In 1969, the Soviet Union was planning a nuclear attack on China. The USSR only backed down when President Nixon’s administration warned Moscow that such a move would start World War Three since the US would bomb Russia in retaliation.
The United States, under President Nixon (1969-1974), clearly indicated that China’s interests were closely related to America’s. – Free Republic
At the time, I’m sure President Nixon had no idea how close those relations would become.
More than 43 years ago in February 1972, President Richard Nixon went to China and changed the course of history a second time. His motives may not have been meant to encourage China to become the economic powerhouse it is today.
However, if it weren’t for Nixon, the odds say the Soviet Union would have bombed China with nuclear weapons and China would have retaliated.
While flying to China, President Nixon made notes. Here are a few.
What they (China) want? Build up their world credentials, Taiwan, and get the U.S. out of Asia (In 1968, Nixon ran for President promising to get the U.S. out of Vietnam).
What we (the US and China) both want? Restraint on USSR
The BBC reporter in the embedded video says that Nixon’s trip to Beijing wasn’t to see if China would help get the US out of Vietnam. Instead, the trip was designed to put pressure on the USSR with a goal to make them agree to strategic arms limitations.
Soon after Nixon’s China trip, the Soviets were forced to negotiate and within three months signed two arms control agreements.
What I find interesting is how often US Presidents (and politicians) have been wrong about China.
In 1961, President John F. Kennedy said if China had nuclear bombs, it would swallow Southeast Asia. That never happened and today China has more than three hundred nuclear bombs with the missiles to deliver them to targets thousands of miles distant.
In 1965, China successfully tested its first nuclear bomb. President Lyndon Johnson said it was “the blackest and most tragic day for the free world”.
How was that day the “blackest and most tragic day for the free world”?
After all, China has never used a nuclear weapon on another country as the US did on Japan to end World War II by bombing Hiroshima and Nagasaki killing about a quarter million people.
In fact, about 25 American POWs were also killed in the first blast. Most of the Japanese dead were noncombatants—the elderly, women and children.
Di Text.com reports that the US firebombed (with napalm) 67 Japanese cities in World War II. More than half of Tokyo (one of the 67 cities) was destroyed. Estimates of the number killed in Tokyo range between 80,000 and 200,000.
Robert S. McNamara was reported to have said, “If we’d lost the war, we’d all have been prosecuted as war criminals.”
Has Communist China inflicted that many casualties on another nation’s civilian population? Don’t forget that Japan killed about 30 million Chinese during World War II.
When President Nixon went to China, he met with Chairman Mao, who was suffering from poor health. In four years, he would die, and Nixon would be the only president in US history to resign while in office due to the Watergate Scandal.
After Nixon resigned as the US president, the Chinese offered him a home in China where he would be allowed to live in peace away from his political enemies.
Two months before his meeting with Mao in Beijing, Nixon had approved a bombing operation in North Vietnam.
Many called it the Christmas bombings since it took place over the holidays. It was the first continuous bombing in Vietnam since President Lyndon Johnson had halted bombing in 1968.
Over 20 thousand tons of bombs were dropped during the campaign. That’s forty million pounds of explosives.
Ironically, Nixon ran for election as the “Peace Candidate” in 1968. Can you think of other US politicians that have used similar promises (later broken) to win elections?
Because of Nixon’s record of being an anticommunist, no one would have thought that he would have unexpectedly gone to China to meet with Mao and the CCP’s top leaders.
“Newly released audiotapes and secret documents from the Richard Nixon Presidential Library show a president obsessed with controlling the media and his public persona during the latter stages of his doomed administration.”
I find it ironic that this comes from a former president of a country that often criticized China’s control of its media. Is it possible that US politicians are jealous and want the same control over the US media?
While in China, President Nixon gave a speech in the Great Hall of the People in Beijing.
This was the first time a U.S. president had visited the People’s Republic of China (PRC), and China was considered one of America’s greatest enemies.
While in China, Nixon would meet with Zhou Enlai, who was the first Premier of the PRC. Zhou Enlai (along with Deng Xiaoping) played an important role in the future development of the Chinese economy and restructuring Chinese society leading to the China of today.
In fact, Zhou Enlai not only avoided the purges of high-level Chinese Communist Party officials during the Cultural Revolution, but he also attempted to contain the damage caused by the teenage Red Guard and to protect others from them. This made him very popular with the people near the end of the Cultural Revolution.
Zhou Enlai supported peaceful coexistence with the West. He would die eight months before Mao.
It is ironic that one of the main reasons Richard Nixon became the vice-president of President Eisenhower was due to his strong anti-communist stance.
If you listen to Nixon’s speech in Beijing carefully, you will hear how he managed to slip in a veiled criticism of the fact that the media was free to report what they wanted in the US.
Nixon says of his visit to the Great Wall, “As I walked along the Wall, I saw the sacrifices that went into building it. I saw what is showed about the determination of the Chinese people to retain their independence throughout their long history. I thought about the fact that the Wall tells us that China has a great history and that the people who built this wonder of the world also have a great future.”
I wonder if Nixon realized how true his statement was.
Is it possible that Nixon’s trip to China provided Deng Xiaoping the support needed to reject revolutionary Maoism and launch China’s capitalist revolution a few years later?
Lloyd Lofthouse is the award-winning author of My Splendid Concubine [3rd edition]. When you love a Chinese woman, you marry her family and culture too. This is the lusty love story Sir Robert Hart did not want the world to discover.
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