A fateful meeting between two wary leaders
In 1972, Richard Nixon became the first American President to go
to China. The visit, planned in secret, amazed the world and marked
the end of the deep freeze in Sino-American relations that started
with the Communist takeover in 1949. It was an immense gamble but a
brilliant stroke of policy, changing the international balance of
power. With China onside, Nixon might withdraw U.S. forces from
Vietnam; American know-how could help Mao recover from his
disastrous Cultural Revolution; most of all, each now had a card to
play against the Soviet Union in the Cold War struggle. In the
longer term, though, was Nixon the supplicant to the Middle
Kingdom? Has the United States been at a disadvantage ever since?
Will the twenty-first century see co-operation between the two
countries, or will China challenge American dominance?
This is fascinating history enacted by extraordinary players:
Nixon, Red-baiter, shrewd statesman and disgraced politician; Mao,
frail, erratic, ruthless; the twin Machiavellis Kissinger and Chou
En-lai; brittle, unhappy Pat Nixon; and Mao's wife, Jiang Qing, the
small-time Shanghai actress who became the scourge of Chinese
civilization. The two countries saw themselves as model societies
but couldn't have been more different: Communist China,
contemptuous but fearful of the outside world; the United States of
America, a rich, powerful but troubled democracy. The gap between
them was huge and still exists today.
Drawing on newly available material from the United States and
China, as well as from interviews with all major survivors,
MacMillan re-examines that fateful week. Timely, authoritative and
written with great narrative verve, Nixon in China is a
landmark work of history.