Foreign Policy in the Nixon Presidency
Dr. Laresh Jayasanker
November 15, 2012
Richard Nixon is one of the most controversial figures in American history. His presidency is remembered most for the Watergate scandal and his subsequent resignation but some of his foreign policies forever altered American foreign diplomacy. One of the major policies that President Nixon was responsible for was changing the nature of the United States relationship with China. He did this by setting into motion covert diplomatic actions and cultural exchanges between the two countries. Nixon’s reasons for improving relationships with the Communist regime was to force the Soviet Union to be more accommodating to American demands and to also help end the war in Vietnam. Another reason for improving relations was very personal for Richard Nixon. He wanted to show his power as an international statesman to the world and American public. American/Chinese relations for many years were friendly and involved the trade of goods and ideas. American missionaries had gone to China to build churches and hospitals. The two countries were allies against the Japanese during World War II. After the war ended the United States was not an ally of China as a whole but one political group, the Kuomintang. The Kuomintang, led by Chang Kai Shek, were in battled in a civil war with the Chinese communists who would eventually win out. Chang Kai Shek would take his government to the island of Taiwan. After the civil war, the United States only recognized Chang’s Republic of China and kept the People’s Republic of China, led by Mao Ze-Dong, out of the United Nations and other international bodies. This led to an isolation of China by a majority of the international community. The only diplomatic relations the United States had with China were through intermediary countries. While relations with the United States were sour, the Chinese relationship with the Soviet Union had quickly deteriorated. Both China and the Soviet Union were communist countries but their ideologies were very different. Their relationship slowly became strained and both countries started to build up troops along their common border through the 1960s. After the Soviet Union invaded Czechoslovakia and released the Brezhnev Doctrine, which stated that the Kremlin “had the right to correct deviationism in other communist countries by military intervention,” the Chinese no longer considered the Soviet Union as an ally. This led to violent border clashes between the two countries in March 1969. By the end of 1969 the Soviet Union had over a million troops stationed along the Soviet/Chinese border and missiles aimed at major Chinese cities. The year before, a former republican vice-president from California, Richard Nixon, was elected president. He had made a name for him self in Congress as a leading anti-communist and he went on to serve as vice-president under Dwight D Eisenhower. Even before he was elected president, Nixon had expressed interest in opening up relations with China despite his previous negative views of communism. In 1967 he wrote an article for Foreign Affairs magazine where he stated “We simply cannot afford to leave China forever outside the family of nations, there to nurture its fantasies, cherish its hates and threaten its neighbors. There is no place on this small planet for a billion of its potentially most able people to live in angry isolation.” After his election as President Richard Nixon decided to make China one of the primary focuses of his foreign policy. One of his primary reasons for doing this was to gain an upper hand in the now 20-year-old Cold War with the Soviet Union. The Soviets had taken over several Eastern European countries and turned them into communist states in an attempt to show the world the successes of Communism. Also by the late 1960s the United States was no longer confident that it could win a war with the Soviet...
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