The China Diary of George H.W. Bush

The New Republic takes a look at former U.S. President George H.W. Bush’s sojourn in Beijing as head of the U.S. Liaison Office, 1974-1975, as documented in the recently published book, The China Diary of George H.W. Bush:

When Bush landed in Beijing on October 21, 1974, its wind and dust reminded him of places he had encountered in the oil business. “It reminded me very much of West Texas and also of a trip to Kuwait,” he observed. He soon tried to establish high-level contact with Chinese leaders. He paid a call on Deng Xiaoping, then a vice premier under Mao Zedong. Bush’s initial impression of Deng, eventually the father of China’s economic reforms: “He was a very short man.” (For American one-liners about China, this ranks right up there with Richard Nixon’s verdict on the Great Wall: “It really is a great wall.”)

In fact, Bush’s introductory session with Deng was misleading. Over the coming months, Bush discovered to his growing frustration that he couldn’t see many people or do much. He had little access to top Chinese leaders because he faced two huge obstacles. One was the Chinese government, which kept rebuffing his requests for meetings with the line that it was “bu fangbian” (not convenient). The other problem was, in Bush’s words, “Kissinger’s strong arm on everything to do with China.” The secretary of state wanted all high-level contact with China to be conducted either in Washington or on his own visits to Beijing. Bush was supposed to keep a low profile.

Bush consoled himself by trying to enjoy Beijing. He devoted himself to tennis at the International Club (one of his tennis buddies was the foreign correspondent John Burns, then of the Toronto Globe and Mail). Bush made repeated visits to the low-priced Hong Du tailor shop and took bike rides around the city with Barbara. Meanwhile, he held endless rounds of meetings with other ambassadors, most of whom tried to pump him about what Kissinger was up to with China and/or the Soviet Union. Bush wished he knew.


Subscribe to CDT


Browsers Unbounded by Lantern

Now, you can combat internet censorship in a new way: by toggling the switch below while browsing China Digital Times, you can provide a secure "bridge" for people who want to freely access information. This open-source project is powered by Lantern, know more about this project.

Google Ads 1

Giving Assistant

Google Ads 2

Anti-censorship Tools

Life Without Walls

Click on the image to download Firefly for circumvention

Open popup

Welcome back!

CDT is a non-profit media site, and we need your support. Your contribution will help us provide more translations, breaking news, and other content you love.