You are here

Richard Nixon, "The Journey to Peking," from the Third Annual Report to the Congress on U.S. Foreign Policy, February 9, 1972

Part of a larger report on U.S. foreign policy. The report was delivered to Congress only days before Nixon left for China.
February 9, 1972


The record of the past three years illustrates that reality, not sentimentality, has led to my journey. And reality will shape the future of our relations.

I go to Peking without illusions. But I go nevertheless committed to the improvement of relations between our two countries, for the sake of our two peoples and the people of the world. The course we and the Chinese have chosen has been produced by conviction, not by personalities or the prospect of tactical gains. We shall deal with the People's Republic of China:

--Confident that a peaceful and prospering China is in our own national interest;

--Recognizing that the talents and achievements of its people must be given their appropriate reflection in world affairs;

--Assured that peace in Asia and the fullest measure of progress and stability in Asia and in the world require China's positive contribution;

--Knowing that, like the United States, the People's Republic of China will not sacrifice its principles;

--Convinced that we can construct a permanent relationship with China only if we are reliable---in our relations with our friends as well as with China;

--Assuming that the People's Republic of China will shape its policy toward us with a reciprocal attitude.

These principles will guide my approach to my forthcoming conversations with Chairman Mao Tse-tung and Premier Chou En-lai. The tenor of these discussions and of our future relations, of course, does not depend on us alone. It will require a mutual understanding of perspectives and a mutual willingness to combine a principled approach with a respect for each other's interests.

At this point in history we need talks at the highest level. Eighteen years of desultory ambassadorial discussions in Geneva and Warsaw demonstrated that subsidiary problems could not be cleared away at lower levels. Authoritative exchanges between our leaders, however, now hold hope of genuine communication across the gulf and the setting of a new direction.

The trip to Peking is not an end in itself but the launching of a process. The historic significance of this journey lies beyond whatever formal understandings we might reach. We are talking at last. We are meeting as equals. A prominent feature of the postwar landscape will be changed. At the highest level we will close one chapter and see whether we can begin writing a new one.

Both sides can be expected to state their principles and their views with complete frankness. We will each know clearly where the other stands on the issues that divide us. We will look for ways to begin reducing our differences. We will attempt to find some common ground on which to build a more constructive relationship.

If we can accomplish these objectives, we will have made a solid beginning.

Over the longer term, we will see whether two countries whose histories and cultures are completely different, whose recent isolation has been total, whose ideologies clash, and whose visions of the future collide--can nevertheless move from antagonism to communication to understanding.

On January 20, 1969 in my Inaugural Address, I defined our approach toward all potential adversaries:

"After a period of confrontation, we are entering an era of negotiation.

"Let all nations know that during this Administration our lines of communication will be open.

"We seek an open world---open to ideas, open .to the exchange of goods and people---a world in which no people, great or small, will live in angry isolation.

"We cannot expect to make everyone our friend, but we can try to make no one our enemy."

When I spoke those lines, I had the People's Republic of China very much in mind. It is this attitude that shaped our policy from the outset and led to the July 15, 1971 announcement. It is in this spirit that I go to Peking.