Mission to Mao – Roderick MacFarquhar

On The New York Review of Books, Roderick MacFarquhar reviews Nixon and Mao: The Week that Changed the World by Margaret MacMillan:

“This was the week that changed the world” was Richard Nixon’s summing up at the end of his trip to China in February 1972.[1] The hyperbole was justified, for this visit to China by an American president was a turning point in the cold war. Hitherto, the Soviet Union and China had been antagonists of the US. Thereafter, both Beijing and Moscow found it in their interest to come to agreements with Washington. For the Chinese it meant coming in from the cold. After the announcement of the visit in July 1971, the US effort to keep China out of the UN lost credibility: the People’s Republic of China replaced the Republic of China (Taiwan) in the Security Council that October; the US was unable even to keep Taiwan in the General Assembly. Member states that had loyally voted with the US began transferring diplomatic recognition from the Nationalist government in Taiwan to the Communist regime in Beijing. [Full Text]

Read also another review of this book, Chinese Lessons:Nixon, Mao, and the Course of U.S.-Chinese Relations by Warren I. Cohen, Distinguished University Professor of History and Presidential Research Professor at the University of Maryland:

In the mid-1960s, having failed to win either the presidency or the governorship of California, Richard Nixon had ample time to think about international relations, his primary policy interest. Like most China specialists, he concluded that the United States should end its efforts to isolate China. Few analysts doubted the reality of the Sino-Soviet split, and Nixon was among those who recognized that opening diplomatic ties with Beijing might strengthen the U.S. position in the Cold War. If China was no longer an urgent threat requiring containment, the United States would be able to reinforce the lines against the Soviet Union and marshal its power for a single great war. Moscow, meanwhile, would have to worry about China as well as its western front: the Soviets reportedly had 500,000 troops stationed on the Chinese border.

When Nixon was elected president at the end of the decade, the most pressing foreign policy problem of the day was finding a way out of Vietnam. But he and his national security adviser, Henry Kissinger, understood that managing relations with the Soviet Union and China had to be their principal task. Perhaps Moscow or Beijing, they thought, could help with Hanoi. [Full Text]

See Excerpt from ‘Nixon and Mao’.

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