50 years after Nixon's visit, US-China relations remain as fraught today as ever

The height of the Cold War, U.S. President Richard Nixon flew to communist China's central of power in a visit that would change U.S.-China relations over time and China’s position in the global.

50 years after Nixon's visit, US-China relations remain as fraught today as ever

China's relationship with the United States has been a problem for half a century. While the Cold War is over, there are concerns that a new Cold War could be emerging on both sides. Despite repeated Chinese disavowals America is concerned that the democratic-led world which triumphed over Soviet Union could now be threatened by the authoritarian model a powerful and still rising China.

Oriana Skylar Mako, a Stanford University China expert, stated that "The U.S.-China relations have always been contentious, but one of necessity." "Perhaps the reasons were mostly economic 50 years ago. They are now mainly interested in the security realm. The relationship was never easy and will never be.

On Monday, 50 years ago, Nixon arrived in Beijing. The slogans on billboards read "Down with American Imperialism", part of the Cultural Revolution upheaval that sent intellectuals to the countryside, humiliated them and made them subject to brutal and sometimes even fatal attacks for their class struggle.

Nixon's 1972 trip to China, which included meeting Chairman Mao Zedong, and a visit at the Great Wall, resulted in the establishment of diplomatic relations and the subsequent severing formal ties with Taiwan. Taiwan was recognized by the U.S. as the government in China following the 1949 fall of the communists in Beijing.

Premier Zhou Enlai's translator wrote that Nixon, according to his best recollection, said "This hand stretches across the Pacific Ocean as friendship" when he was shaking hands with Zhou at the airport.

It was a friendship that both sides found out through circumstances and not natural allegiances.

China and the Soviet Union were once communist allies. In 1969, they had split along their borders and even clashed. Mao saw the United States and considered it a counterbalance to any Soviet invasion threat.

Nixon wanted to end the long and bloody Vietnam War, which had divided America's society. Nixon hoped China, a ally of communist North Vietnam during its war with the U.S.-backed South could play a part in resolving this conflict.

According to June Teufel Dreyer (a Chinese politics specialist at The University of Miami), the U.S. president placed himself in "the position of supplicant" to Beijing. She said that Chinese state media propagated the notion that a prosperous China would be peaceful, and that America was a large market for American products.

This would take decades. The U.S. was first a major market for China. This led to China's rapid rise from an impoverished country to the second-largest economy in the world.

Nixon's visit was "a pivotal event that ushered China's turn outsideward and subsequent rise global," stated Dali Yang from the University of Chicago, who is the author of many books on Chinese economics and politics.

Deng Xiaoping, the new leader, inaugurated an era partial economic liberalization two years after Mao's 1976 death. This created a mixture of single-party rule and state-led capitalism that has endured until today.

China's wealth has enabled

Although his trip to China provided the U.S. with leverage in its Cold War rivalry against the Soviet Union, America now faces an entirely new geopolitical landscape with echoes from the past.

While the Soviet Union has ended, the Russian and Chinese leaders Vladimir Putin and Xi Jinping are making common cause to resist U.S. pressures over their authoritarian ways. America is once more divided by the Vietnam War. This time it was over the pandemic response, and its last presidential election.

Although Joe Biden, the U.S. president, has stated that he would like a more stable relationship to China, there are major differences in trade and human rights that make understanding difficult. Long-term stability of ties that were established by Nixon's visit seems ever further away.

"China-U.S. Relations are terrible," stated Xiong Zhiyong (a professor of international relations at China Foreign Affairs University). "There are people who want to improve relations but it is extremely difficult to do so.