The term “Nixon Shock” is generally made in reference to the August 15, 1971 speech in which President Nixon announced he would take the nation off the gold standard. But only one month prior there was an earlier Nixon shock, one which sparked lasting change around the world, and caused The Washington Post to write, “If Mr. Nixon had revealed he was going to the moon, he could not have flabbergasted his world audience more.”
On this day in 1971, President Nixon announced on live television from California that he would be visiting the People’s Republic of China the following the year. The Communist state had been effectively closed off from the West for 25 years.
The President’s handwritten notes from that day, before delivering his announcement:
“It was such a shock,” longtime CBS anchor Dan Rather said, “that President Nixon, the quintessential Cold Warrior, was changing colors, as it were.”
The shock of the announcement unleashed a barrage of opinions, both in favor of the trip and against it, with most somewhere in between. The presidential visit the following February, however, would produce one of the most lasting shifts in the international order in generations — one that reverberates ever stronger to this day.
A video of the statement made 43 years ago today from television studios in Burbank: