Nixon in China

On February 21, 1972, Richard M. Nixon arrived in China for an historic eight-day official visit. He was the first U.S. president to visit the People’s Republic of China since its founding in 1949.

Richard M. Nixon… Official White House photograph, [between 1969 and 1974]. Chronological List of Presidents, First Ladies, and Vice Presidents of the United States: Selected Images from the Collections of the Library of Congress. Prints & Photographs Division

The meeting between Nixon and Chinese Premier Zhou Enlai resulted in the Shanghai Communique, a pledge to set aside differences, especially on Taiwan, and to begin the process of the normalization of relations.

The United States began to take an active interest in establishing political and economic ties with China in the nineteenth century. After Japan attempted to invade China in 1894-95, Russia, France, Germany, and Great Britain sought to protect their interests in that country by carving the nation into spheres of influence. The U.S., an important power in the Pacific as a consequence of its 1898 victory in the Spanish-American War, attempted to prevent this division with the formulation, in 1899 and 1900, of what came to be known as the Open Door policy. This policy proposed both to ensure all nations equal trading privileges in China and to protect Chinese sovereignty.

Peking – Inside View of Gateway Leading toward the Emperor’s Palace. William Henry Jackson, photographer, September 1895. World’s Transportation Commission. Prints & Photographs Division

For an overview of Sino-American relations, as well as information about many other aspects of Chinese history, see China: a country study, part of a continuing series of books prepared by the Federal Research Division (FRD) of the Library of Congress. See also the Division’s Country Profile: China, summarized information on that country’s historical background, society, government and politics, and more.

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