“Nixon in China” at the Met – Feb. 12

February 21, 2011

The headline of the Global edition of Xinhua on February 11, 2011 said, “Met celebrates Nixon in China.”

Xinhua said, “John Adams’ musical masterpiece has made its long-awaited debut at New York’s Metropolitan Opera, and a prominent feature of it is the revolutionary ballet The Red Detachment of Women.”


A scene from Red Detachment of Women where the lead character has been rescued by the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) from an evil landlord that raped her and ordered that she be killed. In fact, the PLA was support by China’s peasants due to harsh treatment from the ruling class. After the Communists won the Civil War, almost a million landowners were executed for crimes against the people.


Nixon arrived in Beijing on February 21, 1972.

On February 27, he left China with a pledge from both nations to normalize relations and that neither should seek hegemony in the Asia Pacific region while opposing the efforts of any other country that attempted such an action.

Thirty-nine years later, on February 12, I sat in an audience in California and watched the opera televised in a local, stuffy theater. The house was not packed but it was crowded.

During a break between acts, director Peter Sellars said the play had been restaged and rewritten since more is now known of what happened in China before and after the historic meeting between Nixon, Kissinger, Mao and Zhou Enlai.

The Pulitzer Prize-winning composer John Adams, said, “The meeting of Nixon and Mao is a mythological moment in world history, particularly American history.”

Nixon’s visit to China lasted less than a week but the opera covers years.

The demon in the opera is Mao’s wife. Soon after she appears on stage, it is clear she is responsible for the horrors of the Cultural Revolution. Several times, the Nixon character casts suspicious glances at her as if she is crazy.

At the time of Nixon’s visit, Mao’s wife was grooming herself to become China’s leader after Mao died and to continue the horrors of the Cultural Revolution.

Mao believed that to save China he had to erase China’s ancient culture and reinvent the country.

To reinforce this fact, there is a scene where Mao denounces Confucius.

Mao blamed Confucianism for making China weak and the victim of Western Imperialism and Japan between 1839 when the British and French started the Opium Wars until the end of World War II after Japan was defeated. During that time, almost a hundred million Chinese would die due to famines, rebellions, wars, and civil war.

Little did Mao’s wife know at the time of Nixon’s visit that a few years later fate had something else in store for her when Deng Xiaoping appears from the shadows and has her arrested for crimes against the people.

In fact, at her trial after Mao’s death, which wasn’t covered in the opera, she shouted, “I was Mao’s dog. When Mao told me to bite, I bit.”

Sellars or Adams should have mentioned the revelations that run through the play covering years of Chinese history revealing the role of each major Chinese character.

Near the end while Zhou Enlai is in pain and slowly dying from pancreatic cancer, it is obvious that the people loved him. There is a moment where it appears he has died and his bed is surrounded with flowers and a communist flag is carefully draped over him.

In fact, near the end of the Cultural Revolution, Zhou Enlai protested the horrors that were happening in China and protected many Chinese from Mao’s teenage Red Guard responsible for much of the crimes that took place during the last decade of Mao’s life.

For this risky act, the people of China honored and loved Zhou Enlai. Almost every other Chinese leader that spoke out against Mao died or went to prison. Few escaped Mao’s wrath. Even Deng Xiaoping had his son tossed off a three-story building to survive but be paralyzed from the neck down.

Meanwhile, in another bed, Mao is having a tryst with his wife soon after having his crotch fondled by one of the women that cares for him.

When Mao rests on a bed at the end, the Communist flag is dropped over him without much ceremony and there were no flowers.

Zhou Enlai would die eight months before Mao in 1976.

Discover more of Nixon’s Trip to China

The world premiere of Nixon in China took place at the Houston Grand Opera in 1987. I have embedded a seventeen-part series discovered on You Tube of the original. If interested, scroll down and enjoy.


Nixon in China -– Part 1/17

Nixon in China – Part 2/17

Nixon in China – Part 3/17


Nixon in China – Part 4/17

Nixon in China – Part 5/17

Nixon in China – Part 6/17

Nixon in China – Part 7/17

Nixon in China – Part 8/17

Nixon in China – Part 9/17

Nixon in China – Part 10/17

Nixon in China – Part 11/17

Nixon in China – Part 12/17


Nixon in China – Part 13/17

Nixon in China – Part 14/17

Nixon in China – Part 15/17

Nixon in China – Part 16/17

Nixon in China – Part 17/17


Lloyd Lofthouse is the award-winning author of the concubine saga, My Splendid Concubine & Our Hart. When you love a Chinese woman, you marry her family and culture too.

If you want to subscribe to iLook China, there is a “Subscribe” button at the top of the screen in the menu bar.

Nixon in China – Part 1/3

February 4, 2011

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. Source: Free Republic

At the time, I’m sure President Nixon had no idea how close those relations would become.

Thirty-nine years ago this month, 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.”

Question — In modern times, 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.

Discover what it took to survive Mao’s Long March.


Lloyd Lofthouse is the award-winning author of the concubine saga, My Splendid Concubine & Our Hart. When you love a Chinese woman, you marry her family and culture too.

If you want to subscribe to iLook China, there is a “Subscribe” button at the top of the screen in the menu bar.