On a chilly February day, the American president arrived at a Beijing airport hung with revolutionary slogans.
It was 1972, and Richard Nixon was looking for official ties with China after decades of hostility. A thaw began, and a former congressman named George Bush came as US envoy. His son, George W., visited Beijing on vacation.
On Thursday, 30 years to the day after Nixon's arrival on Feb. 21, 1972, George W. Bush returns to Beijing as president, landing at an airport where advertising for Western mobile phones and designer clothes have replaced revolutionary slogans.
On the eve of the Bush visit, Chinese media are in preparation for Bush's coming and in remembrance of the Nixon visit, a turning point that has led to wide-ranging business, political and personal ties.
Photos of Nixon meeting with Chairman Mao and exchanging toasts with Premier Zhou Enlai are reprinted to remember the historic trip.
Reminiscences by surviving participants in their 70s and 80s were run on media.
Nixon began reaching out to China in 1971. American table tennis players had visited Beijing that year, in what reporters dubbed "ping pong diplomacy." Its success apparently encouraged the two sides to further contacts.
No US official had openly set foot on the Chinese mainland since 1949, the founding of the People's Republic of China. The separation had been deepened by the Korean War, when the two governments fought on opposing sides.
On July 15, 1971, Nixon surprised Americans by announcing that he would go to China.
His national security adviser, Henry Kissinger, had been to Beijing in secret and said successful talks would "transform the very framework of global relationships."
On his first day in Beijing, Nixon met Mao for a wide-ranging, 70-minute talk. The 88-year-old Chinese leader was ill, doctors waited in the next room.
Nixon's visit produced the "Shanghai Communique" calling for trade, diplomatic and "people to people" contacts.
It left open the tougher questions of formal diplomatic recognition of the Chinese government and the status of Taiwan.
Washington finally broke ties with Taiwan in 1979 and recognized Beijing as the sole legal government of China.
In contrast to the politically charged air of Nixon's arrival, a very different China is now awaiting Bush's coming back after exactly 30 years.
(China Daily February 20, 2002)