American foreign policy planners for many years looked at Communist nations monolithically. They were considered each equal enemies of the United States. There had been a no more significant symbol of an anti-communist American politician than President Richard Nixon. During his time term as Vice President, he had famously engaged Soviet Premier Khrushchev in a "Kitchen Debate" on Capitalism and Communism's relative advantages. However, Nixon as President was a pragmatist, and one of his goals was to end the War in Vietnam and Nixon knew he needed additional leverage to do so.
After the clashes between Chinese and Soviets troops, it became clear that the Soviets and Chinese were not one monolithic movement. Thus, developing a relationship became a high-priority American foreign policy goal. The United States began to make low-level advances indicating its interest in improving relations. That improvement took a significant step forward when on April 6, 1971, the U.S. Table Tennis team, which was competing in the 31st World Table Tennis Championships in Japan, received an official invitation to visit China. April 10, the team crossed the Chinese border to become the first sports delegation from the United States to visit since 1949. The visit covered widely both in the United States and China heralded a change in the tone of the relationship between the United States and China.
To prepare for a Presidential visit and a genuine change in relations between the powers, National Security Advisor Henry Kissinger paid a secret visit to China. His cover was a trip to Pakistan where he "became ill" and snuck off on a Pakistani airliner to Peking. There over a two-day period, he met with Chinese Premier Chou En-lai. While the trip was essentially to arrange for Nixon's visit, it was a chance for Kissinger and Chou En-lia to exchange views on a wide range of viewpoints. Kissinger, in his Biography of the period, wrote.
"Chou En-Lai, in short, was one of the two or three most impressive men I have ever met. Urbane, infinitely patient: extraordinarily intelligent, subtle, he moved through our discussions with an easy grace that penetrated to the essence of our new relationship as if there was no sensible alternative."
On July 15, 1972, Nixon gave a televised address in which he announced that he was going to Peking. The announcement stunned the world but was received positively.
Before he departed for China, Nixon invited French writer Andre Malraux to the White House to discuss the trip. Malraux had known Mao Tse Tung and Chou Ein-lai since the 1930s. After an evening of discussion, which included the fact that as Mao was ill, he looked at this visit as his last act. Malraux said at the conclusion of the evening:" You are about to attempt one of the most important things of our century. I think of the sixteenth-century explorers, who set out for a specific objective but often arrived at an entirely different discovery. What you are going to do, Mr. President, might well have a totally different outcome from whatever is anticipated."
On February 17, 1972, President Nixon took off aboard Air Force one for Peking. After a stop in Hawaii and in Guam, Nixon arrived in Peking on February 21. He was greeted by Chou and his wife when they arrived at their guest house.
In a surprise, Mao asked to meet with Nixon soon after the arrival. Nixon writing in his memoir, remarked at what a good sense of humor Mao had. During the bantering at the beginning of the meeting, Kissinger commented that he had assigned Mao's writing to his class at Harvard. Mao answered, "These writings of mine aren't anything. There is nothing instructive in what I wrote. Nixon said, "The Chairman's writing have moved a nation and have changed the world" Mao responded, "I haven't been able to change it. I've only been able to change a few places in the vicinity of Peking.
This was to be Nixon's only meeting with Mao, who was gravely ill. The meeting dealt with generalities. Nixon met with Chou for over 20 hours, and their discussion were wide-ranging. The talks were open, and both sides were honest with their concerns.
The toasts made the first night sum up the spirit of the meetings:
By Premier Chou
Mr. President and Mrs. Nixon. Ladies and gentlemen, comrades and friends.
First of all, I have the pleasure on behalf of Chairman Mao Tse‐tung and the Chinese Government to extend our welcome to Mr. President and Mrs. Nixon and our other American guests.
I also wish to take this opportunity to extend on behalf of the Chinese people cordial greetings to the American people on the other side of the great ocean.
