By. Miguel Angel Sanchez de Armas
February 21, 1972 was a cold and sunny Monday in Beijing. At 10 in the morning the temperature was minus one degree in the vicinity of the Forbidden City.
Despite his deteriorating health and just turned 79, Mao Tse Tung he got up early and for the first time in months shaved and cut his hair.
He dressed in a new suit and shoes, took a seat in the living room of his modest home and waited for the wind of change that heralded the Year of the Ratfirst of the Chinese horoscope.
A few minutes later he appeared at the house of the Great Helmsman a man with a sallow complexion and heavy shoulders who had been 59 years old for the first time a few days before. He was Richard Milhous Nixon, thirty-seventh president of the United States.
It was thus that the most furious of the anticommunist heralds and the most bloodthirsty of the leaders of the world revolution merged in a salaam that was the quintessence of realpolitik.
Eight years earlier, in 1964, Mao had issued a proclamation to the peoples of the world: “United we will defeat the Yankee aggressors and their lackeys! The monsters will be destroyed!”
Nixon, pupil and puppet of the despicable Joseph McCarthy, retook: China, the perfidious Cathay, was the force of darkness responsible for propagating “insurrection, rebellion and subversion in all the free countries of Asia.”
“What are the Chinese Communists looking for?” the then Yankee vice president wondered. “They want to take over the world!”
In these anniversary notes I follow the chronicle “China was a brutal communist threat […] Nixon visited her”, published in the Washington Post.
“Nixon sat next to Mao. Kissinger sat next to Nixon.
“Mao spoke in short sentences. He was joking. He was self-critical. He slurred his words with a heavy accent from Hunan, his home province. The Americans believed that he had had a stroke.
“The meeting, scheduled for 15 minutes, went on for more than an hour. Nixon tried to talk about Vietnam, Taiwan and Korea.
“Mao called them “troublesome issues” that he would rather not discuss, according to an aide’s notes.
“Nixon spoke of Mao’s writings and said they ‘moved a nation and changed the world.'”
Mao, whose Little Red Book was a bible for his epigones in China and in the world, he replied: “Those writings of mine are nothing. There is nothing instructive in what I wrote.”
“He reflected: ‘I like right-wingers [gringos]. The Republican Party is right-wing.’
“Nixon responded: ‘In America, at least right now, right-wingers make real what leftists only debate.’
That episode in Beijing was the transmission belt of a geopolitical reordering of the planet whose tidal waves continue to shake us. It was the beginning of the massive thaw of the Cold War.
If Nixon had announced that he intended to go to the moon, he could not have left the people of the world more dumbfounded, an editorial in the Washington Post.
The trip was a box office success, especially for television, which broadcast images of a country that had been hidden from the world for almost a quarter of a century.
China “was the darkest and most mysterious part of the communist empire,” recalled Nixon aide Dwight Chapin.
The testimony of the meeting was in charge of the main Yankee journalists of that time, among them Walter Cronkite, James A. Michener, Ted Koppel, and Barbara Walters.
“The parties wanted to talk,” recalls the chronicle of the WP. “Both feared the Soviet Union, the Polar Bear, as the Chinese called it. Chinese and Soviet troops had clashed on the Ussuri River in 1969.
“The United States wanted Chinese help to get out of Vietnam. The Chinese wanted the United States out of Taiwan. And China desperately wanted acceptance on the world stage.
“In 1972, the United States was still bogged down in Vietnam, where 50,000 Americans had already died. China, for its part, had experienced decades of famine and internal turmoil.
There were no shortage of anecdotes and the post he picks them up with journalistic malice. Zhou Enlai presented two giant pandas to the Washington Zoo. The Easterners received two Musk Oxen for the Peking. (It is frivolous, unfounded, and malevolent that a few weeks later at a Central Committee potluck, Potomac musk steak was served.)
The exchange of quadrupeds led one of those acid political columnists who live there and here to sour the lives of politicians dedicated to popular causes, to speak of a “panda diplomacy.”
The Nixons visited the Great Wall. The Californian poured the original phrase that only a great town could have built it. It is an urban legend the version that his true expression was: “What a barda!”
To impress their guests with the expansion and prosperity of the middle class, the Chinese organized bucolic gatherings of families having lunch in the open air with music from transistor radios in the parks where the processions passed.
in the best tradition potemkianAs soon as the visitors left, the field day was over, the radios were collected and the hikers were returned to their villages in sheepfold trucks.
But on that day, which was a turning point for the transformation that 50 years later has China at the top of the world economic and political scene, politicians, specifically herr professor Kissinger, took it upon themselves to erase the memory of the journalist who opened the door to the meeting.
Edgar Snow, a reporter from Missouri who detested press releases and official manipulation, traveled in 1928 to the steppes of Asia to report on anti-colonial uprisings. In 1936, in Shensi, he was the first Western journalist to interview the leaders of the Chinese Communist Party.
Snow established a close personal relationship with Mao and with Zhou Enlai, but he did not stop criticizing the propaganda, bureaucracy and brutal methods of the communist regime.
In 1937 he published Red Star over China, a book that opened the eyes of the West to the situation that would lead to the creation of the People’s Republic of China. In the 1960s, during a visit to Beijing, Mao and Zhou Enlai asked him to convey to Washington the message that Nixon would be welcome as president or as a private citizen.
This is how the meeting of February 21, 1972 began, ten days after another American president, Luis Echeverría, met with the Great Helmsman, an episode that has been officially forgotten.
Snow’s vibrant depiction of a people in revolution, beyond its value as a historical record, inspired anti-colonial uprisings in the Philippines, India, Burma, and Malaysia. Hundreds of Chinese read it and joined Mao’s forces.
“Revolutions are not caused by revolutionaries or their propaganda,” Snow wrote. “Revolutions are caused by intolerable conditions under bad, incompetent and corrupt governments.”
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