Nixon and Mao, China, 1972.

Recognizing China

President Nixon's dramatic revelation that he will soon visit Peking ended two decades of public debate about the wisdom of establishing diplomatic relations with the People's Republic of China. The joint communiqué announcing this watershed in American foreign policy stated that "The meeting between the leaders of China and the United States is to seek the normalization of relations between the two countries. . . ." Thus the question is no longer whether to establish diplomatic relations with China, but how to do so. Heaven may be wonderful-the problem is to get there.  

Getting there will not be easy. At the background briefing that Henry Kissinger conducted for the press the day after the President's announcement, "a White House official" was careful to point out that his secret negotiation with Premier Chou En-lai was merely "the first tentative step along the road that the President started two and one-half years ago through indirect communication." The official emphasized that "at this stage we don't have even the beginning of an agreement."

There may not even be any common understanding of what the problems are upon which agreement must be reached. A few days after the Kissinger briefing, Premier Chou, in an interview with visiting American graduate students, not only restated his government's long-standing demand that resolution of the problem of Taiwan precede the normalization of relations, but also introduced new complications extrinsic to the China tangle itself. There could be no normalization, the Premier said, until the United States withdrew-from all of Indochina-"not only troops but all military forces and all military installations." He also referred to the continuing presence of U.S. forces in South Korea, the lack of a Korean peace treaty and the revival of Japanese militarism as "obstacles" to be overcome.

Chou En-lai may have suggested these new obstacles in order to reassure China's Asian communist friends that a Sino-American rapprochement will not sacrifice their interests. He may have sought to provide himself with "bargaining chips" for an extremely difficult

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