Modern US-China relations have expanded beyond what any of President Nixon’s contemporaries could have imagined.
On March 7, 1972, just a week after President Nixon’s famous trip to China, US National Security Adviser Henry Kissinger told reporters:
“On trade, any of you who have seen studies on the subject will know that…the maximum amount of trade that is possible under the most optimistic projection of what can be done is not vast by the standards of our economy, primarily because their economy is not one that produces goods in large quantities…which Americans want…
“The experience of … foreign diplomats in Peking is that they do business with the Chinese only when the Chinese have business to do with them. So that frankly we didn’t think this was a primary objective.”
This “optimistic projection” ended up being a dramatic underestimation of today’s US-China economic and diplomatic partnership. On July 8, 2013, Chinese State Counselor Yang Jiechi editorialized in the Washington Post:
Today, there is a flight between China and the United States every 24 minutes…Our two economies account for one-third of the global economy, our two peoples one-fourth of the world population and our trade volume one-fifth of the global total…Inexpensive and quality Chinese goods have proved popular with American consumers…In 2012, nearly 70 percent of the U.S. companies operating in China made profits, according to a survey of its members by the American Chamber of Commerce in the People’s Republic of China, and 40 percent of them reported higher profit margins in China than their global average.
President Nixon gets off the plane in Beijing after 22 years of no diplomatic relations with China.Today, there is a flight every 24 minutes.
This month has marked incredible progress in the peaceful and powerful relationship between the two nations that President Nixon started 40 years ago. On July 10th and 11th, the fifth annual China-US Strategic and Economic Dialogue (S&ED) was held in Washington, DC. The countries announced 91 agreements on the Strategic track and a similar number on the Economic track. It is interesting to compare these agreements to the Shanghai Communique which was written at the close of President Nixon’s visit. The Shanghai Communique was written with parallel opinions: a paragraph written by the Americans followed by a paragraph written by the Chinese on each topic. The tone was respectful, however disagreements were implicit, reflected in the writing structure. The majority of the 2013 S&ED Outcomes are also written in joint form: “the two sides” decide, acknowledge, or affirmed an action together. The grammatical alignment alone signifies a great leap in unity.
Perhaps the greatest practical progress achieved in the 2013 S&ED was the meeting of the Cyber Working Group, composed of cyber experts from both China and the USA. This new group will be the main platform for bilateral discussion on the hot topic of cyber espionage.
Many people believe that the USA and China are the two greatest world powers today. Disagreements are inevitable, but the level of extraordinary cooperation and friendly competition between two such great powers is unparalleled in world history. President Nixon’s dedication to opening relations with China has had positive long-term consequences that no one in 1972 could have foreseen.