- The Empire Club of Canada Addresses (Toronto, Canada), 25 May 2007, p. 415-431
- MacMillan, Dr. Margaret, Speaker
- Media Type
- Item Type
- The speaker's book about Nixon's trip to China and why she started to write it. How that trip did make a difference in international relations. The importance of both countries. What happened as a result of that trip. Signalling the end of the Cold War. Why the trip happened. Why it didn't happen before. Why they didn't talk to each other since 1949. Going back in time for greater understanding. The complicated relationship between the United States and The People's Republic of China. A mutual fascination. Some history of both countries, and their relationship one to the other. How each country sees the other, and has seen each other. The relationship today. An illustrative anecdote to show how absurd the relationship became at one point. Nixon, China, and Vietnam. The possibility for rapprochement and how it emerged. Organizing the trip. After the trip, and after Watergate, and after Mao's death. Establishing full diplomatic relations. Seeing the results.
- Date of Original
- 25 May 2007
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- Full Text
- Dr. Margaret MacMillanHead Table Guests
Provost and Vice-Chancellor, Trinity College, University of Toronto
The Start of a New World Order?
Chairman: Dr. John S. Niles
President, The Empire Club of Canada
Jocelyn Badovinac, UE, MEd, DH, MMLJ, Honorary Director, The Empire Club of Canada; Aimee Fischer, Senior Student, Monarch Park Collegiate Institute; Rev. Canon Philip Hobson, Rector, St. Martin-in-the-Fields Anglican Church; William Saunderson, President, Ontario Exports/Mermax Holdings; Bailiff Sandra Brown, DH, Grand Master, The Hospitaller Order of Saint John of Jerusalem, and Former Executive Secretary of Convocation, Trinity College; Taoying Zhu, Consul General, Consulate General of the People's Republic of China in Toronto; Rev. Canon Kimberley Beard, Senior Pastor, St. Paul's On-the-Hill Anglican Church, and Director, The Empire Club of Canada; Craig Keilburger, Founder and Chair, Free The Children; Susan Perren, Director of Development and Alumni Affairs, Trinity College; and George Fierheller, President, Four Halls Inc.
Introduction by John Niles
Honoured Guests, Rev. Canons, Directors, members and guests of the Empire Club of Canada:
President Richard Nixon was asked at one of his final television interviews before his death, "How would you like to be remembered?" He thought a moment and then replied, "I'd like to be remembered as one who made a difference."
The simplicity of that universal concept and the enormity of his monumental legacy are only now being unearthed having been buried for over 30 years by the dreary end and one tawdry chapter of his presidency known as Watergate.
In the eulogy given by Henry Kissinger at Nixon's funeral he said, "When I learned the final news, by then so expected yet so hard to accept, I felt a profound void."
In the words of Shakespeare, "He was a man, take him, for all in all. I shall not look upon his like again."
The profound truth of these words can be found in the fact that when Richard Nixon took his oath of office, there were 550,000 American soldiers fighting in Vietnam, America had no contact with China, there were no negotiations with the Soviet Union, most Muslim countries had broken diplomatic relations with the United States and Middle East diplomacy was at a standstill. All of which occurred during a time of domestic division, crisis and strife not experienced in America since the Civil War.
When Richard Nixon left office, Kissinger said, "An agreement to end the war in Vietnam had been concluded, and the main lines of all subsequent policy were established: permanent dialogue with China was established; readiness without illusion to ease tensions with the Soviet Union had begun; a peace process in the Middle East, the beginning of establishing human rights as an international issue and the weakening of the Soviet hold on Eastern Europe had begun."
Richard Nixon pursued and accomplished all of these things while undergoing a deep personal and political crisis.
Mao said of him on his meeting with him that he was "a man who knows what he stands for, as well as what he wants, and has the strength of mind to get it."
For too long the significance of Nixon's legacy has been overlooked--but no longer, for Dr. Margaret MacMillan in her book "Nixon in China: The Week That Changed the World" truly and definitively removes all doubt.
