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.