Fifty years after Nixon's historic visit to China, questions hang over the US-China future

Una versión de esta historia apareció en el boletín Mientras tanto en China de CNN., una actualización tres veces a la semana que explora lo que necesita saber sobre el ascenso del país y cómo impacta al mundo. Registrate aquí.

Hong Kong When US President Richard Nixon walked down the red-carpeted stairs from Air Force One to shake hands with Chinese Premier Zhou Enlai on a cold day in Beijing on February 21, 1972, it was hailed by many as a world-changing gesture.

Nixon’s arrivalthe first time an American President had set foot on Chinese soil since the establishment of the People’s Republic of China in 1949 — came after more than 20 years of hostility and almost no contact between the two countries.
The eight-day visit would open the door for the formation of diplomatic relations between the world’s richest country and its most populous. It would also reshape the world order as it was known: shifting the power dynamics of the Cold War and playing a part in China’s transition from impoverished isolation to a new role as a growing global power broker and economic partner to the United States.
    Pero 50 years on, that milestone is likely to be marked by little fanfare from Beijing or Washington.
      En lugar de, the anniversary of Nixon’s historic visit comes at a low point in US-China relations. Many in Washington now view China as a growing economic and military threat, while an increasingly assertive and nationalistic China under leader Xi Jinping has pushed back on what it sees as American interference in its affairs and region. Strained ties have narrowed leeway for cooperationwith the US even keeping its diplomats home from Beijing’s Olympics earlier this month in protest of China’s human rights record.
        The self-governing island of Taiwan also remains a potential conflict area, with Beijing’s ambassador to Washington describing it earlier this year as the biggest tinder-boxbetween the two sides.
        President Richard Nixon with Premier Zhou Enlai (izquierda) and Shanghai Communist Party leader Zhang Chunqiao at a farewell banquet during Nixon's visit to China in 1972.

        As the 50th anniversary of Nixon’s visit approached, Beijing and Washington gave no indication major commemorations were in store, and any official activity will be a far cry from the 30th anniversary when then-President George W. Bush marked the occasion in a visit to Beijing.
          Today’s subdued efforts contrast with the diplomatic fanfare surrounding the meeting 50 hace años que, when Zhou, the skillful statesman of aging Chinese leader Chairman Mao Zedong, declaredthe gate to friendly contacthad been opened, as he toasted the American President, first lady and their entourage in an elaborate banquet in the Great Hall of the People.
          “(Nixon’s visit) has to be one of the most important turning points in 20th century historyperhaps the most important in the post-World War II era,” said Scott Kennedy, senior adviser in Chinese business and economics at the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) en Washington.
          That onecould even envisage a meeting of the minds that would transform international politicswas remarkable, said Kennedy, pointing to gaping differences in ideology between the nations — porcelana, as a Communist country in the midst of the Cultural Revolution, and a US that had been bent on containing the spread of Communism.
          A diplomatic relationship with the USformalized in 1979 — would also have vast implications for China, according to Suisheng Zhao, director of the Center for China-US Cooperation at the University of Denver’s Josef Korbel School of International Studies.
          The US held the key for China’s modernization, so China benefited from this immenselyWithout the US, I don’t think you would see China as a big power today,” él dijo.

          Road to Shanghai

          En el momento, the visit was a phenomenon. Images beamed back to the US showing the American President touring the Great Wall with first lady Pat Nixon and reporters visitingcommunesin Beijing were some of the first most Americans had seen of Communist China.
          American reporter Dan Rather, who was among a cohort of press accompanying the presidential delegation, later said in a documentary by the University of Southern California’s US-China Institute that traveling to China was likeleaving Earth and going deep into the cosmos of some distant planet.
          For the Chinese, the welcome of the American Presidentwho appeared on the front page of the People’s Daily meeting with Maobroke with years of anti-American propaganda.
          Mao and Nixon were total (ideological) opposites. It’s ironic that they reached the same conclusion at the same time to have a historical breakthrough in relations,” said Xu Guoqi, a professor of history at the University of Hong Kong (HKU).
          President Nixon and first lady Pat Nixon visit the Great Wall of China.

          The risks were high for both leaders. In China, the US was a recent enemy in the Korean War and a constant target of propaganda. The US was navigating a complex set of post-World War II relationships in Asia and would face questions from its allies.
          The US had also since 1949 recognized a different government of China: the one led by General Chiang Kai-shek, who fled with his nationalist forces to the island of Taiwan after Mao’s Red Army took the upper hand in China’s Civil War.
          The separation between Beijing and Washington was so great that even finding a channel of communication to broach the meeting was an exercise in trial and erroronly coming to pass after help from a Pakistani President acting as an intermediary, Chinese goodwill toward a US ping pong team, and a secret 1971 trip to China by Nixon adviser Henry Kissinger.
          But anti-Communist Nixon and Communist revolutionary Maowere both very realistic leaders. They had concrete cards they needed to play,” said Xu.

