It was all a long way from Mao’s China. This was the New York City of Shaft and Jesus Christ Superstar. The world’s first electronic stock exchange, Nasdaq, had opened in February, and the newly topped-out Twin Towers of the World Trade Center dominated the city’s skyline. Crime raged in the streets below as the murder rate once again set a record; the mob boss Joseph Colombo had been shot in the head just a few months before the delegation’s arrival.
Chinese diplomats knew they were out of place. “To Americans, the arrival of the Chinese delegation seemed like the sudden appearance of aliens,” another wrote.