Nixon's grandson retraces historic week
Updated: 2013-05-03 07:07
By Chris Davis in New York (China Daily)
Then-US President Richard Nixon shares a toast with Premier Zhou Enlai in February 1972 in Beijing during Nixon's official visit to China. [Provided to China Daily]
Then-US president's 1972 visit to China broke down wall between '2 great peoples'
A delegation of 40 dignitaries from the United States led by a grandson of Richard Nixon arrived in Beijing on Thursday to retrace the 37th US president's 1972 visit to China.
Nixon's visit, a diplomatic breakthrough that ended 25 years of mutual silence, cleared the way for the establishment of formal ties between the US and the People's Republic of China.
Four decades later, the 10-day "Nixon Centennial Legacy Journey" will feature visits to the same venues in Beijing, Hangzhou and Shanghai that Nixon and his entourage toured.
One stop will be the site of the meetings that produced the Shanghai Communique, a joint announcement that it was in the interest of all nations for China and the US to normalize relations and establish economic and cultural ties.
To kick off the commemorative tour, China's consul-general in Los Angeles, Qiu Shaofang, hosted a reception at his official residence.
"We cannot think of a better way to celebrate the centennial of president Nixon," Qiu said. "Richard Nixon's visit changed the course of history."
Nixon was born in 1913 and died in 1994.
"Nixon wanted to bring China into the brotherhood of nations," said Sandy Quinn, president of the Richard Nixon Foundation, in the former president's birthplace of Yorba Linda, California. "When you look at what has occurred, the advances in every way, it's amazing."
Christopher Nixon Cox, 34, son of the president's older daughter, Tricia, and her husband, Edward Cox, described the trip as a tribute to Nixon a century after his birth.
"With this visit, the United States and China come together to honor my grandfather on his 100th birthday and celebrate another generation of friendship between our two nations," said Cox, an investment banker with OC Global Partners in New York.
The first batch of the delegation touched down on Thursday morning at Beijing Capital International Airport, the same place where Nixon stepped off Air Force One on Feb 21, 1972, and shook hands with then-premier Zhou Enlai. The airport, now one of the world's largest, was little more than an airstrip 41 years ago.
The group will visit the Forbidden City and Tian'anmen Square, and attend a welcome banquet on Friday hosted by State Councilor Yang Jiechi, a former foreign minister, in the Great Hall of the People, where then-president Nixon and first lady Pat Nixon were guests at a state dinner in 1972.
In the following days, the group will retrace Nixon's walking route along the Great Wall and see giant pandas at Beijing Zoo. During the 1972 visit, Pat Nixon was so taken with the pandas that Zhou promised to lend Ling-Ling and Xing-Xing to the National Zoo in Washington. The pair arrived two months later.
Next stop for the delegation will be Hangzhou, capital of Zhejiang province, and a visit to the Six Harmonies Pagoda. That will be followed by a banquet at the Hangzhou State Guesthouse, where Nixon wrote the first draft of what would become the Shanghai Communique.
From there it's a ride on the bullet train to ultra-modern Shanghai, with visits to the old parts of the city that Nixon visited as well as a tour of the World Financial Center, the world's fourth-tallest building. This will be capped by a sunset cruise down the Yangtze River.
Other notable figures in Cox's group include KT McFarland, a Fox News national security analyst and former aide to Henry Kissinger; Colonel Jack Brennan, a former Marine Corps aide who accompanied Nixon to China in 1972; Robert "Bud" McFarlane, who was Ronald Reagan's national security adviser, and Marjorie Acker, who worked as a secretary for Nixon when he was a senator, vice-president and president.
The tour is co-sponsored by the Richard Nixon Foundation and the Chinese People's Association for Friendship with Foreign Countries. The association's president, Li Xiaolin, is the daughter of Li Xiannian, who, before serving as China's president during the 1980s, was among the high-level officials who greeted Nixon in 1972.
In a statement, the Nixon Foundation called the current tour "a rare and special arrangement made exclusively for the VIP delegation".
Sandy Quinn, president of the Richard Nixon Foundation, speaks about the upcoming trip to China, on April 24, in Los Angeles. [Provided to China Daily]
Upon his departure, Cox said he was "eagerly looking forward" to retracing his grandfather's footsteps.
"His vision in opening the door to China, of breaking down the wall that had separated two great peoples from one another, inaugurated a new era of mutual respect and cooperation that not only endures but also continues to strengthen and mature," said Cox, who was born in 1979, the year China-US relations were formalized.
"By reliving the week that truly did change the world, we are commemorating one of the most seminal events of the 20th century," he added.
"What's more, we are strengthening the bonds of friendship that President Nixon and Chairman Mao Zedong and Premier Zhou first forged more than 40 years ago. I know that the spirit of both my grandfather and my grandmother, who shared with the Chinese people the same gracious warmth she extended to the people of more than 75 countries throughout her public life, will be with us," he said.
Pat Nixon died in 1993, a year before her husband.
It was Richard Nixon himself who, at a farewell dinner in Beijing on Feb 28, 1972, called the visit "the week that changed the world". Its significance continues to reverberate today, with the expression "Nixon goes to China" becoming shorthand for a bold, unexpected political move.
Werner Escher, head of domestic and international markets for South Coast Plaza, an upscale shopping mall in Orange County, California, is part of Cox's delegation. He said his company worked with the Nixon Foundation to host a reunion of Chinese and US table tennis players years after their historic "ping-pong diplomacy" matches in China in 1971.
"Friendship between China and the US is further served on this occasion by not only tracing the steps of president Nixon's 1972 visit but by providing additional opportunities to know the people of China and for South Coast Plaza to enjoy another of its many China visitations," Escher said.