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Nixon's grandson retraces historic week

(China Daily)

09:01, May 03, 2013

Then-US President Richard Nixon shares a toast with Premier Zhou Enlai in February 1972 in Beijing during Nixon's official visit to China. [Provided to China Daily]

Then-US president's 1972 visit to China broke down wall between '2 great peoples'

A delegation of 40 dignitaries from the United States led by a grandson of Richard Nixon arrived in Beijing on Thursday to retrace the 37th US president's 1972 visit to China.

Nixon's visit, a diplomatic breakthrough that ended 25 years of mutual silence, cleared the way for the establishment of formal ties between the US and the People's Republic of China.

Four decades later, the 10-day "Nixon Centennial Legacy Journey" will feature visits to the same venues in Beijing, Hangzhou and Shanghai that Nixon and his entourage toured.

One stop will be the site of the meetings that produced the Shanghai Communique, a joint announcement that it was in the interest of all nations for China and the US to normalize relations and establish economic and cultural ties.

To kick off the commemorative tour, China's consul-general in Los Angeles, Qiu Shaofang, hosted a reception at his official residence.

"We cannot think of a better way to celebrate the centennial of president Nixon," Qiu said. "Richard Nixon's visit changed the course of history."

Nixon was born in 1913 and died in 1994.

"Nixon wanted to bring China into the brotherhood of nations," said Sandy Quinn, president of the Richard Nixon Foundation, in the former president's birthplace of Yorba Linda, California. "When you look at what has occurred, the advances in every way, it's amazing."

Christopher Nixon Cox, 34, son of the president's older daughter, Tricia, and her husband, Edward Cox, described the trip as a tribute to Nixon a century after his birth.

"With this visit, the United States and China come together to honor my grandfather on his 100th birthday and celebrate another generation of friendship between our two nations," said Cox, an investment banker with OC Global Partners in New York.

The first batch of the delegation touched down on Thursday morning at Beijing Capital International Airport, the same place where Nixon stepped off Air Force One on Feb 21, 1972, and shook hands with then-premier Zhou Enlai. The airport, now one of the world's largest, was little more than an airstrip 41 years ago.

The group will visit the Forbidden City and Tian'anmen Square, and attend a welcome banquet on Friday hosted by State Councilor Yang Jiechi, a former foreign minister, in the Great Hall of the People, where then-president Nixon and first lady Pat Nixon were guests at a state dinner in 1972.

In the following days, the group will retrace Nixon's walking route along the Great Wall and see giant pandas at Beijing Zoo. During the 1972 visit, Pat Nixon was so taken with the pandas that Zhou promised to lend Ling-Ling and Xing-Xing to the National Zoo in Washington. The pair arrived two months later.

Next stop for the delegation will be Hangzhou, capital of Zhejiang province, and a visit to the Six Harmonies Pagoda. That will be followed by a banquet at the Hangzhou State Guesthouse, where Nixon wrote the first draft of what would become the Shanghai Communique.

From there it's a ride on the bullet train to ultra-modern Shanghai, with visits to the old parts of the city that Nixon visited as well as a tour of the World Financial Center, the world's fourth-tallest building. This will be capped by a sunset cruise down the Yangtze River.

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