On Friday, February 25, 1972, during the historic visit to China, President and Mrs. Nixon hosted a Reciprocal Banquet for the Chinese in the Great Hall of the People, the first major event ever hosted by the American government on Chinese soil. The Americans had flown California oranges and Florida grapefruit on the Spirit of ’76 with the official party, as well as champagne glasses bearing the Great Seal of the US and commemorative acrylic glass gifts bearing the Presidential Seal. But for the Chinese citizens attending the banquet, perhaps the most striking items set at each table were packs of US cigarettes, bearing an unfamiliar Surgeon General’s Warning.

Smoking was a frequent topic of conversation during this trip, and Prime Minister Zhou Enlai usually served cigarettes or tea during his meetings with President Nixon as a friendly gesture. In his memoirs, President Nixon mentions smoking Chinese-made “Great Wall” cigars during the sleepless nights of the trip. But the Surgeon General’s Warnings encountered during the Friday banquet represented what was perhaps China’s first experience with tobacco regulation.

Today, China is the world’s largest consumer and producer of tobacco, and enforcement of smoking bans is rare beyond the largest cities. A regulation banning smoking in public places was implemented in 2011, but results have been unsatisfactory. Xu Guihua, deputy director of the Chinese Association of Tobacco Control, has recently appealed to senior officials to discourage smoking at conferences, reports the People’s Daily.

American citizens glued to their TV sets during President Nixon’s China trip were treated to periodic live footage of the Tuesday, February 22nd performance of the ballet The Red Detachment of Women. This ballet was among the first official events that the Chinese government had ever hosted for an American official, and remains one of the most famous diplomatic events in US-Chinese history.

Red Detachment of Women 1Red Detachment of Women 2

These programs for the ballet were made especially for the President’s trip.

One of the primary concerns of the administration of present-day China is regulating waste and extravagance in their government, and their latest target is exorbitant banquets and galas for visiting officials paid for with public funds. A notice issued yesterday by the Publicity Department of the Communist Party of China, the Ministry of Finance, the Ministry of Culture, the National Audit Office and the State General Administration of Press comments, “Overly festive celebrations have damaged the image of the CPC and the government, as well as triggered public complaints,” reports the People’s Daily. No examples were given or specific limits imposed. The notice calls for greater supervision of such official galas, as not every diplomatic exchange will have the highly televised event like The Red Detachment of Women, during President Nixon’s 1972 trip.

The first ever presidential visit to the People’s Republic of China, the trip introduced many aspects of American culture to the Chinese people, such as tobacco regulation, and brought China’s diplomatic events to international television screens.