mandag 21. februar 2022

Fifty years on, ‘Nixon in China’ loses its sparkle in Beijing and Washington

On a brisk winter day in February 1972, the 34-year-old American diplomat, Winston Lord, arrived in Beijing with his boss, Henry Kissinger, and president Richard Nixon. Barely an hour after they checked in to their guest house, a message came: “Chairman Mao wants to see president Nixon.”

The urgency from Mao resonated with the excitement from the American delegation. The establishment of bilateral relations offered great opportunities for both sides in facing a common enemy: the Soviet Union. For more than two decades since the Chinese communists took over the mainland, Beijing and Washington had had no official contact on this scale. Much to his surprise, Lord was asked to go along into the meeting with Mao as a note-taker. Secretary of state William Rogers not asked to attend and, so as not to upset Rogers, Nixon ordered Lord to be cropped out of the official photograph released to the press.

“The meeting took place in Mao’s residence, in a medium-sized room filled with books and manuscripts, like a library,” Lord recalled in an interview with the Guardian. “The atmosphere was modest, compared to the enormity of the event.