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People's Daily Online>>Foreign Affairs

Knocking the door open - Nixon's China trip and its legacy

By Xinhua writers Wang Aihua, Li Xiaobo (Xinhua)

08:56, February 21, 2012

BEIJING, Feb. 20 (Xinhua) -- Robert Tansey, who was born in New Jersey in the 1950s, has lived a life that probably would have been much different if Nixon hadn't made his historic visit to China on Feb. 21, 1972.

As a U.S. diplomat for several years and now as Director of External Affairs for the Nature Conservancy's North Asia Region, Tansey has lived in China for about a decade. He recalled the path he and China have taken to arrive at today's close ties.

"As a boy growing up, I loved to look at maps. I knew there was a place called China," Tansey told Xinhua. "I knew China had a lot of people, a long history and a rich culture. I also knew there was a conflict between the United States and China."

Back in the 1950s and '60s, China was commonly known as Red China, or Communist China, among Americans. The breakout of the Cultural Revolution in 1966 only solidified that stereotype.

"Then I knew China was having some cultural revolution - people had Chairman Mao's Little Red Book," Tansey said.

In the meantime, the United States was known to Chinese as Imperialist America through magazines and revolutionary slogans such as "Down with American Imperialism."

However, in the late 1950s and early 1960s, relations between China, the United States and the Soviet Union seesawed.

Ideological divergences between China and the Soviet Union and tensions along the Sino-Russian border, particularly the breakout of the Zhenbao Island border conflict in 1969, led China and the United States to consider the strategic value of resuming ties between their two countries.

Finally, after several rounds of tentative and often indirect contact, the top leadership of China and the United States agreed to start communication.

By 1971, after more than two decades of isolation and hostility across the Pacific Ocean in the wake of the founding of the People's Republic in 1949, the U.S. Table Tennis Team became the first American sports delegation to set foot on Chinese soil since 1949.

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