I left off yesterday’s introduction to Ultimate Frisbee in North Korea, which recounted China’s change from a failing planned economy to an increasingly market-based economy, with the question “Did Nixon open China?”.
It looks that way. Yesterday’s post described the huge changes to China’s government and economy occurring immediately after his visit. Searching “Nixon opened China” gets you innumerable hits on the internet. According to the Wikipedia page on Nixon’s 1972 visit to China
U.S. President Richard Nixon‘s 1972 visit to the People’s Republic of China was an important step in formally normalizing relations between the United States and the People’s Republic of China. It marked the first time a U.S. president had visited the PRC, who at that time considered the U.S. one of its staunchest foes.
Further, on the page on “Nixon goes to China“,
the two countries had been estranged for many years, as the U.S. was ardently anti-Communist and refused to recognize its government, and China had viewed the United States as its top enemy.
Wikipedia describes the preparation
and results, quoting Nixon,
“This was the week that changed the world, as what we have said in that Communique is not nearly as important as what we will do in the years ahead to build a bridge across 16,000 miles and 22 years of hostilities which have divided us in the past. And what we have said today is that we shall build that bridge.”
Well, there you go. A prominent politician sends a diplomat to open a dialog, then boldly follows through with a news-making visit. The event was policy and diplomacy in action, showing how Nixon opened China, right?
My experience playing Ultimate in North Korea suggests a different perspective.
The people of each nation didn’t know each other. No random farmer toiling in some field in China wouldn’t know or care about some brick layer in some town in the United States. Stick them in a room together and they’d be no more likely to fight than if you stuck two Chinese or two Americans together. I’d wager they’d more likely try to communicate, joke, and laugh than fight — all the more if you stuck a few beers in the room with them.
My point? I suggest the people would happily coexist, at least as well as any other pairs of individuals. The leaders on each side, particularly the hard-line ones, separate them.
Nixon didn’t open China. He walked through a door opened by the esoteric sport of ping-pong a year before Kissinger went.
Tomorrow: Ping pong diplomacy