Richard Nixion, China, international relations


President Nixon himself dubbed it "the week that changed the world." Minutes after he strode from steps to tarmac, hand outstretched to grasp Premier Chou's hand, Chou, also realizing the magnitude of the occasion, turned to him and remarked, "your handshake came over the vastest ocean in the world-twenty-five years of no communication." If we take the chief players at their word-and the chroniclers of history have done so-it is no exaggeration to say that President Richard Nixon's historic visit to the People's Republic of China in February of 1972 was one of the most significant events of the Cold War. The week-long summit signified a rapprochement4 between the United States and the People's Republic of China. It indicated that after decades of aggressively fighting Communism in Asia, America was ready to consider a less black-and-white, confrontational Cold War strategy.5 Nixon's China visit, a headline-grabbing gesture of good will after two decades of estrangement between the two countries, so captured the nation's attention that politician and playwright Clare Booth Luce told the president that his legacy would be summed up in four words: "He went to China. "6 Indeed, the combination of National Security Advisor Henry Kissinger's secret preliminary trips to Peking under the guise of a fake illness, Nixon's dramatic television announcement that he would soon travel there himself, and the press coverage of the visit together elevated the event to almost mythic proportions.