It was G.K. Chesterton who said, "A good book tells us the truth about its hero; but a bad book tells us the truth about its author."
Dr. MacMillan has written a good book. It is my sincere hope that it will not be her last due to going on tour, for if Shakespeare had to go on tour to promote "Romeo and Juliet," he would never have written "Macbeth."
Margaret MacMillan has been the Provost of Trinity College at the University of Toronto since 2002. She was an undergraduate at Trinity, earning an Honours BA in 1966 in History. Her graduate work was at the University of Oxford where she did a BPhil on Politics and a DPhil on the British in India.
She was a member of the History Department at Ryerson University in Toronto from 1975 to 2002 and also served as chair of the department. She became an adjunct professor in the History Department at the University of Toronto in 1997 and a full professor in 2003. She teaches a fourth-year seminar on the Cold War and one for first-year students entitled Nationalism versus Internationalism.
She has served on the boards of the Metropolitan Toronto Reference Library, the Ontario Heritage Foundation, the Canadian Institute of International Affairs and the Atlantic Council of Canada and is currently on the board of Historica and the Churchill Society for Parliamentary Democracy (Canada). She edited the International Journal from 1995 to 2003. She has written numerous articles and book reviews for both scholarly and non-scholarly publications and comments frequently in the media.
Her books include "Women of the Raj" (1988) and "Peacemakers: the Paris Conference of 1919 and its attempt to end war" (2001), published in North America as "Paris 1919: Six Months that Changed the World" (2002). The book won the Duff Cooper Prize for History or Biography and the Samuel Johnson Prize for non-fiction in the U.K. in 2002, as well as the Governor General's Award for non-fiction in Canada in 2003. It was on the New York Times Editors' Choice List in 2002.
Her latest book, "Nixon in China: The Week That Changed the World" (titled "Nixon and Mao: The Week That Changed the World" in the U.S.) was nominated in January 2007 for a Gelber Prize, awarded annually to the best book on international affairs published in English. In 2006 Provost MacMillan was invested as an Officer of the Order of Canada.
In July 2007 she will take up new duties as Warden of St. Antony's College at the University of Oxford.
Will you please greet with me the great-granddaughter of the British Prime Minister, David Lloyd George--Dr. Margaret MacMillan.
Thank you very much for that much-too-kind introduction. Honoured guests, ladies and gentlemen, it's a very great pleasure to be speaking at the Empire Club.
Fifty years ago, my great aunt Megan Lloyd George was staying with us in Toronto. One day she wasn't there, she was out to lunch, and we said, "What is she doing?" We were told, "She has gone to speak at the Empire Club." I'm afraid to say in those days I said, "What is the Empire Club?" But I was, I think, only about 10 so I've learnt better since. Now I know who you are and what extraordinary things you do and it is a very great honour to be speaking here. Not one that I ever expected, but one which I'm very, very pleased to have.
I started to write a book about Nixon's trip to China because I thought it was one of those events in history, which was an important moment. It was a moment that needn't have happened. It could have fallen apart many times along the way. It took two years to organize that trip, two years of very, very delicate negotiations because what had to be overcome were tremendous hostilities, suspicion and very bitter memories on both sides, both in the People's Republic of China and in the United States.
I think that trip did make a difference. I think it marked a revolution in international relations and I think its effects are still being felt by us today.
I put a question mark on the end of my title because historians never like to be very definitive and so I called my talk about Nixon's trip "The Start of a New World Order?" with a very large question mark. But I think on the whole it did mark a real difference in international relations.
What that trip did was signify that two countries, two very important countries, that had been at odds with each other and were potentially going to fight each other, (they certainly had fought in the early 1950s in Korea and there was always a danger that they would fight again), two countries that had backed different sides for example in the long drawn-out Vietnam War, who had backed different factions all over Asia, who were backing different factions in far-flung parts of the world such as Latin America and Africa, two countries who had a history of hostility, fear and hatred who might have fought each other, had now decided to take another path. And I think that was a momentous event.
