The Opening of China
Nixon Legacy Forum
William G. McGowan Theater
National Archives, Washington, D.C.
November 14, 2014

Sharply deviating from decades of silent hostility between the United States and the People’s Republic of China, President Nixon’s February 1972 trip to China fundamentally changed the Cold War and geopolitics for decades to come. Once deep adversaries, the trip represented a fundamental first step of increasingly good relations between the U.S. and China. Coordinating Nixon’s diplomatic achievement took years of careful and creative negotiation in order to accomplish. Thereafter, the United States redefined the bipolar nature of the Cold War and ushered in more stable international order.  In this Nixon Legacy Forum various members of the National Security Council and State Department discuss the journey to “The Opening to China” and their experience witnessing history firsthand.

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Panelists

Jonathan Howe graduated from the Naval Academy in 1957 and served most of his time at sea on submarines.  He had just completed a masters and PhD from Tufts University when he joined the National Security council, serving as Military Assistant from 1969 to 1974. He has had a very distinguished career in the U.S. Navy, eventually becoming a four-star admiral, and serving as President George H.W. Bush’s deputy National Security Adviser. He retired from the navy in 1992.

Winston Lord began his diplomatic career as a Foreign Service Officer in 1961. He served the Defense Department in various roles from 1967 culminating in his appointment to Assistant to the National Security Advisor from 1970 to 1973. He subsequently became become State Department Director of Policy Planning, and President of the Council on Foreign Relations. From 1985 to 1988 he served as the U.S. Ambassador to China, and from 1993 to 1997, was the Assistant Secretary of State for East Asian
and Pacific Affairs.

Nicholas Platt began his 34 year long career as Foreign Service Officer in 1964 with an assignment in Hong Kong, and after rapprochement with China served in Beijing from 1973 to 1974. He went on to hold senior positions at the State Department, Defense, and NSC and became ambassador to Namibia, the Philippines, and Pakistan. From 1999 until 2005 he was President of the Asia Society after which he became a member of the New York Council on Foreign Relations.

Richard Solomon received a PhD in Political Science in 1966 and worked as a professor at the University of Michigan until he joined the National Security council in September of 1971. In 1976 he joined the Rand Corporation and later went on to hold senior positions in the State Department, negotiate the Cambodian peace treaty, and serve as ambassador to the Philippines. In 2012, he stepped down as the president of the U.S. Institute of Peace, to become the senior fellow at the Rand Corporation.

Kathleen “Troia” McFarland (Moderator)
KT McFarland McFarland served as Deputy National Security Advisor under President Donald Trump in 2017. She was previously the National Security Analyst for Fox News Channel.” She has worked in national security positions for the Nixon, Reagan and Ford administrations, and was awarded the Defense department’s highest civilian award for writing Secretary of Defense Weinberger’s “Principles of War” speech in 1984.

 

Timeline (With Links To Primary Documents)

1967

October – “Asia After Viet Nam” by Richard Nixon, Foreign Affairs Magazine, Volume 46, Issue 1 (Foreign Affairs Magazine)

1968

September 25 – Leonid Brezhnev Outlines the “Brezhnev Doctrine” While Speaking to Party Members in Poland (Michigan State University)

1969

January 20 – President Nixon’s Inaugural Address (The American Presidency Project)

February 1 – Memorandum, President Nixon to Henry Kissinger, RE: “Exploring Possibilities Of Rapprochement with the Chinese” (Richard Nixon Presidential Library and Museum, National Security Council Files, Box 1033)

July 25 – President Nixon’s Remarks to Reporters on the Island of Guam (The American Presidency Project)

August 29 – Memorandum, Henry Kissinger to President Nixon, RE: President Yahya and Communist China (Richard Nixon Presidential Library and Museum, National Security Council Files, Box 1033)

1970

February – First Annual Report to the Congress on United States Foreign Policy (The American Presidency Project)

October 26 – President Nixon Toasts Visiting Romanian President Nicolae Ceausescu in Washington D.C. (The American Presidency Project)

1971

February – Second Annual Report to the Congress on United States Foreign Policy (The American Presidency Project)

April 30 – “A Conversation With Mao Tse-Tung” by Edgar Snow (LIFE Magazine)

July 11 – Memorandum, Henry Kissinger to General Al Haig RE: Talks with the Chinese (Richard Nixon Presidential Library and Museum, National Security Council Files, Box 1033)

