.

Nixon and Eisenhower stand together and join hands in the air while their wives stand beside them. The poster reads

Nixon ran equally vice president alongside Dwight Eisenhower in the 1952 election.

In 1967, Nixon’s commodity “Asia Afterwards Vietnam” was published in the distinguished journal
Foreign Diplomacy.
In it, Nixon argued that although Vietnam had occupied a significant part of the nation’south attending, development of the economies of the region should be of import new goals of American affairs. But more than that, Nixon hinted that a new relationship with Communist china could be initiated, and that the United states of america could begin to end its function in Vietnam by adopting a policy designed to back up the South Vietnamese authorities militarily while ending direct American interest. The influential article burnished Nixon’s foreign policy credentials.

Popular:   Why Did Federalists Argue for a Separation of Powers

Both policies came into outcome in one case Nixon became president. He began to withdraw American troops from the state of war in 1970, after a disastrous invasion of neighboring Kingdom of cambodia led to massive anti-war protests on college campuses. Nixon “Vietnamized” the war, and by the time of his reelection in 1972, fewer than 100,000 American troops remained in the South.

The opening of China came nearly cheers to a strategic convergence of events after 1969. Mao had earlier unleashed two disastrous social revolutions in China within a decade’s time. The beginning was the Great Leap Forward, designed to communalize agriculture and finish individual ownership of belongings. Mao encouraged false production statistics and had peasants produce steel in backyard furnaces, melting every metal utensil and cooking pot they could find. But collectivized agriculture was less productive than individual country ownership. China exported many of the commodities it produced in order to repay its debts to the Soviet Marriage; from 1958 to 1961, notwithstanding, a famine killed equally many as 40 million Chinese people. Mao was rebuked and his power ended.

Part of a field is cleared for rows of furnaces. Multiple people work the furnaces. A neighbor's house and field is visible.

In the late 1950s, Mao Zedong encouraged peasants to ready backyard furnaces like these in an attempt to maximize steel production in People’s republic of china.

5 years afterwards, afterward regaining ability and aligning himself with the military, Mao launched the Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution to promote his view of communism. The Cultural Revolution was a disastrous menstruation lasting well-nigh 10 years (with its high point from 1965 to 1969). The economy was shut down, students roamed the streets punishing those suspected of pro-capitalist “revisionism” confronting Mao, and a reign of terror featuring massacres of perceived enemies was the norm until Mao changed course and used the military to scissure down on the very people he had once encouraged. The authorities killed between five and 10 million of its own people and imprisoned millions of other supposed enemies of the country during this period.

Meanwhile, relations betwixt the Soviet Union and Cathay disintegrated, and by the fourth dimension Nixon took function in Jan 1969, the Soviets and Chinese were openly at war with each other on the Ussuri River. The Soviets even asked how Nixon would reply if they should apply nuclear weapons against the Chinese. The president was balked and said he would not approve.

Considering of America’s interest in getting out of Vietnam and China’s interest in reopening itself to the earth later on the catastrophes of the Bully Bound Forrard and the Cultural Revolution, both countries had reason to improve relations. Nixon saw an opening, and his national security counselor Henry Kissinger used the Pakistani government every bit a secret channel to begin talks with China’due south Zhou Enlai. Feigning an disease while visiting Pakistan, Kissinger secretly traveled to Beijing for talks with Zhou, which he saw as “celebrated.” In Feb 1971, he secured an invitation from Zhou for Nixon to visit China.

Henry Kissinger and Mao Zedong talk.

Secretary of Country Henry Kissinger (left) meeting with Chairman Mao Zedong in the early 1970s.

Vietnam and Taiwan were major stumbling blocks for both countries on the path to improved relations, however, with the Chinese insisting that the Usa intermission off its relations with Taiwan earlier relations with Communist china could exist normalized. Kissinger and Nixon, for their part, clearly wanted the Chinese to play a part in pressuring the North Vietnamese to negotiate an end to the disharmonize in Vietnam. Talks were already going on in Paris between Kissinger and North Vietnamese Foreign Minister Le Duc Tho. In April 1971, a U.Southward. table tennis team was in Japan when they were invited to play in China. This bit of “ping pong affairs” represented the get-go contact between Chinese and American citizens since 1949, a symbol of the promise for improved relations between the ii countries.

Popular:   A Solution Containing Hcl Would Likely Have

In June 1971, Nixon stunned the world when he announced he would go to People’s republic of china to meet with Mao. He equally shocked bourgeois anti-communists, who saw the coming together every bit a betrayal of America’s Taiwanese ally, with criticism coming particularly from William F. Buckley Jr.’due south mag
National Review. On February 21, 1972, Nixon was greeted in Beijing by Zhou Enlai and met with Mao for several hours, discussing the pathway to normalized relations. And so he toured the state and met with prominent Chinese leaders. Concluding talks at Shanghai produced an agreement to facilitate the normalization of diplomatic relations betwixt the two powers, known as the Shanghai Communiqué. In the understanding, the two sides worked toward diplomatic recognition, with the Nixon administration agreeing that as a effect of this normalization, the Usa would end its official recognition of Taiwan and withdraw military forces from the isle, which China claimed was role of its “People’s Republic.”

On returning from the trip, Nixon immediately reported to a joint session of Congress. His approval ratings shot up, making it clear that the American public approved of his historic trip. Nevertheless, the Taiwanese government did non approve of Nixon’south opening of relations with China. As a result, Nixon sent California governor Ronald Reagan to assure the Taiwanese that they had nothing to fear, although the Shanghai Communiqué showed that the only style for the United States to normalize relations was to end its back up for Taiwan.

Normalization of relations with Mainland china was not fully achieved until 1979, when Jimmy Carter and China’s new leader Deng Xiaoping reached an agreement including, as an essential component, that the U.s.a. would fulfill its promise to cut off recognition of Taiwan. Zhou Enlai died in early 1976 and Mao a few months later, and Chiang Kai-shek was gone too. Seven years after Nixon’s historic trip, China entered the Un and, under the leadership of Deng, before long became a dominant power in Asia and the world economy. Nixon’southward opening of China secured the ascent of that nation to great-ability status. Information technology is unclear what it had achieved for the United States, which, in the ensuing years, faced a authorities in China often opposed to its interests in Asia and elsewhere.


Review Questions

1. Why were the Chinese interested in meeting with Nixon?

  1. Nixon promised them assistance.
  2. Mao’s revolution was working.
  3. China’s human relationship with the Soviet Wedlock was disintegrating.
  4. Mainland china had just been granted Most Favored Nation status and wanted U.Due south. investment.

2. U.S. recognition of Taiwan marked a turning point in the normalization of relations with Mainland china considering

  1. Mao Zedong considered Taiwan part of China
  2. Chiang Kai-shek and American forces were preparing an invasion
  3. Cathay wanted to exploit Taiwan’s economy
  4. the United States was thinking of making Taiwan a territory

3. Initially, the U.s. refused to open diplomatic relations with the People’s Republic of Cathay for all the following reasons except

  1. the Chinese maintained close diplomatic ties with the Soviet Spousal relationship
  2. China alleged state of war against the United states in the Korean Conflict
  3. the Usa recognized Taiwan as the legitimate government of China
  4. the American government fought to keep the Chinese communists out of the Un
Popular:   The Ninety Five Theses Called for Many Reforms Including

four. Earlier he was elected president, Richard Nixon wrote in his essay “Asia later Vietnam” that the United States should

  1. maintain a military presence nigh the Chinese border
  2. develop a new human relationship with Communist China
  3. avoid economic interest in Eastern asia
  4. encourage a counter-revolution in Communist People’s republic of china

5. All the following were major problems the United States and China needed to deal with before they could open normal diplomatic relations except

  1. America’s recognition of Taiwan as the legitimate Chinese government
  2. the role China would play in helping to bring an finish to the war in Vietnam
  3. the economic success of the Great Leap Forward and the Cultural Revolution
  4. the war between China and the Soviet Matrimony

6. Conservative anti-communists in the United States viewed President Nixon’s visit to China as

  1. a positive economical step that would open markets in the world’s most populous nation
  2. an abandonment of Nixon’s own anti-communist credentials
  3. a way to bring a quick terminate to the Vietnam War
  4. a betrayal of America’s East Asian ally Taiwan

Free Response Questions

  1. Explain why President Richard Nixon’southward trip to China was a political shock to the world.
  2. Explain how the decision to invite President Richard Nixon to Cathay was office of a “diplomatic convergence” later on 1969.

AP Practice Questions

“13. Both sides view bilateral trade as some other area from which mutual benefit can be derived, and agreed that economic relations based on equality and common do good are in the interest of the peoples of the two countries. They concord to facilitate the progressive development of trade between their ii countries.

14. The ii sides agreed that they will stay in contact through various channels, including the sending of a senior The states representative to Peking from time to time for concrete consultations to farther the normalization of relations between the two countries and keep to exchange views on issues of mutual interest.

15. The two sides expressed the promise that the gains achieved during this visit would open up new prospects for the relations between the two countries. They believe that the normalization of relations between the two countries is not just in the interest of the Chinese and American peoples but also contributes to the relaxation of tension in Asia and the earth.”

Joint Communiqué of the United States of America and the People’s Republic of China (Shanghai Communiqué), Feb 28, 1972

Refer to the excerpt provided.

one. Which of the following best describes the context relevant to the extract?

  1. The United states agreed to end the restrictions created by the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882.
  2. The United States declared hostilities in the Korean Conflict officially over.
  3. The United States and Communist china were planning articulation economic ventures in East Asia.
  4. There was a strained Cold War relationship between the United States and China.

2. Those who criticize the sentiments expressed in the excerpt would most likely besides criticize

  1. the American recognition of the Soviet Union
  2. America’south entry into World War 2
  3. the establishment of the United Nations
  4. the creation of the Marshall Plan to rebuild Europe

3. The excerpt of the communiqué provides testify for which of the following in regard to American foreign policy goals?

  1. The United States was seeking to be a more ascendant strength in East Asia.
  2. The idea of détente was expanding to Cathay.
  3. America supported mutual coexistence for Taiwan and China.
  4. The United States desired a quick cease to the Vietnam War.

Primary Sources

President Nixon’due south Toast to Premier Chou En-Lai, February 21, 1972 https://www.youtube.com/sentry?v=Ni38rNeo-ZU

“Shanghai Communique.” 1972. https://en.wikisource.org/wiki/Shanghai_Communiqu%C3%A9

“Mao Zedong Meets with Richard Nixon, February 21, 1972.” https://china.usc.edu/mao-zedong-meets-richard-nixon-february-21-1972

Suggested Resource

Dallek, Robert.
Nixon and Kissinger: Partners in Power. New York: Harper, 2007.

Kissinger, Henry.
On China. New York: Penguin Books, 2012.

MacMillan, Margaret.
Nixon and Mao: The Calendar week That Changed the World. New York: Random House, 2007.

Westad, Odd Arne.
The Cold State of war: A Global History. New York: Basic Books, 2017.

Why Did Richard Nixon Want to Improve Relations With China

Source: https://billofrightsinstitute.org/essays/richard-nixon-opens-diplomatic-relations-with-china