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  • Print publication year: 2004
  • Online publication date: July 2009

8 - Principles in Practice: Policy Implications of the U.S. Decision for Rapprochement


Kissinger to Nixon: “The crucial factor … will be the Chinese judgment of our seriousness and reliability: this litmus test will determine their future policy. … Our essential requirement is to demonstrate that we are serious enough to understand the basic forces at work in the world and reliable enough to deliver on the commitments we make.”

Zhou to Nixon: “… in view of the current interests of our two countries … we may find common ground. But this common ground must be truly reliable. It should not be a structure built upon sand, because that structure will not be able to stand.”

In the process of constructing a new relationship with Beijing, Washington had not only to cultivate a convergence in worldviews and in the appreciation of certain common national interests, but also to demonstrate its willingness to act in accordance with the basic principles governing the relationship. The latter included the agreement to counter hegemony in Asia and the aim of working toward normalization of relations. Between 1971 and 1972, the two sides established regular high-level channels of contact that would allow bilateral communication and policy coordination. This took two forms: Kissinger's occasional trips to Beijing and, in between, his secret meetings, first with the Chinese Ambassador Huang Zhen in Paris and then with the Chinese UN Representative Ambassador Huang Hua in a CIA “safe house” in New York after the PRC gained UN representation in October 1971.