A Brief History of U.S. Presidents in China
Richard Nixon, 1972
In 1972, President Nixon became the first U.S. President to visit the People's Republic of China and his seven-day trip marked a turning point in China-U.S. relations. Nixon traveled to several Chinese cities and met with both Chairman Mao Zedong and Premier Zhou Enlai. The leaders bridged the Cold War divide to sign the Shanghai Communiqué, in which they agreed to disagree over China's claim to Taiwan. The trip's significance went beyond formal agreements to symbolize a new era of cooperation. A Nixon-Mao handshake erased China's grudge over a 1954 embarrassment when then-U.S. Secretary of State John Foster Dulles refused to shake Zhou's hand. Nixon not only shook hands, but he even practiced using chopsticks on the plane flight over.