Remembering the past

On September 27, 2009, in China, by Mark Norris

News today of the death of William Safire, speechwriter to President Richard Nixon during his 1972 visit to China, evokes memories of my early impressions of the world I am about to see.

As an undergraduate in the early 1970’s, I was a student of political science and foreign policy. It was the era of Richard Nixon, Henry Kissinger, the end of the Vietnam War and the “normalization of relations” with China.

“Nixon to China” became a metaphor for the incredible. That the ardent anti-Communist would be the first U.S. President to visit China in 1972 revolutionized foreign affairs.

Of China, Napolean said, “There lies a sleeping giant. Let him sleep! For when he wakes he will move the world.” Nixon recognized the giant had awakened and moved toward a rapprochement that, until the tearing down of the Berlin Wall, was likely the most dramatic event of the postwar era.

He wrote about it in his treatise on the end of the Twentieth Century, “1999, Victory without War,” (Simon and Schuster, 1988) and acknowledged the metamorphosis:

“The modern world cannot afford the risk of misunderstandings and misjudgments that can occur when powerful nations fail to communicate in spite of their differences. Our estrangement from China, justified though it may have been on purely ideological grounds, was an ideological luxury neither we nor they could afford any longer.”

“In the long run the Sino-U.S. relationship will endure not because of fear but because of hope….We have nothing to lose from friendship with each other; we have everything to gain.”

It is in that spirit we now go to China.

Comments are closed.