President Nixon's visit to our country at the invitation of the Chinese Government provides the leaders of the two countries with an opportunity of meeting in-person to seek the normalization of relations between the two countries and also to exchange views on questions of concern to the two sides.
This is a positive move in conformity with the desire of the Chinese and American people and an event unprecedented in the history of relations between China and the United States.
The American people are a great people. The Chinese people are a great people. The peoples of our two countries have always been friendly to each other, but owing to reasons known to all, contacts between the two peoples were suspended for over 20 years.
Now, through the common efforts of China and the United States, the gates to friendly contact have finally been opened.
At the present time, it has become a strong desire of the Chinese and American people to promote the normalization of relations between the two countries and work for the relaxation of tension.
The people and the people alone are the most motive force in the making of world history.
We are confident that the day will surely come when this common desire of our two peoples will be realized.
The social systems of China and the United States are fundamentally different and there exists great differences between the Chinese Government and the United States Government.
The Five Principles Recalled
However, these differences should not hinder China and the United States from establishing normal state relations on the basis of the five principles of mutual respect for sovereignty and territorial integrity; mutual nonaggression; noninterference in each. other's internal affairs equality and mutual benefits, and peaceful coexistence. Still less should they lead to war.
As early as 1955, the Chinese Government publicly stated that the Chinese people do not want to have a war with the United States and that the Chinese Government is willing to sit down and enter into negotiations with the United States Government. This is a policy which we have pursued consistently.
We have taken note of the fact that in his speech before setting out for China, President Nixon, on his part, said that what we must do is to find a way to see that we can have differences without being enemies in war.
We hope that through a frank exchange of views between our two sides, to gain a clearer notion of our differences and make efforts to find common grounds, a new start can be made in the relations between our two countries.
In conclusion, I propose a toast to the health of President Nixon and Mrs. Nixon, to the health of our other American guests, to the health of all our friends and comrades present and to the friendships between the Chinese and American people.
By President Nixon
Mr. Prime Minister and all of your distinguished guests this evening.
On behalf of all of your American guests, I wish to thank you for the incomparable hospitality for which the Chinese people are justly famous throughout the world. And I particularly want to pay tribute not only to those who prepared the magnificent dinner but also to those who have provided the splendid music: Never have I heard American music played better in a foreign land.
Mr. Prime Minister, I wish to thank you for your very gracious and eloquent remarks.
At this very moment, through the wonder of telecommunications, more people are seeing and hearing what we say than on any other such occasion in the whole history of the world.
Yet what we say here will not be long remembered. What we do here can change the world.
As you said in your toast, the Chinese people are a great people. The American people are a great people. If our two peoples are enemies, the future of this world we share together is dark indeed. But if we can find common ground to work together, the chance for world peace is immeasurably increased.
In the spirit of frankness; which I hope will characterize our talks this week, let us recognize at the outset these points. We have at times n the past been enemies. We have great differences today. What brings us together is that we have common interests which transcend those differences.
As we discuss our differences, neither of us will corn‐. promise our principles. But while we cannot close the gulf between us, we can try to bridge it so that we may be able to talk across it.
And so let us, in these next five days, start a long march together. Not in lockstep; but on different, roads leading to the same goal the goal of building a world structure of peace and justice in which all may stand', together with equal dignity and in which each nation, large or small has a right to determine its own form of; Government free of outside, interference or domination.
The world watches, the world listens, the world waiti' to see what we will do.
What is the world? In a personal sense, I think of my eldest daughter, whose birthday is today. And as I think of her I think of all the children in the world, in Asia in Africa, in Europe, in the Americas, most of whom were born since the date of the foundation of the People's Republic of China.
What legacy shall we leave. our children? Are they destined to die for the hatreds, which have plagued the old, world? Or are they destined': to live because we had the vision to build a new world?
There is no reason for us to be enemies. Neither of us. seeks the territory of the other. Neither of us seeks domination over the other Neither of us seeks to stretch out our hands and rule the world.
