May 11, 2013 By Robert Nedelkoff
Yesterday saw the conclusion of the ten-day visit of President Nixon’s grandson Christopher Nixon Cox, heading a party of forty visitors, to the People’s Republic of China. The group, traveling under the auspices of the Richard Nixon Foundation, included former National Security Advisor Robert “Bud” McFarlane and the President’s longtime chief of staff, retired Marine Colonel Jack Brennan.
The trip marked forty-one years since the thirty-seventh President’s historic visit to China. (Colonel Brennan was the one member of the party going to China this month who also had made the trip in 1972.) It also came just two weeks after the forty-second anniversary of the US table tennis team’s trip to the country, which signaled a reconciliation between the two nations after more than two chilly decades.
Mr. Cox and his beautiful wife Andrea Catsimatidis were warmly greeted at every stop of their visit, which included many retracings of his grandfather’s steps – including banquets where he sampled the nation’s 106-proof beverage, maotai, which was such a celebrated feature of the toasts exchanged between RN and Premier Zhou Enlai.
In an informative article in the Los Angeles Times about the trip (which is illustrated with a photo of the entire group touring the Great Wall), Mr. Cox observes:
“I remember my grandfather telling me that to have one billion of the world’s most hard-working and talented people in isolation is something that is dangerous for the world,…He felt that a prosperous China was critical for peace and stability.”
It is visits like this one that bring the peoples of these two great nations closer together and go far toward fulfilling Premier Zhou’s words to President Nixon at the historic banquet on February 25, 1972:
“The times are advancing and the world changing. We are deeply convinced that the strength of the people is powerful and that whatever zigzags and reverses there will be in the development of history, the general trend of the world is definitely towards light and not darkness.”
May 8, 2013 By Ian Delzer
The Joint Communiqué of the United States of America and the People’s Republic of China, more commonly referred to as the Shanghai Communiqué, is one of the most important diplomatic achievements of the 20th century, but its creation did not come quickly or smoothly. Drafting this groundbreaking document was just as delicate a process as securing the Presidential invitation to China, and became the critical component on which the journey would be judged. If the two parties failed to come together, as Chairman Mao pointed out to President Nixon, people would ask, “Why are we not able to succeed the first time? The only reason would be that we have taken the wrong road.”
This simple question, and its inevitable conclusion, had the potential to derail the dialogue of hope for a better and more open world, which had been a foundational reason to normalize relations with China.
Early drafts of the Communiqué were rejected by both sides. While on Polo II—the first officially announced trip of American officials to China by the Nixon administration—Henry Kissinger presented the Chinese with a draft version of the Joint Communiqué that had been approved by President Nixon but the administration’s early attempt to focus on areas of common interest was quickly refused by the Chinese. Premier Chou said that “unless [the Joint Communiqué] expressed our fundamental differences, the wording would have an ‘untruthful appearance.’ He dismissed [the] proposed draft as the sort of banal document the Soviets would sign without meaning it and without planning to observe it.”
The draft proposed by the Chinese, however, was highly problematic for the US. As President Nixon recalled in his memoirs, “If ours had smoothed over differences, theirs underscored them.”
Henry Kissinger was forced to politely reject the Chinese draft, telling Chou,
“We cannot have an American President sign a document which says that revolution has become the irresistible trend of history, or that ‘the people’s revolutionary struggles are just’!”
Fortunately, tensions began to ease after this initial negotiation as both sides made compromises to their position and language. The final version of the Communiqué was the result of continued refinement, not only by Henry Kissinger and Premier Chou En-lai, but also by President Nixon himself. The emphasis and language of the final Joint Communiqué was not on the areas where the United States and China differed—as the Chinese had initially proposed—although those differences were clearly noted. It was the areas of agreement where real progress toward peace and stability between the two countries could be found:
“With these principles of international relations in mind the two sides stated that:
The Communiqué continued:
“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.”
