The Day the Door to China Opened Wide

In the Washington Post, Richard Holbrooke revisits the often overlooked role played by President Jimmy Carter in re-establishing U.S.-China relations:

Carter took office hoping to normalize relations with China, which would require switching American recognition from Taiwan to Beijing and ending a sacred defense treaty between the United States and Taiwan. Some saw this as a simple acknowledgment of reality; in fact, it was a momentous step that required diplomatic skill and political courage. A way would have to be found for the United States, while recognizing Beijing, to continue dealing with the authorities on Taiwan without recognizing its claim to represent China; most important, Washington had to retain the right to sell arms to Taipei. The politics were not simple: There was the famed Taiwan Lobby, one of the most powerful in the United States. Led by “Mr. Conservative,” Sen. Barry Goldwater, and the leading contender for the 1980 Republican nomination, Ronald Reagan, it was to fight normalization all the way.


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