They are both extremely important countries. China is the most populous country in the world and today of course is showing its potential in many other ways. In the early 1970s China was not yet the economic giant that it has become and it did not yet have the military potential which it is now showing, but clearly China was a country that had a tremendous capacity and tremendous potential even in those very dark days for China in the late '60s and early 1970s. And the United States was the most powerful country in the world in the 1970s and is arguably still the most powerful country in the world today. They both have extensive interests and both have tremendous influence on their neighbours and indeed around the world.
And so when those two countries are not talking to each other, when those two countries are on the edge of fighting, it sends a chill through all of us including us far away in Canada.
And so what happened as a result of that trip in 1972 was a sense that a danger had been averted and a relationship was in the process of being established which could be a very important relationship for stability, peace and order in the world.
In a funny way too I think it signalled, perhaps we couldn't realize it at the time, the end of the Cold War because the Cold War had been that great struggle between the United States and the Soviet Union, each with their own allies, and the world, so it seemed, had been divided into two mutually hostile camps.
Suddenly there was another player. There was a China and relations between China, the Soviet Union and the United States were now a triangle, not a bipolar relationship and that it seems to me foreshadows what happened after the end of the Cold War, where international relations opened up and we no longer had the simplicity of two great sides conflicting with each other. We now have what we are living through at the present--a much more complicated situation when nations play off each other and where they have more potential to do that.
Henry Kissinger has spent a great deal of time writing his own history and that of other people, and not surprisingly has tended to cast it in the most favourable light to himself and his decisions. I mean that is a natural human failing but he's very good at it. Henry Kissinger said in one of his very large volumes of memoirs, "When we did the opening to China we had nothing in mind so crude as playing the China crowd against the Soviet Union." Well of course that's exactly what he had in mind and it was a very sensible thing for him to have in mind because it made the relationship between the United States and the Soviet Union very different. It gave the Soviet Union something to think about. And they certainly thought about it. And so I think that event, that trip in 1972, in a way foreshadows the end of that Cold War period where the world was divided in that terrifyingly simple way.
Why did it happen? And there of course I become an historian. I'm always tempted to go back and explain why it was necessary that it happened. Why hadn't the United States and the People's Republic of China had a relationship when in so many ways it seemed like a natural sort of relationship to exist in the world? Both had, through geography, extensive interests in Asia and both had the potential for trading with each other. We certainly see today what has happened. And both had a long and often friendly relationship.
What I thought I had to explain is why they hadn't been talking to each other since 1949. My book already began to get bigger and I went to 1949. And then I thought if I'm going to explain why they weren't talking in 1949 I had better explain that they were talking before 1949. Don't worry, I'm not going to go back through the whole complicated process by which I went back. In the end I went back to the beginning of the nineteenth century. I found myself tempted to go back into the eighteenth century and talk about how the United States came into being. And then I thought if I'm going to do that I had better talk about the origin of China. And when I found myself in the second century BC I thought enough is enough and people are not going to want to read this book and they are not going to have the slightest patience for it. But what I did want to do is go back a bit because I think it's necessary to understand that the United States and China have a complicated relationship and on both sides you have a variety of attitudes towards the other which run from fear and apprehension to admiration and even a liking. And so I think to explain why that exists is both helpful for understanding the present and for understanding what might happen in the future. But I think it is also a very, very necessary part of the story.
The United States and the People's Republic of China have been fascinated with each other ever since they first encountered the other. I think there are a number of reasons for this. One I think is because each tends to think of itself as not just a country but a civilization. The Chinese have traditionally down through the centuries seen themselves as being at the centre of the world and seen their society as the civilized society. Those who are not yet thoroughly sinicized, those who have not yet partaken of that civilization, have been regarded by the Chinese down through the centuries as simply less civilized. The wonderful phrase that the Chinese had for the peoples of Vietnam for example was the "half cooked." They were halfway there to being civilized but they hadn't yet made it.