These two sentences on Taiwan, the primary point of conflict between Washington and Beijing, exemplify the diplomatic ingenuity of President Nixon. The wording simultaneously recognized Chinese sovereignty, while being ambiguous enough not to redirect American foreign policy away from support for Taiwan. In an article written for the Council on Foreign Relations forty years after the first Joint Communiqué was released, Jerome A Cohen, NYU law professor and co-director of its US-Asia Law Institute, stated that it was this section of the Communiqué that had truly “cleared the path for progress that has plainly changed the world.”
May 7, 2013 By Ian Delzer
President Nixon’s China game brought Soviet Premier Leonid Brezhnev to the negotiating table in May 1972.
Since the rise of the Iron Curtain after WWII, the US-Soviet relationship was based on a balance of power. That is, both sides tried to ensure the other wouldn’t gain an upper-hand by matching, and then trying to exceed their opponent’s military power. The consequence of this pattern was the proliferation of military capacities on both sides, particularly the proliferation of nuclear weapons. President Nixon sought to de-escalate the US-Soviet tensions, and alter the course of the relationship the arms-race had established.
Opening relations with China was a key component in moving the Soviets in this direction. The United States had long been opposed to the spread of Communism, adhering to its policy of containment, which called for stopping the ‘domino effect’ through military measures. President Nixon’s trip to China marked a shift away from that policy that had served to impede the progress of peaceful relations. This new approach to foreign policy never changed US commitment to the spread of freedom and democracy abroad. However, rather than strong-arming nations to achieve desired policy outcomes, America could induce their behavior through cooperative methods.
Realizing the disadvantaged position the emerging US-Sino relationship created, the Soviet Union quickly and dramatically changed their behavior toward the United States. In what Stapleton Roy—a senior US diplomat who specializes in Asian affairs—described as an effort to demonstrate their importance over China, the Soviets stopped stalling on an invitation to President Nixon to visit the USSR, agreeing to host the President before he ever left for China; the Berlin Agreement was finalized—the first of many agreements to follow collectively referred to as détente; and an active diplomatic relationship resumed between the two superpowers.
The Shanghai Communiqué, issued at the end of President Nixon’s journey to China, helped solidify this diplomatic framework by demonstrating the sensibleness of Nixonian diplomacy. The Communiqué noted the issues where the two states disagreed, such as Taiwan, acknowledging that disagreements on particular issues between nations were inevitable, but would not be insurmountable in the pursuit of the common goals of the two states. This Nixonian diplomatic methodology built on the realization that a resolution in the differences of ideology, philosophy, and governance between states didn’t necessitate military solutions.
May 3, 2013 By Ian Delzer
President Nixon and Premier Chou En-lai toast at the Great Hall of the People.
In his toast at the Welcome Banquet on February 21st, 1972 in the Great Hall of the People, President Nixon laid out the potential that trip held for the future of the US-Chinese relationship.
“What we say here will not be long remembered. What we do here can change the world… 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?”
President Nixon’s words were bold, candid, and consequential. Looking back at those words now, we can see that the President was addressing both the Chinese and the world. With Soviet relations moving out of their deep-freeze, the ramifications of this journey would have an effect beyond US-Chinese relations, and truly restructure global relations. Beginning this important relationship could not wait.
“This is the day, this is the hour for our two peoples to rise to the heights of greatness which can build a new and better world.”
May 2, 2013 By Ian Delzer
Premier Chou receives President Nixon’s extended hand upon his arrival in Peking
Walking down the steps from the “Spirit of ‘76” after landing on the small tarmac of the Peking Airport, President Nixon made it a point to extend his hand toward Premier Chou En-lai. This seemingly normal greeting held a greater significance. Recalling this moment in his memoirs, President Nixon “knew that Chou had been deeply insulted by [Eisenhower Secretary of State] Foster Dulles’s refusal to shake hands with him at the Geneva Conference in 1954.” “When our hands met,” President Nixon wrote, “one era ended and another began.”
