In July 1971 United States president Richard Nixon addressed the American people and announced that he had accepted an invitation to visit the People’s Republic of China. Nixon later visited China in February 1972, meeting various leaders including Mao Zedong and Zhou Enlai. The US had refused to recognise the communist regime in China since 1949, so Nixon’s visit was a significant development:
I have requested this television time tonight to announce a major development in our efforts to build a lasting peace in the world.
As I have pointed out on a number of occasions over the past three years, there can be no stable and enduring peace without the participation of the People’s Republic of China and its 750 million people. That is why I have undertaken initiatives in several areas to open the door for more normal relations between our two countries.
In pursuance of that goal, I sent Doctor Kissinger, my Assistant for National Security Affairs, to Peking during his recent world tour, for the purpose of having talks with Premier Zhou Enlai.
The announcement I shall now read is being issued simultaneously in Peking and in the United States:
‘Premier Zhou Enlai and Doctor Henry Kissinger, President Nixon’s Assistant for National Security Affairs, held talks in Peking from July 9th to 11th 1971. Knowing of President Nixon’s expressed desire to visit the People’s Republic of China, Premier Zhou Enlai, on behalf of the government of the People’s Republic of China, has extended an invitation to President Nixon to visit China at an appropriate date before May 1972. President Nixon has accepted the invitation with pleasure.’
The meeting between the leaders of China and the United States is to seek the normalisation of relations between the two countries and also to exchange views on questions of concern to the two sides.
In anticipation of the inevitable speculation which will follow this announcement, I want to put our policy in the clearest possible context.
Our action in seeking a new relationship with the People’s Republic of China will not be at the expense of our old friends. It is not directed against any other nation. We seek friendly relations with all nations. Any nation can be our friend without being any other nation’s enemy.
I have taken this action because of my profound conviction that all nations will gain from a reduction of tensions and a better relationship between the United States and the People’s Republic of China.
It is in this spirit that I will undertake what I deeply hope will become a journey for peace – peace not just for our generation but for future generations on this earth we share together.
Thank you and good night.”