It was the meeting, just 50 years ago this month, that changed more lives at more levels than any other political handshake in our lifetimes. The Trickster and the Monster, as the principals had been nicknamed, with some justice: Richard Nixon, the American president who would leave office two years later in Watergate disgrace, and Mao Zedong, the Communist chairman whose fanatical Great Leap Forward and Cultural Revolution had already taken 50 million Chinese lives, maybe more. Strange to tell, their breakthrough in Beijing—February, 1972—was not about changing China or the US. It was about fending off pressure they both were feeling from Soviet Russia. But it’s the unintended consequences we notice now, the loveless connection that made China the world’s workshop.
In this first episode of In Search of Monsters, we rethink our approach towards China in the 21st century. Time travel with us this hour, back 50 years to the spark that renewed China and began a remapping of the human story. Our guest, Chas Freeman, was there that whole week, between Richard Nixon and China’s Chairman Mao Zedong, interpreting one to the other in Beijing, and noting odd details at a sharp turn of history. His reflections and analysis of the current moment are key to understanding our emerging rift with China, and steps that need be taken to mend our relationship.
Listen to the full episode here:
Additionally, check out these related resources:
- Detective Dog – Gish Jen in The New Yorker, 11/15/21.
- Understanding China’s historic changes through informed empathy – Kaiser Kuo in The China Project, 10/28/21.
- A World Dividing: The International Implications of the Sino-American Rift – Chas Freeman Quincy Brief