During the car ride from the Beijing Airport on February 21, 1972, Premier Zhou Enlai turned to President Nixon and said, “Your handshake came over the vastest ocean in the world—twenty five years of no communication.” Nixon’s week-long trip to China built a bridge between two countries whose silence and isolation from each other seemed almost insurmountable.

Today, the United States and China continue to face challenges in a relationship that has blossomed over the past four decades.

The New York Times reported that in the annual strategic talks between the countries, which began Wednesday, both countries accused the other of unwelcome surveillance.

“That friction, American officials conceded in private, underscores how difficult it will be for the United States to make progress on what President Obama and his top aides have said is now a central issue between two countries whose economies are intertwined and whose militaries are in competition.”

Relations between China and the USA have come a long way since the two countries struggled to open trade and communication in the 1970’s.  Today, fortunately, cyber experts from the two countries met for the first time last Monday and American and Chinese leaders have begun frank discussion of these issues. The talks this week owe much to the legacy of communication that President Nixon established.

An illustration of Nixon and Zhou’s handshake, published the week of his historic journey.