Lessons of the 40 Years Since Nixon Went to China

In a CNN article, Kenneth Lieberthal gives a synopsis of the dynamic nature of the U.S.-China relationship since Nixon’s 1972 visit. Lieberthal stresses that policies must continue to adapt to a changing political and economic international situation:

Pretty much everything has changed in U.S.-China relations since Richard Nixon and Premier Zhou Enlai signed the Shanghai Communiqué 40 years ago on February 21, 1972.

[…]This history highlights a core reality: the U.S.-China relationship has never sustained one rationale or focus for very long. It has periodically adapted to major developments in the international environment and in domestic politics. None of those changes has come easily. Each sowed apprehension, distrust and deep doubts about the future.

[…]To have the U.S.-China relationship again adapt for the future, therefore, both sides should begin to lay the groundwork to begin serious, long-term engagement as of 2013 around a core topic: What are each country’s core requirements to assure its own overall security in Asia, and how can each side meet those requirements without posing an unacceptable threat to the other?

[…]U.S.-China relations have never been smooth, but they have served both countries’ interests very well over the past 40 years. Now they must adapt again, and it is still worth the effort to make this happen.

A declassified account of Nixon’s visit to China is provided by George Washington University. For a video segment focusing on foreign correspondents in China during the time of Nixon’s visit, see Vivid Memories of Nixon’s 1972 Visit to China, via CDT. For more policy-focused thoughts about U.S.-China relations, see The Great China Debate and America’s Incoherent Asia Policy, also via CDT.

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