I think the United States, not entirely in the same way but in somewhat the same way, has tended to see itself as a civilization as much as a country. I mean you think of the ways in which American leaders have talked about the United States as being a model for the rest of the world. Think of the present American president who sometimes sounds positively like Woodrow Wilson when he talks about how the United States is a model for the rest of the world. American democracy, American capitalism, American ways of doing things are models that the rest of the world should follow because the rest of the world will benefit from following such models.
And so I think in a way the fascination that the United States and the People's Republic of China have for each other is that each sees itself as a model for the rest of the world, which of course does not always make for an easy relationship at all. I think that is part of the tension that we have seen throughout the relationship and part of the tension we see today.
Each has also seen the other at times as a threat. And that goes right back to the first encounters between China and the United States. The Chinese first encountered Americans and Americans first encountered Chinese when American traders began going to China at the end of the eighteenth century and the beginning of the nineteenth century. That period for the Chinese was the start of a very, very bad and dreadful period in their history. The Chinese had always traded with the outside world, but they had been able to turn the trade on and off as they wished, not as the outside world wanted. They had been able to keep foreigners at bay if they had not wanted them to come into China. By the beginning of the nineteenth century they were losing the capacity to do that, because what was happening was that China itself was beginning to disintegrate. Its administration was in trouble; its last dynasty was moving on a downward path. In the outside world, Western Europe, the United States, and other countries were moving ahead very rapidly into the Industrial Revolution, into the scientific revolution, which gave them tremendous power and gave them the capacity to dictate the fates of other peoples around the world. And so it was China's great misfortune that just when the Chinese needed strong government in the nineteenth century, just when they needed a government capable of dealing with what was a very real threat from outside, they did not have such a government. I think that helped to make what for the Chinese was in many ways a catastrophe even worse because the Chinese found themselves being battered and being charged upon and having to deal with very aggressive outside forces and they no longer had the means to keep those forces under control.
The Chinese themselves talk about a century of humiliation. That century started for the Chinese with the first Opium War at the end of the 1840s. The fact that it was a war about opium I think helps to add to the sense of fury that the Chinese rightly have felt about the behaviour of the outside world. That war was fought in part so that the Chinese would continue to import British-traded opium and that is something that the Chinese, rightly I think, have not forgotten. That century of humiliation, which was marked by a series of wars which China generally lost, was marked by Chinese governments having to give up more and more concessions to outsiders, having to accept outsiders coming into China, having to accept outsiders moving through China and not being subject to Chinese laws because the foreigners regarded Chinese laws and Chinese law courts as barbaric and backward. The Chinese had to accept a great deal of humiliation in that period.
That century for the Chinese ended in 1949 when Mao Tse-Tung proclaimed the People's Republic of China and the communists provided the first really coherent government that China had had in many decades. And the Chinese call that the century of humiliation. And for the Chinese the United States is part of that century of humiliation. They are part of those forces who came in and proved so dreadfully disruptive to China. And so that's one side of the Chinese attitude to the United States--one of memory, one of suspicion, one of hostility.
It wasn't of course that simple and so there is another part of the Chinese memories of the United States and that is that Americans often came into China as missionaries. Americans made up the largest single number of missionaries in China. They came initially to save souls but as happened so often elsewhere they ended up doing much more. Missionaries opened medical clinics, missionaries opened schools and missionaries in the end opened universities. Some of the great universities in China today were started as missionary colleges. And that's another side of what the Chinese remember about the United States.
And there is yet another side. There are those Chinese, who as they began to contemplate the difficulties that their own country was going through, looked at what seemed to be the disintegration not just of their last dynasty but indeed the disintegration perhaps of China itself. There were real fears in China at the end of the nineteenth century that China was going to be carved up and handed out, parceled out among different outside powers. As the Chinese contemplated that, a number of Chinese began to say we have got to do something different. Clearly, our old traditional institutions, our old ways of doing thing are not serving us. We need something new and a number of Chinese looked towards the United States as the model of the country which had what they thought was the right sort of government which seemed to be doing things in the right sort of way.
