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At noon on July 9, Kissinger and his aides landed at a deserted airfield on the outskirts of Peking. They were met by Marshal Yeh Chien-ying, a high-ranking Politburo member and two Foreign Office officials. Also on hand was Huang Hua, one of Peking's top experts on U.S. affairs, whose move to Canada as Ambassador to Ottawa had been delayed because of the Kissinger trip. The group drove to a handsome villa on a small lake outside Peking and sat down to a sumptuous Chinese lunch. While the rest of the U.S. delegation, adjusting to their environment, ate with chopsticks, Kissinger stuck to knife and fork. At 4 in the afternoon, Chou En-lai arrived and serious talks got under way. Chou and Kissinger sat on opposite sides of a table covered with green felt and talked through dinner and on into the night.
Kissinger had brought with him a bulky volume containing prepared statements and position papers drafted by Nixon, Rogers and himself. There was no prearranged agenda. The President's visit was only one of many items discussed. Kissinger chose his verbs with more care than usual. Two interpreters, one bom in the U.S., the other a Chinese who attended Harvard, translated his words for Chou. But it was a redundant exercise. Chou speaks fluent English and occasionally corrected the translators. He used the translation rather to give himself time to frame his answers, which he delivered without once consulting his notes.
The following day, July 10, Kissinger and his party were given a tour of the Forbidden City. That afternoon, they resumed talks with Chou in the Great Hall of the People in Peking. The second session lasted as long as the first: about eight hours. In the dramatic settings for the talks, said a White House official, the Chinese were "enormously gracious and polite. On the human level, we were treated extraordinarily well. The mood of the session was precise and businesslike. There was no rhetoric on either side. We spoke frankly, directly and I believe usefully. It was not a conversation in which either side was trying to hold the other one up." ∙ After dining by themselves that night, the Americans rejoined the Chinese to work out the communique. On Sunday, there was a final meeting and a farewell lunch. The Americans departed at 1 p.m. Kissinger's appearance reflected his success. When he returned from Peking, an alert observer might have noticed that the man who was supposedly suffering from a stomach ailment had put on five pounds. According to White House wits, Kissinger was so impressed by the meals in Peking that he jested: "A guest of the state must have starved to death 3,000 years ago and the Chinese are determined that it will not happen again."