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Shortly before his resignation, in 1972, President Richard Nixon took a trip to the People’s Republic of China on a peace mission between the US and the communist country. The goal of the visit was to formalize normal relations after a 25 year gap in diplomacy. Nixon’s trip was foreshadowed by a secret diplomatic mission to Beijing a year earlier by National Security Advisor Henry Kissinger, paved the way for the presidential visit.

During the last week in February, Nixon and the first lady attending meetings and toured schools, hospitals and factories respectively. This gave the US the first glimpse into Chinese culture and society in over two decades. Among the biggest accomplishments was high level talks between the president and China’s leader, Chairman Mao Zedong and the acquisition of two panda bears for an American zoo.

The visit helped coin the phrase “Only Nixon could go to China.” This referred to the fact that a person who previously took a hard lined approach to something became the figurehead for ending conflict between the two ideologies.

Nixon Library: Nixon in China

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