The World: Building a New Great Wall

For the first time since they took power in 1949, the Chinese recently permitted Americans to visit the politically and militarily sensitive Sino-Soviet borderlands and Tibet. TIME Diplomatic Editor Jerrold L. Schecter accompanied former Defense Secretary James Schlesinger on the 23-day 8,200-mile journey. Schecter's report:

It is another China—vast deserts and snow-capped mountains and new oilfields. These are the sparsely populated frontier lands—80% of China's land mass but with less than 5% of its people—stretching from Tibet to Sinkiang and Inner Mongolia, across the Takla Makan and Gobi deserts to the beginning of...