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Journey through the history books


The meeting between US President Richard Nixon and Chinese Chairman Mao Zedong on February 21, 1972. (L to R) Premier Zhou Enlai, Tang Wensheng (interpreter), Mao, Nixon, Henry Kissinger, Winston Lord and Wang Hairong. WINSTON LORD/CHINA DAILY

On the eve of the 50th anniversary of President Richard Nixon’s historic visit, seasoned American diplomats are reliving the heady days of the 1970s rapprochement between their country and China.

At around 2:20 p.m. on February 21, 1972, Chinese Premier Zhou Enlai showed up at the Diaoyutai State Guesthouse in Beijing, where, just over an hour earlier, he had said goodbye to Richard Nixon, the U.S. President. visiting, that Zhou had met at the capital airport that morning.

The official program called for the president to rest, after a long journey that took him and his 350-member entourage from Washington to Beijing, and before the two sides engaged in a preliminary discussion followed by a banquet. welcome.

“Here Zhou came and asked to see Kissinger,” recalls Winston Lord, special assistant to Nixon’s national security adviser Henry Kissinger. “He said Chairman Mao wanted to see Chairman Nixon right away.”

“Kissinger, to my eternal gratitude, asked me to go,” Lord, 84, told China Daily in a recent interview.

Lord, convinced that he had earned the right to sit in the President’s study by being “an essential member of the trip preparation team and one of the greatest note takers in the world”, would later ” tied for first place among Americans with Kissinger meeting with Mao five times,” to use his own words.

“He (Mao) was a powerful leader just by the atmosphere.”

While Nixon and Mao treated each other to a spirited hour-long meeting that included philosophy, history, and lots of banter, others wondered. “I voted for you in your last election,” Mao said. “I think the important thing to note is that in America, at least right now, those on the right can do what those on the left can only talk,” Nixon said.)