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  • Gordon Dumoulin

1971-2021 | 50 years China-USA diplomacy

These months 50 years ago mark the first efforts for developing diplomatic China-USA relations. The efforts turned out to be a starting point of the new geopolitical perspectives in the past decades in which China increasingly engaged economically, industrially and politically to the international stage.

Two major events took place in 1971 which eventually led to the first US Presidential visit by President Nixon to China in February 1972 since the establishment of the People's Republic of China in 1949.

April 1971 Ping-Pong Diplomacy

The U.S. Table Tennis team was in Japan in 1971 for the World Table Tennis championships on April 6 when they received an invitation to visit China, triggered by the unexpectedly friendly encounter between the American and Chinese ping-pong athletes called Glenn Cowan and Zhuang Zedong during the championships. China allowed US reporters into the country as well, opening up communication to both sides, and breaking a barrier that had been there previously.

Different perspectives leading up to this invitation spread the news at that time, read more here Ping-Pong Diplomacy

On April 10, 1971, nine American players, four officials, and two spouses stepped across a bridge from Hong Kong to the Chinese mainland and spent their time during April 11–17 playing fun matches, touring the great Wall and Summer Palace, and watching a ballet.

Naturally this happening received great attention in both China and the USA as well as in the rest of the world

This important event was the step-up for the next event in China-US diplomacy.

July 1971 Henry Kissinger's secret mission to Beijing

In July 1971, Henry Kissinger feigned illness while on a trip to Pakistan and did not appear in public for a day. He was actually on a top-secret mission to Beijing to negotiate with Chinese Premier Zhou Enlai.

The visit and talks have been documented as tough but constructive with premier Zhou Enlai expressing his hope for improved China-USA relations.

Kissinger returned home with an invitation for President Nixon to visit China which the President publicly accepted on the 15th of July of 1971.

From 21 to 28 February 1972, President Nixon traveled to Beijing, Hangzhou and Shanghai. At the conclusion of his trip, the US and the PRC issued the Shanghai Communiqué, a statement of their respective foreign policy views. In the Communiqué, both nations pledged to work toward the full normalization of diplomatic relations. This did not lead to immediate recognition of the People's Republic of China but 'liaison offices' were established in Beijing and Washington.

The beginning of 50 years China-USA diplomacy....


Kissinger stated earlier this month : “So here we are, 50 years later, in a situation in which the need for cooperation has not diminished,”

#china #uschinarelations #geopolitics #diplomacy

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