In Hunan Province in the centre of China before the First World War there was a young student whose two heroes--he read about them in Chinese translations--were George Washington and Abraham Lincoln and he grew up to be Mao Zedong, who founded the People's Republic of China.
And so there was that galaxy if you like, that constellation of attitudes towards the United States from fear, apprehension, to admiration. And you had very much the same thing on the American side, which saw China as somewhere to be exploited. American businessmen in the nineteenth century, as indeed they do in the 21st century, look at China and they see an awful lot of consumers and they see an awful lot of fields for investment and they see an awful lot of labour. And there has been that side in the American attitude. China is a resource that we can somehow exploit and make a great deal of money out of.
There's also been the side of fear. The fear that there were too many Chinese and too many of them want to come to the United States and this indeed was a fear that some people in Canada shared as well at the end of the nineteenth century. And so you have laws being passed to exclude Chinese from coming to the United States, exclude Chinese children from coming into American schools, exclude Chinese women from coming over to marry the Chinese men who had already come. There was that combination of looking towards China as something that could be useful for the United States and the fear of the Chinese themselves.
Some of you may have seen the old Dr. Fu Manchu movies, which are very funny, unintentionally I think. Dr. Fu Manchu and his daughter who is a beautiful princess are basically planning to take over the world and they sit somewhere in China in their palace talking about how they would do this. I mean ordinary dinner-time conversation in the Fu Manchu household is sort of "Daddy when will we take over the world?" And Dr. Fu Manchu says, "Well just give me a little bit of time. I'm just checking out a few things here but we are moving towards doing it."
That reflected something of the fear and you see it in a way, not the same sort of ludicrous caricature of China, but you see something of the same happening in Washington today and also in the States. I am struck by how many books are coming out in the United States with titles like "China as Number One," "China as the Power of the 21st Century," "China the Challenge for the United States." The next time you go to the United States look on the bookshelves in the bookstores. There are a lot of such books coming out and it seems to me to express part of that old apprehension that China is so big and so potentially powerful that it is a threat to the United States.
On the other hand, there's the American attitude, which admires much about China, which felt great sympathy. Many Americans felt great sympathy for China as it went through its travails in the 1920s and 1930s and 1940s. And so on the American side too I think attitudes towards China are very mixed.
Today in Washington and also in the United States you will get those who argue that China is a threat and the United States must prepare for that competition and for that war. But you also get people like Robert Zellick who used to be the chief U.S. trade negotiator who has given a number of speeches recently saying the United States must engage with China, that the stability of the international order depends on the United States and China continuing to work with each other and continuing to find where they have things in common rather than things where they are enemies.
That complicated relationship between China and the United States took a turn very much for the worse after the Second World War. And that was in part because the United States chose the wrong side in China. In China there was a civil war, it was a combination of a long, long struggle from the 1920s between the Nationalists of the Kuomintang and the Chinese Communist Party. Civil war broke out in 1946 and the United States backed the losing side. They backed the Nationalists who ended up going to Taiwan where they formed a government, which they then claimed represented the whole of China. And if you back the losing side in a civil war you cannot expect the side to win to feel all that enthusiastic about you.
Moreover in 1949 Mao Tse-Tung was very clear that as the Cold War was developing the United States was on the wrong side. He made a speech and he said China will lean to one side of the Cold War and that is the Soviet side. And so I think there was very little hope in 1949 that the Chinese communists would have wanted to deal with the United States and on the American side there was very little willingness for the United States to deal with China.
This was the height of the early stages of the Cold War. There was tremendous apprehension about communism in the United States and suddenly from the perspective of many Americans the world communist movement had just taken a giant step forward because China had become communist. And so I think with fear and hostility on both sides it was very unlikely the two would talk. Then in 1950 the Korean War broke out and by the end of that year Chinese troops were fighting American troops and so I think there was absolutely no chance that the two sides would come to any sort of understanding.
