tirsdag 22. februar 2022

50 years after the famous Nixon-Mao meeting, today’s leaders can learn from their nuanced political leadership

On February 21, 1972, U.S. President Richard Nixon set foot in Beijing, a seminal visit that broke the ice in a relationship that has come to shape – and define – the post-Cold War global order. “Only Nixon could go to China”: the adage from Star Trek remains popular. Besides the observation’s historic importance, it also provides insights for Sino-American relations today.

The meaning of the proverb is that only Nixon could have gone to China, given his distinctively hawkish and conservative stance on Sino-American relations during his ascent to power. Nixon was widely viewed to be a leading (albeit somewhat restrained) voice in the country’s struggle against communism.

And the converse, oft-overlooked in international discourses, equally holds true. Only Chairman Mao Zedong – with his consolidated presence as the supreme leader of Chinese politics – could have had the political resolve and wherewithal to push back against the strong undercurrents of the then-raging Chinese Cultural Revolution to forge ties with the United States.