Nixon in China and the Week That Changed the World

Nixon in China and the Week That Changed the World

The historic meeting between President Nixon and Chairman Mao (andydoro/Flickr)

President Richard Nixon’s trip to China in 1972 was “the week that changed the world,” according to Ambassador Nicholas Platt, who accompanied the President on the historic delegation, at an event organized by Asia Society at UC Berkeley.

“Nixon’s visit," according to Platt, "allowed the American public to view images of China for the very first time in over two decades.” Through his personal home movies, colorful anecdotes of meeting Chinese government officials, and watching spectacular performances by the Chinese Olympic swim team, Platt painted a vivid picture of the long awaited unveiling of the People’s Republic of China to the western world.

Nixon's 8-day visit in 1972 set the stage for the normalization of relations between the United States and China. Platt later served as a diplomat in the U.S Embassy in China, where he witnessed first-hand the beginnings of the newly established relationship.

Noting the importance of the the first U.S.-China Communique when it was issued in 1972, which affirmed the resumption of diplomatic relations between the two countries, Platt stressed that the Communique was "not nearly as important as what we [did] in the years ahead to build a bridge across 16,000 miles and 22 years of hostilities" dividing the two countries in the past.

Ambassador Platt is the former President of Asia Society and a renowned China specialist, whose recent book "China Boys" is a memoir recounting his experience as a young diplomat in China. He also served as Ambassador to Pakistan, the Philippines, and Zambia.

The UC Berkeley Center for Chinese Studies and the UC Berkeley Institute of East Asian Studies co-sponsored this event.

April 1, 2012
by Maria Scarzella Thorpe