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U.S., through its lack of contact with Peking, seemed by default to side with Moscow in the Sino-Soviet dispute. Nixon and he agreed that the U.S. was not the prime adversary of either China or Russia, but that each was the other's worst foe. In that situation, they saw a possibility for maneuver. In measured moves, Nixon began relaxing Washington's rigid policy toward China.
The first steps came in midsummer of 1969 when U.S. tourists were allowed to bring $100 worth of Chinese-made goods into the U.S. At the same time, Nixon lifted the travel ban to allow Americans with a legitimate reason to visit China. The seal on the new policy was set in late summer during Nixon's visit to Rumania, where he declared that the U.S. would deal with Communist countries on the basis of their foreign policy and not their internal politics. Since the statement was delivered in a capital friendly to Peking, it was an unmistakable presidential overture to China. By the end of the year, the $100 limit on imports had been removed, and the Administration had announced permission for foreign subsidiaries of U.S. firms to deal in non-strategic goods with the mainland.
Further moves came in 1970, when the Government authorized the selective licensing of goods for export to China and allowed U.S. oil companies to bunker China-bound foreign-owned ships carrying foreign-produced oil. Nixon also took advantage of the friendly presence of Rumania's President Nicolae Ceausescu at a state dinner in Washington last October to refer to the mainland regime by its official name: the People's Republic of China.
Probably the President's most important signal, however, was sent from Guam, where he enunciated the Nixon Doctrine of gradual U.S. military disengagement from the mainland of Asia. He followed up his words by beginning withdrawals from South Viet Nam, scaling down the U.S. presence in South Korea, and ordering an end to the Seventh Fleet's patrols in the Taiwan Strait. In his 1970 "State of the World" report, Nixon referred to the Chinese as "a great and vital people who should not remain isolated."
As a Republican with strong anti-Communist credentials, Nixon could afford such moves without undue fear of suffering domestic political damage. But the President's overtures seemed to be having no effect. The elimination of passport restrictions, for example, remained meaningless, since the Chinese refused to grant visas except to a few old friends like Author-Journalist Edgar Snow. "China continues in its determination to cast us in the devil's role," complained Nixon. "Our modest efforts to prove otherwise have not reduced Peking's doctrinaire enmity toward us."
Last month, as Nixon presided over a meeting of the National Security Council that reviewed the U.S. China policy, three thick tomes lay on the table. "I've read all three papers, gentlemen." he said. "And I hope you have too." The three volumes were the outcome of the review undertaken by Kissinger's staff; they dealt with diplomatic recognition, the U.N. representation issue, and trade and travel. The President took no immediate action on the problems in the first two categories, but