Arriving in China today, one can only awe at the growth that the Nixon ‘era’ began. Beijing Airport has undergone nothing short of a metamorphosis. The cold and lonely runway of the outdoor airport where President Nixon landed has grown to become one of the busiest in the world. Terminal three, which was opened in 2008 after four years of construction to accommodate Olympic visitors, is the second largest worldwide with over 21 million square feet.
With the bustle of the thousands of daily international travelers surrounding us in the airport, it is difficult to imagine a time when restrictions were not only limited to travel and trade, but also formal communications between our two governments. Premier Chou noted on the difficultly President Nixon had overcome to visit China. While in the car leaving the airport, Chou turned to President Nixon and said, “Your handshake came over the vastest ocean in the world—twenty-five years of no communication.”
April 30, 2013 By Ian Delzer
The President and First Lady waiving goodbye from the South Lawn
News crews filmed the small crowd, including Republican and Democratic Congressmen, the Vice President and Mrs. Agnew, and the President’s two daughters, Tricia and Julie, which had all gathered around a single microphone that stood on the South Lawn between the White House and Marine One. It was February 12, 1972 at 10:10 AM eastern time.
Watching from home, one could see the President shaking the hands of people in the crowd with Pat by his side as he made his way to the microphone. Less than a year ago on July 15, 1971, President Nixon had interrupted regular television programming with the groundbreaking announcement that he was accepting an invitation to visit the People’s Republic of China. Now the President was announcing his departure.
President Nixon spoke briefly. After thanking his supporters who came to see him off, and those watching at home he described the purpose of his journey to China.
“As we look to the future, we must recognize that the Government of the People’s Republic of China and the Government of the United States have had great differences. We will have differences in the future. But what we must do is to find a way to see that we can have differences without being enemies in war. If we can make progress toward that goal on this trip, the world will be a much safer world and the chance particularly for all of those young children over there to grow up in a world of peace will be infinitely greater.”
In the President’s own words, he was “under no illusions that twenty years of hostility between the People’s Republic of China and the United States of America [were] going to be swept away by one week of talks.” This undertaking was, as President Nixon wrote in Memoirs, “a voyage of philosophical discovery as uncertain, and in some respects as perilous, as the voyages of geographic discovery of a much earlier time.”
April 29, 2013 By Ian Delzer
Andre Malraux, French Minister of Information and Culture
After accepting the invitation to visit China, President Nixon began to prepare himself for exchanges with the Chinese leadership. One of the most important, and most difficult, aspects of the preparation was learning about Chairman Mao. As the leader of China and the Communist Party, Mao had become deified. No Americans could provide insight into his character or thinking. Furthermore, as a consequence of the Cultural Revolution Mao had severed his foreign relationships. Facing this predicament President Nixon turned to Andre Malraux, author and former French Minister of Information and Culture, who had a long-standing relationship with Mao prior to the Cultural Revolution.
On February 14, 1972, President Nixon hosted a dinner in the White House Residence to honor Andre Malraux, to help lift the veil of confusion and seeming inconsistencies that marked Chinese politics and culture. President Nixon knew that having a foundational of understanding of the Chairman’s philosophy was necessary for the success of the person-to-person diplomacy. Having already read Malraux’s Anti-Memoirs, the President considered it “among the most valuable and fascinating reading” he had done in preparation for his trip.
Malraux, however, did not appear to be forthcoming in all of his answers to the President’s questions. He would respond with specifics when generalities were called for, and fit ted his answers to the premise of questions never asked. For example, when the President asked if China had an ‘expansionist’ foreign policy, Malraux replied for Mao, saying that China was a continent, and that actions viewed in the West as the execution of foreign policy were, in fact, only extensions of Chinese domestic policies. These types of responses frustrated John Scali—Special Consultant to the President—who later described Malraux in a memo as “confusing, contradictory and too single minded in his viewpoint when it was understandable, and too reminiscent of French intellectuals who believe they are ordained with the divine answer to baffling questions.”
