Besides the informative Daily Beast article by Winston Lord and Leslie Gelb discussed in Jonathan Movroydis’s post below, a large number of other stories have appeared online marking the four decades since President Nixon shook Premier Zhou Enlai’s hand on the tarmac in Beijing to begin a new era of friendly relations between the two superpowers. Some of the more notable of these are:
– An article in the Pueblo (Colorado) Chieftain by James C. Humes, speechwriter for five Presidents (Eisenhower, Nixon, Ford, Reagan, George H.W. Bush) and author (with Jarvis Ryals) of the book Only Nixon which examines how RN laid the groundwork for the opening to the PRC. Professor Humes is presently touring China with Edward Nixon, to mark this anniversary.
–China Daily takes a look at how forty years of improved US-China ties have benefited both nations, focusing on the career of one American whose career has been much involved with China: Robert Tansey, executive director of the North Asia office of the Nature Conservancy, and before that a State Department officer.
–Among op-eds marking the anniversary, one by Senator John Kerry, 2004 Democratic presidential nominee, in the San Francisco Chronicle is especially notable, since it emphasizes his opinion that the current wave of rhetoric in the GOP primaries, critical of China’s economic progress, does little credit to those who espouse it. His piece concludes with words that illustrate the benefits to both countries of the process that Richard Nixon, Henry Kissinger, Mao Zedong and Zhou Enlai set in motion:
The United States is China’s second largest trading partner, and China is our third largest, and fastest growing, export market. California leads the way, with more than $12 billion in exports to China in 2010. Iowa is not that far behind, exporting more than $600 million worth of grain, machinery, and other goods and services to China in 2010. That’s more than twice the value of just three years ago, and a whopping 12-fold increase over 2000.
In the fight against terrorism and the conditions that breed it, China can no longer afford to be a spectator. Among the permanent five members of the UN Security Council, China is No. 1 in terms of troops dedicated to U.N. peacekeeping missions, and its peacekeepers are consistently rated among the most effective and disciplined wearing the blue helmet. And for the first time since the Ming Dynasty 500 years ago, Chinese navy vessels are now routinely deployed to fight pirates in the Gulf of Aden off the coast of Somalia.
These are all hopeful signs that the United States and China can find areas of common cause – that as China’s power grows, it may be willing to shoulder its share of the burden to protect the global commons.
At the end of the day, whether one is optimistic or pessimistic with China’s political progress since Nixon’s opening during the Cultural Revolution, the simple fact is that now, as then, we need China, and China needs us.
The notion that we can shut ourselves off from one-sixth of humanity may have short-term political appeal, but it is a prescription for long-term catastrophe. We have to get this relationship right.
Robert Nedelkoff is a writer for the Richard Nixon Foundation.