Unfortunately attitudes hardened as they often will and so from 1949 up until the end of the 1960s China and the United States had virtually no contact at all. They treated the other as if the other didn't exist. When they did talk about the other it was in the rudest possible terms. When Chinese leaders talked about American presidents for example they usually threw in terms like vampire, hyena, bloodsuckers, and these were sort of common epithets. And when American presidents talked about China they talked about the Reds, the Red Chinese. The feeling was mutual as one of mutual hostility.
And what that meant was that between two very large countries whose good relations or at least some sort of relations are important for their neighbours and indeed I would argue for the rest of the world, you had no diplomatic relations, you had no trading relations, you had no tourism, you had no journalists, you had virtually no knowledge of the other side. The Americans were reduced to putting a very large consulate in Hong Kong which was a British colony trying to figure out what was going on in China. American officials tried to look through what they characterized as a bamboo curtain to see what was going on in China.
I met one diplomat who said part of his job was to go to the railway station in Hong Kong and look at the box cars coming in from China which often brought in livestock. The box cars would often have characters saying which province they had come from in China. He said we would look at the pigs and the chickens to see if they looked fat or thin and that way we would figure out whether one area of China was having a famine or bad crops and whether another area was doing well. But they had very little real concrete knowledge.
I have to tell one story because I think it illustrates the absurdity of this relationship. Live chickens would come into Hong Kong from the People's Republic of China and that was perfectly legal because Hong Kong was a British colony and had trade with China. Live chickens would come in. Those were clearly communist chickens because they had come from the People's Republic of China. If the communist chicken met its end in Hong Kong, which it generally did, and if it was turned into feather pillows or canned meat or whatever, was that still communist? Could the products or anything derived from that live chicken be re-exported to the United States? And the answer in Washington was no. It can't come to the United States. However, it gets complicated. Chickens make life complicated if you have ever tried to keep them. The communist chicken arrives in Hong Kong, gets to the free world and lays an egg, is the egg a communist egg? Or is it a free egg? And can whatever that egg produces in turn be sent on to the United States? It had to be referred back to Washington.
Now we laugh and I laugh at that story but I think it is a useful story. It shows just how absurd the situation got. Luckily I think people on both sides began to realize that it was perhaps an absurd situation and that's where I think the role of individuals comes in and that's where I think the role of statesmanlike thinking, thinking in terms of what is best for your country and perhaps what is best for the international order, comes in.
And as luck would have it, you had in the United States after 1969 a president who thought why not talk to China. In fact the more he thought about it, he thought it was a very good idea. If I talk to China, Richard Nixon thought, it will put pressure on the Soviets who were not showing themselves willing to negotiate. If I talk to China it may help me to get out of Vietnam, something he very much wanted to do. Generally what Nixon thought was that if he talked to China it would mend the position of the United States in the world which had been very damaged by Vietnam. Nixon decided that he would do an opening to China. He didn't know but more or less at the same time Mao Tse-Tung in China, who was the key figure in China, was thinking the same thing. China was in a perilous state I would argue at the end of the 1960s. It had turned inwards, it had damaged itself with the cultural revolution. It was virtually friendless. It was on bad terms with almost all of its neighbours. Its chief ally in the world was a far off little country in Europe called Albania, which is a charming country. It apparently produces great opera singers. There is a wonderful Albanian singer right now singing La Traviata at the Four Seasons, but it is not a major counterweight to China's long list of enemies, which at the end of the 1960s included India, Japan, the United States and most significantly the Soviet Union.
China and the Soviet Union had fallen out very badly and there was real danger of a war at the end of the 1960s. In fact there were armed clashes in 1969 between Chinese and Soviet soldiers and in the fall of 1969 the Chinese became convinced with some reason that the Soviets were planning a nuclear attack on China to knock it back in its development so that it would not be able to be a threat to the Soviet Union.
