Nixon to China and many balloons later
On this day in 1972, President Richard M. Nixon made history, and showed some political flexibility, by landing Air Force One in China. It was the story of the year and one of the most interesting foreign policy decisions of the postwar period, especially because of Nixon’s political past.
By any account, Nixon seemed an unlikely candidate to improve relations with Red China, as it was known back then. We remember that during the 1940s and 1950s, Mr. Nixon was a vocal cold war warrior and had condemned the Truman administration for “losing” China to the communists in 1949. And we remember his comments in 1959 when VP Nixon expressed doubts about Fidel Castro.
President Nixon’s move paved the way for the China of today – in other words, cars instead of bicycles. Skyscrapers instead of simple buildings. It also contributed to the outsourcing of thousands of manufacturing jobs – i.e., “Made in China” is everywhere!
The jury is still out on just how much the U.S. got out of this arrangement. At the same, most Americans are not old enough to remember Mao or the China that some of us remember as kids. Back then, it seemed that all Chinese men and women wore the same outfits. Today, they are as fashionable as anyone in the West.
Was it the right thing to do? We are still debating that today. In retrospect, the trip to China was also about dividing the USSR from Red China. I just don’t remember anyone back then saying opening up China would turn it into a manufacturing powerhouse with a huge, and expanding, navy.
The debate will continue and Chinese ships will keep visiting places all over.
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