July 14 – Memorandum, Henry Kissinger to President Nixon RE: My Talks with Chou En-lai (Richard Nixon Presidential Library and Museum, National Security Council Files, Box 1033)

July 15 – President Nixon Announces the Acceptance of an Invitation to Visit the People’s Republic of China (The American Presidency Project)

Memorandum, Briefing of the White House Staff on July 15 Announcement of the President’s Trip to Peking (Richard Nixon Presidential Library and Museum, National Security Council Files, Box 1036)

July 16 – Memorandum for Henry Kissinger, Reactions to the President’s Announcement on July 15th, 1971 (Richard Nixon Presidential Library and Museum, National Security Council Files, Box 499)

July 30 – “China Will Talk From A Position Of Strength” By Edgar Snow (LIFE Magazine)

November 29 – Statement Announcing the date of President Nixon’s Visit to the People’s Republic of China (The American Presidency Project)

1972

February – Third Annual Report to Congress on United States Foreign Policy (The American Presidency Project)

February 15 – Memorandum, Henry Kissinger to President Nixon, RE: Your Meeting with Mao Backgrounder (Richard Nixon Presidential Library and Museum, National Security Council Files, Box 847)

February 17 – President Nixon Departs from the White House for a State Visit to the People’s Republic of China (The American Presidency Project)

February 18 – President Nixon’s Handwritten Notes En Route to the People’s Republic of China (Richard Nixon Presidential Library and Museum, President’s Personal Files, Box 7)

February 19 – Memorandum, Henry Kissinger to President Nixon, RE: Mao, Chou and the Chinese Litmus Test Backgrounder (Richard Nixon Presidential Library and Museum, National Security Council Files, Box 847)

February 21 – Memorandum, Introductory Conversation Between President Nixon, Mao Zedong, Henry Kissinger and Zhou Enlai in Bejing at Mao’s Personal Residence (Foreign Relations of the United States, 1969-1976, Volume XVII, China, 1969-1972, Document 194)

Memorandum, Conversation Between President Nixon [American Delegation] and Zhou Enlai [Chinese Delegation] in Beijing at the Great Hall of the People (Foreign Relations of the United States, 1969-1976, Volume XVII, China, 1969-1972, Document 195)

February 22 – Memorandum, Conversation Between President Nixon and Henry Kissinger [American Delegation], and Zhou Enlai [Chinese Delegation] in Beijing at the Great Hall of the People (Foreign Relations of the Untied States, 1969-1976, Volume XVII, China, 1969-1972, Document 196)

February 23 – Memorandum, Conversation Between President Nixon and Henry Kissinger [American Delegation], and Zhou Enlai [Chinese Delegation] in Beijing at the President’s Guest House (Foreign Relations of the United Sates, 1969-1976, Volume XVII, China, 1969-1972, Document 197)

February 24 – Memorandum, Conversation Between President Nixon and Henry Kissinger [American Delegation], and Zhou Enlai [Chinese Delegation] in Beijing at the Great Hall of the People (Foreign Relations of the United States, 1969-1976, Volume XVII, China, 1969-1972, Document 199)

February 25 – Memorandum, Conversation Between President Nixon and Henry Kissinger [American Delegation], and Zhou Enlai [Chinese Delegation] in Beijing at the President’s Guest House (Foreign Relations of the United States, 1969-1976, Volume XVII, China, 1969-1972, Document 200)

February 26 – Memorandum, Conversation Between President Nixon and Henry Kissinger [American Delegation], and Zhou Enlai [Chinese Delegation] in Beijing at the Beijing Airport (Foreign Relations of the United States, 1969-1976, Volume XVII, China, 1969-1972, Document 201)

February 27 – The Shanghai Communique Joint Statement Between the United States and the People’s Republic of China (Richard Nixon Presidential Library and Museum, President’s Personal Files, Box 73)

February 28 – Memorandum, Final Conversation Between President Nixon, Henry Kissinger, Zhou Enlai and Various Chinese Officials in Shanghai at the President’s sitting room Ching Kiang Guest House (Foreign Relations of the United States, 1969-1976, Volume XVII, China, 1969-1972, Document 204)

Undated

Chronology of President Nixon’s Trip to the People’s Republic of China (The American Presidency Project)

 

Additional Sources

The Opening of China Online Exhibit

Nixon in China (Film)

Nixon in China: The Week That Changed The World (Film)