Ping Pong Diplomacy

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Ping-Pong Diplomacy
Richard Nixon’s Presidential Decision to Enact Sino-American Relations

David Kain
January 1, 2013
AP Government
Period Eight

The term ping-pong diplomacy itself is derived from the odd circumstance in which a Sino-American diplomatic relationship was formed during President Richard Nixon’s term in office. Though a ping pong tournament was not intended to bring about diplomacy between communist China and the democratic United States, it proved to be an essential spark in fueling the fire of Sino-American diplomacy. Each nation had its own differences with the communist Soviet Union and appeared to be a match made in diplomatic heaven.

Within the next four decades the United States and China developed into the two largest global economies and the liaison became known as the single most important bilateral relationship of the twenty-first century.1 The historic opening of American and Chinese relations resulted in powerful overtones for the future of each country and provided ripple effects which spanned across the globe.

The true significance of Nixon’s Chinese diplomacy cannot be fully appreciated without first comprehending the decades of Chinese-American hostility that preceded it. In 1949 a communist revolution took hold in China, and as the Communist People’s Republic of China obtained power the United States refused to recognize the party and instead deemed the nationalist Republic of China (Taiwan) as the sole legitimate government of China. As a response to the communist movement in China the United States removed all personnel from China in 1950. No official would permanently return until 1973.2 ______________________________________________________________________________

The inner Chinese controversies were not the only point of difference between itself and the United States. China had direct ties with the Korean War, because of China’s involvement the United States imposed a trade embargo with the People’s Republic of China and eventually banned American travel to China completely.1 The president at the time, Lyndon Johnson, explained that there would be no hope for an easing of relationships with China as long as communist China continued to pursue conflict and preach violence.3

Despite these prior differences each nation shared a universal dislike of the Soviet Union. The Sino-Soviet relationship is vital in understanding how the Sino-American relationship came to be, and though both believed in communism, each took completely different roads to socialism.2 As the 1950s came to a close Sino-Soviet harmony began to dissipate, and as the 1960s emerged and progressed open hostility took hold.1 Tensions reached a maximum when the Soviet Union published the Brezhnev Doctrine. The doctrine permitted that Moscow possessed the right to bring any communist state to a heel by military force.1 National Security advisor to President Nixon, Henry Kissinger, perhaps but it best by stating “No communist leader was then challenging Moscow’s doctrinal preeminence more rigorously than Mao. If the Brezhnev Doctrine had any obvious application, it was to Mao’s China.”4 _____________________________________________________________________________ 1 Bao

2 Holdridge
3 Buss
4 Kissinger

As China faced its controversies with the Soviet Union, the United States had its own number of differences with the Soviets. The United States had the goal of unsettling Moscow enough to convince Soviet leaders to relax the Soviet-American strained relations.5 While the Chinese attempted to defend its borders from Soviet threats, the American aspirations proved ineffective and the possibility of a Sino-American pact seemed to be ideal. Apart from global indifference with the Soviet Union, President Nixon saw the opportunity for a pact with the Chinese to be a distraction from the Unites States’ involvement in the Vietnam War. President Nixon and advisor Kissinger envisioned a visit to China, which would...
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