Friendly Rivals

Pang Xinglei / Xinhua Press / Corbis

Xi greets Obama in Beijing in November 2009

On a frigid Feb. 28, 1972, in a whitewashed room decorated with jade ashtrays and a forlorn-looking potted plant, U.S. President Richard Nixon and Chinese Premier Zhou Enlai issued the Shanghai Communiqué, the delicate diplomatic accord that began the historic process of normalizing relations between the U.S. and China. Its signing marked the start of a remarkable four decades of U.S.-China ties, an era in which the fortunes of the two countries became inextricably connected. In 1972, there were barely any Sino-American economic links, and young Chinese couldn't imagine studying in America. Last year, trade between the nations was...

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