President Nixon was able to discern Mao’s mentality from the conversation, but he was still unsure about his greater motivation hosting an American diplomatic delegation. Malraux described Mao’s motivation as stemming from his domestic policies, which “for the past 20 years” was not a “revolutionary policy at all, but one of raising the standard of living.” To achieve this would require the industrialization of the agricultural sector, which in turn would require heavy machinery only the United States could supply. When President Nixon pointed out that this was contradictory to the Chinese philosophy of self-reliance, Malraux replied, “That would depend on the President’s dialogue with the Chinese.”
The success or failure of the President’s trip would be contingent upon his conversations with the Chinese leaders, epitomizing the importance of people-to-people diplomacy. There were no compelling market forces, or international imperatives forcing a union between the United States and China. If the talks fell apart, Malraux contended the Chinese would say exactly what they said about their relationship with the Russians, “All right, we’ll do it all alone.” If this was the outcome, it would constitute a failure.
Understanding the difficulty President Nixon had taken on, Malraux channeled the French leader DeGaulle, saying, “If he were here, he would say, ‘All men who understand what you are embarking upon salute you!’”
April 27, 2013 By Robert Nedelkoff
On Thursday, the George W. Bush Presidential Center was dedicated on the campus of Southern Methodist University in Dallas. The Center includes the forty-third President’s Library and Museum as well as the George W. Bush Policy Institute and the offices of the George W. Bush Foundation. Present were former Presidents Carter, Clinton, George Bush, George W. Bush, and President Obama.
It is uncommon to have five living current and former Presidents in one place, though it has happened before in recent history, as this photo gallery at the Washington Post’s site, and a similar gallery at the Atlantic Monthly’s site remind us. But it has happened in recent memory.
In 2009, the same group of Presidents gathered in the Oval Office not long after President Obama’s inauguration. It was a celebratory occasion, as was the 1991 dedication of the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library, where the fortieth President was joined by Presidents Nixon, Ford, Carter, and Bush. But the two other occasions where five Presidents gathered were more somber: at the 2004 funeral of President Reagan, and that of President Nixon a decade earlier.
It is worth noting that there have been six periods of time in the history of the United States when no former President was living, and the only Chief Executive alive was the current one…..and three occasions when there have been as many as six Presidents living, both present and former ones.
Only one person has been both the only living President, and one of six living Presidents: Richard Nixon.
The periods when there has been only one living President are:
April 30, 1789 until March 4, 1797: George Washington (who was, after all, the first President)
December 14, 1799 until March 4, 1801 (John Adams, after George Washington’s death)
July 31, 1875 until March 4, 1877 (Ulysses S. Grant, after Andrew Johnson’s death)
June 24, 1908 until March 4, 1909 (Theodore Roosevelt, after Grover Cleveland’s death)
January 5 until March 4, 1933 (Herbert Hoover, after Calvin Coolidge’s death)
and January 22, 1973 until August 9, 1974 (Richard Nixon, after Lyndon Johnson’s death)
The periods when there have been six living Presidents are:
March 4, 1861 until January 18, 1862 (Martin Van Buren, John Tyler, Millard Fillmore, Franklin Pierce, James Buchanan, and Abraham Lincoln)
January 20, 1993 until April 22, 1994 (Richard Nixon, Gerald Ford, Jimmy Carter, Ronald Reagan, George Bush, Bill Clinton)
and January 20, 2001 until June 5, 2004 (the aforementioned six minus RN and plus George H.W. Bush).
But though five Presidents have stood together in one place, six never have. In 1861, only James Buchanan, as the outgoing President, was at Lincoln’s inauguration. In 2001, President Reagan was no longer able to appear in public because of his Alzheimer’s disease. The one time it would have been possible for six Presidents to sit down was in the 1993-94 period, but this did not happen. Hopefully, in 2017, such an event can come to pass.