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Raising the Bamboo Curtain

next   To many the Truman administration lost China when Mao’s Communists ousted Chiang’s Nationalists in 1949. By the mid 1950s the United States had fought to a standstill in Korea against the communist North. As the 1960s came to a close America was struggling to check communist-backed insurgents in Vietnam. America’s Pacific influence, hard won in World War II, appeared to be waning as that of the Soviet Union’s was on the rise.
Shang (1523-1027 BC)  
Chou (1027-221 BC)  
Ch'in (221-206 BC)  
Han (206 BC-AD 220)  
Three Kingdoms (220-581)   Where others saw reasons for pessimism, Richard Nixon saw opportunity. As Congressman and Vice President, Nixon had built a political career as a strong anti-communist. But upon attaining the Presidency in 1968, Nixon was willing to play the China card. He believed he could play the interests of the USSR against those of China to the benefit of the United States. The world was shocked when Nixon announced in July 1971 that he would visit Peking. He made his trip the following February and with China’s Premier Chou En-lai signed the Shanghai communiqué. In it the two countries agreed to disagree on such hot topics as North and South Korea, the Philippines, and Washington’s security pact with Japan. But it included two crucial areas of understanding. China committed itself to “a peaceful settlement of the Taiwan question,” while the United States committed itself to oppose Soviet control in the Asia-Pacific region.

President And Mrs. Nixon on the Great Wall

President And Mrs. Nixon on the Great Wall
c. 1971

Courtesy National Archives and Records Administration


Sui (581-618)  
T'ang (618-907)  
Sung (907-1279)  
Yüan (1279-1368)  
Ming (1368-1644)  
Ch'ing (1644-1912)  
Opening the Door (1844-1911)  
The Period of Revolution (1912-1949)  
Mao's Dynasty (1949-1976)  
Into the Next Millennium (1979-)  
Despite this breakthrough doubts remained about future relations. Chinese leadership, feeling the effects of the Cultural Revolution and an aging Mao, appeared to Americans somewhat unstable. China, watching America withdraw from Vietnam and Nixon’s resignation, had similar thoughts.
Still, the bamboo curtain was rising. President Gerald Ford visited Peking in 1975 assuring China of America’s continued commitment to peace. Ford’s successor, Democrat Jimmy Carter, continued Republican policy by formally establishing diplomatic relations with China on January 1, 1979. The Peking government was recognized as the legal representative of one China, of which Taiwan was a part.