Tom Switzer: Nixon ... Avowed Anti-Communist Opened China to the World

Roundup: Talking About History

Tom Switzer is a research associate at the University of Sydney's United States Studies Centre and editor of Spectator Australia.

"Congratulations on a magnificent breakthrough!" Donald Rumsfeld wrote to Richard Nixon after his announcement that he would visit the People's Republic of China. Left-liberals praised their archenemy. Senate Democrat leader Mike Mansfield said he was "flabbergasted, delighted and happy" and was "looking forward to a new day".
According to most historians, the rapprochement was the 37th president's finest hour. But Nixon's visit to Peking (now Beijing) also angered American conservatives, the last of the true believers in isolating "Red China".
William F. Buckley Jr, editor of National Review, complained that the US had "lost - irretrievably - any remaining sense of moral mission in the world". Publisher William Rusher called Nixon's volte face "one of the greatest doublecrosses of all time" while movie actor John Wayne deplored the week-long trip as a "real shocker".
Still, there is no denying the merits of the China opening 40 years ago next week. It was probably the most significant diplomatic initiative since the launching of the Marshall Plan and creation of NATO in the late 1940s. Nixon and his national security adviser, Henry Kissinger, exploited the Sino-Soviet split in order to create a global balance of power. By breaking a 23-year-old taboo on negotiating with the leaders of the world's most populous nation, they helped the Chinese people wake up to the modern world and gradually move away from the nightmares of the Cultural Revolution...

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