This piece is part of a companion series commemorating President Nixon’s Centennial and his historic 1972 journey to China. From May 1 through May 10, the Nixon Foundation is taking a delegation – led by RN’s grandson Christopher Nixon Cox – to retrace the 37th President’s original trip.
In October 1967, Foreign Affairs published an article by Richard Nixon—six years after leaving the White House as Vice President—which demonstrated that his finger never left the pulse of international relations. In Asia After Vietnam, Richard Nixon advocated for maintaining the long view in a foreign policy that was increasingly narrowed by the war in Vietnam.
“Any American policy toward Asia,” he wrote, “must come urgently to grips with the reality of China.” Nixon knew, in a practical sense, that China could not be excluded from the family of nations. “There is no place on this small planet for a billion of its potentially most able people to live in angry isolation,” he wrote.
In the seminal piece, Nixon evaluates every possible outcome, considers the nuclear implications, and rejects the short term solutions offered and debated by the public, such as conceding a Chinese ‘sphere of influence’ in Asia, or creating a European based anti-Chinese alliance. “The primary restraint on China’s Asian ambitions,” he argues, “should be exercised by the Asian nations in the path of those ambitions, backed by the ultimate power of the United States.”
At its heart, Nixon advocated for a foreign policy that mirrored the freedom and openness found in America, rather than the coercive approach of the Soviet Union. “In a design for Asia’s future, there is no room for heavy-handed American pressures; there is need for subtle encouragement of the kind of Asian initiative that help bring the design to reality.”
Asia After Vietnam remains today as insightful to the international environment RN successfully navigated to opening China, as it is to the dynamic thinking of the man himself.
Click here to read Asia After Vietnam.