And so it was at that point that the possibility for a rapprochement emerged. The only trouble was how did they signal it to the other side because when you have been hurling insults at each other across a chasm for 30 years you can't suddenly say, "By the way we have changed our mind, let's talk," because you don't know what the other side is thinking. You have virtually no way of knowing that, because you have no direct contact.
That's why it took until 1972 to organize the Nixon trip and it became possible for President Nixon to go to China. But once that became a reality then things did in fact begin to move. In a funny way the trip itself was not all that important. It was very much a trip for demonstration. The important negotiations, almost all of them, had been done before Nixon arrived. Most of the communiqué, which was issued at the end of that week, the Shanghai Communiqué, had also been done. There were a few very tense moments when bits had to be redone but most of it had been done, the substantial bits of the communiqué had been done.
But it was enormously symbolic and symbols I think are very important in our own lives and indeed in international relations. There was Nixon getting off the plane in Beijing. This was a country to which no American had legally been able to go since 1949. There was Nixon driving through Tiananmen Square. There was Nixon in the Great Hall of the People toasting the Chinese Prime Minister Zhou Enlai in maotai. He was urged by Alexander Haig, who was one of his aides, under no circumstances ever to drink it because Nixon had a notoriously light head, but he did use it for toasting and sometimes he did drink a bit too much of it. But there was Zhou Enlai toasting in return and toasting the American people. There was Nixon going with him to the city, there was Nixon amid tombs, there was Nixon on the Great Wall of China answering that famous question when a journalist said, "Mr. President, what do you think of the Great Wall?" And Nixon always thought for a moment and said, "It certainly is a great wall." And we all watched it because we hadn't seen China. For us living in the outside world, China was a mysterious country that we knew almost nothing about and suddenly there it was on television.
Now what that trip did was signify a change in international relations and what it did was open a very, very important door. The door was opened to a new relationship between China and the United States. It didn't change at once because things don't change overnight usually. Moreover what happened in both China and the United States was that immediately after that trip there were internal political crises and internal political struggles.
Nixon got embroiled in Watergate, which was ultimately to bring him down and left office in disgrace in 1974 and his successor, Gerald Ford, was not that much interested in pursuing a wider opening with China.
And in China itself Mao Tse-Tung was dying; he died in 1976, very, very frail in his last years, and in the years immediately after his death there was also an internal political struggle.
And so it wasn't until the end of the 1970s that China and the United States established full diplomatic relations and we now see the results. Henry Kissinger, who is not wrong on many things but I think was badly wrong when he said at one point to Zhou Enlai, "We will have to have a little bit about trade in the communiqué because the state department insists on it, but you and I know that trade is never going to be important between our two countries." Well yes. When Wal Mart is now the single biggest trader with China you get some idea of the dimensions of the trade between China and the United States.
That door began to open and then it began to open very wide. Large numbers of Chinese began to study in the United States and increasingly Americans began to go to China and what we see now is a relationship where not just the Chinese and American governments are engaged but where the Chinese and American people are engaged at all sorts of levels. Chinese and Americans now know each other again in a way that they haven't known each other for a great many years. Americans go and live in China. Chinese come and live in the United States. There are journalists from both countries in the other country. They read about each other, they know about each other, they trade with each other, they invest in each other's countries and that relationship I think is going to go on being very, very important indeed. It is yet another moment, which started in 1972, in that long complicated relationship between China and the United States.
Having said that, of course there are going to be tensions and I hope something of what I have said today will perhaps explain why there are bound to be tensions in that relationship. When you have two great powers and when you have two very important nations who also see themselves as civilizations, where you have areas where they are going to be perhaps rivals and we have to hope friendly rivals, then there are going to be tensions. But I think so much the better for all of us that at least there is a relationship capable of dealing with tensions.
Thank you very much.
The appreciation of the meeting was expressed by Rev. Canon Kimberley Beard, Senior Pastor, St. Paul's On-the-Hill Anglican Church, and Director, The Empire Club of Canada.