          A common enemy

          For Nixon, these were recalibrating relations to help him extricate the US Army from the costly and unpopular Vietnam War. For Mao, there was an interest in gaining global recognition for his government over Chiang’s opposing claim from Taiwan.
          But there was also a shared concern that helped propel both leaders into their meeting in 1972.
          The US and China were able to overcome their antipathy to reach this détente only because of their common foethe Soviet Union,” said CSIS’s Kennedy. “Short of that, there would not have been this détente.
          Xu of HKU points to border conflicts that had emerged between the Communist neighbors: “(Mao) concluded thathe needed someone to help China deal with the Soviet Union,” él dijo.
          Chairman Mao Zedong meets President Richard Nixon in Beijing, 1972.

          In meetings that took place between touring the Great Wall, Ming Dynasty tombs, and the idyllic West Lake of Hangzhou, the two sides hammered out the final details of an agreement known as the Shanghai Communique.
          En eso, the USacknowledgedin careful languagethat all Chinese on either side of the Taiwan Strait maintain there is but one China.Both sides agreed to work toward normalizing relations and reducing risks of conflict internationally. It would be the first of three major communiques in a decade to build the framework of the relationship.
          After the diplomacy was done, Nixon gave a final toast during a banquet at Shanghai’s Jinjiang Hotel.
          If we can find common ground on which we can both stand, where we can build the bridge between us and build a new world, generations in the years ahead will look back and thank us for this meeting that we have held in this past week,” él dijo.

          Détente over?

          Five decades later, US-China ties have changed beyond recognition, becoming deeply intertwined in areas from economy to education.
          But in recent years, mutual suspicion has grown, fanned in the US under the former presidency of Donald Trump, whose administration labeled China astrategic competitor” en 2017 and in an increasingly assertive China under leader Xi Jinping.
          The combination of China being much more powerful and its identity being more conservative and nationalist has put us at loggerheads again, even though there are way more similarities between our societies than there were 50 hace años que,” said Kennedy.
          The US has balked not only at what it calls unfair economic practices, but also decried Beijing’s crackdown on freedoms in Hong Kong, etiquetado its treatment of Uyghur and other Muslim minorities in the country’s far western region of Xinjiang a genocide, y strengthened its unofficial relationship with the now-democratically governed Taiwan amid increased aggression from Beijing.
          porcelana, mientras tanto, has denied rights violations, rebuked what it calls American meddling in its internal affairs and said the US isplaying with fire on the Taiwan issue.
          en un video meeting between US President Joe Biden and Xi in November, widely seen as a chance to reset relations, Biden stressed the need forguardrails to ensure that competition does not veer into conflict.The two sides agreed to keep in close communication on global issues, but staying tough on China has become a rare bipartisan issue in a politically divided US.
          In a faxed response to a request for comment on commemorations of the 50th anniversary, a spokesperson for China’s Foreign Ministry on Friday told CNN the countriesshould follow the spirit and consensusof that video meeting, a “strengthen communication, manejar las diferencias, advance cooperation and bring China-US relations back to the track of steady development.
          The valuable historical experience embodied in President Nixon’s visit to China and the issuance of the Shanghai Communique are of great practical significance to the development of China-US relations at present,” el portavoz dijo, adding that China and the US wouldhold a series of commemorative activities in the near futurewith details to be releasedin due course.
          University of Denver’s Zhao said today’s diplomacy could take note from the smart maneuvering from both sides in Nixon’s era. “Today we don’t have such diplomats, only warriorsboth sides try to win. Of course you can win, but you have to give and take, that’s diplomacy.
          For two big powers like China and the US, you have no choice but to work together,” él dijo.
          Kennedy points to another complexitythe growing relationship between Xi and Russian President Vladimir Putin, who earlier this month pledged No “forbiddenareas in their cooperation.
            “En algunas formas, (Xi and Putin’s) announcement in Beijing is a bookend to the Shanghai Communique issued 50 years priorwe have reached the end of that strategy and that period by the fact that Russia and China are now clearly much closer to each other than either one of them is to the US,” said Kennedy.
            That may be one reason why any celebrations that do happen in either capital will behighly muted,” él dijo. “Debido a la gran cantidad de lectores y la prominencia del papel globa.., it will simply be about nostalgia.

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