Chairman Mao has written; "So many deeds cry out to be done, and always urgently. The world rolls on. Time. passes. Ten thousand years are too long. Seize the day." Seize the hour. This is the hour. This is the day for me, two peoples to rise to the heights of greatness which,. can build a new and a better. world.
And in that spirit I ask., all of you present to join me in raising your glasses to.
Chairman Mao, to Prime Minister Chou and to the friendship of the Chinese and American people, which can lead to friendship and peace for all people in the world.
At the end of the one week trip which included a visit to the Great Wall of China, the two sides issued the Shanghai Communique.
In it they stated:
There are essential differences between China and the United States in their social systems and foreign policies. However, the two sides agreed that countries, regardless of their social systems, should conduct their relations on the principles of respect for the sovereignty and territorial integrity of all states, nonaggression against other states, non-interference in the internal affairs of other states, equality and mutual benefit, and peaceful coexistence. International disputes should be settled on this basis, without resorting to the use or threat of force. The United States and the People's Republic of China are prepared to apply these principles to their mutual relations.
With these principles of international relations in mind the two sides stated that:
—progress toward the normalization of relations between China and the United States is in the interests of all countries;
—both wish to reduce the danger of international military conflict;
—neither should seek hegemony in the Asia–Pacific region and each is opposed to efforts by any other country or group of countries to establish such hegemony; and
—neither is prepared to negotiate on behalf of any third party or to enter into agreements or understandings with the other directed at other states.
Both sides are of the view that it would be against the interests of the peoples of the world for any major country to collude with another against other countries or for major countries to divide up the world into spheres of interest.
The two sides reviewed the long-standing serious disputes between China and the United States. The Chinese side reaffirmed its position: The Taiwan question is the crucial question obstructing the normalization of relations between China and the United States; the Government of the People's Republic of China is the sole legal Government of China; Taiwan is a province of China which has long been returned to the motherland; the liberation of Taiwan is China's internal affair in which no other country has the right to interfere; and all U.S. forces and military installations must be withdrawn from Taiwan. The Chinese Government firmly opposes any activities which aim at the creation of "one China, one Taiwan," "one China, two governments," "two Chinas," and "independent Taiwan" or advocate that "the status of Taiwan remains to be determined."
The U.S. side declared: The United States acknowledges that all Chinese on either side of the Taiwan Strait maintain there is but one China and that Taiwan is a part of China. The United States Government does not challenge that position. It reaffirms its interest in a peaceful settlement of the Taiwan question by the Chinese themselves. With this prospect in mind, it affirms the ultimate objective of the withdrawal of all U.S. forces and military installations from Taiwan. In the meantime, it will progressively reduce its forces and military installations on Taiwan as the tension in the area diminishes.
The two sides agreed that it is desirable to broaden the understanding between the two peoples. To this end, they discussed specific areas in such fields as science, technology, culture, sports, and journalism, in which people-to-people contacts and exchanges would be mutually beneficial. Each side undertakes to facilitate the further development of such contacts and exchanges.
Both sides view bilateral trade as another area from which mutual benefit can be derived and agreed that economic relations based on equality and mutual benefit are in the interest of the people of the two countries. They agree to facilitate the progressive development of trade between their two countries.
The two sides agreed that they will stay in contact through various channels, including the sending of a senior U.S. representative to Peking from time to time for concrete consultations to further the normalization of relations between the two countries and continue to exchange views on issues of common interest.
The two sides expressed the hope that the gains achieved during this visit would open up new prospects for the relations between the two countries. They believe that the normalization of relations between the two countries is not only in the interest of the Chinese and American peoples but also contributes to the relaxation of tension in Asia and the world.
President Nixon, Mrs. Nixon, and the American party expressed their appreciation for the gracious hospitality shown them by the Government and people of the People's Republic of China.
On the last night, Nixon raised his glass in a toast and said: : We have been here a week. This was the week that changed the world."