Thirty-five years after Richard Nixon became the first US president to journey to China and helped begin to thaw the cold war, the details of his landmark visit remain vivid in the minds of Chinese people.
Ji Chaozhu, former deputy UN secretary-general, served as an interpreter during Nixon's tour. He clearly remembered the day of February 21, 1972. After Nixon deplaned at the Beijing airport he shook hands with former premier Zhou Enlai, who told the president, "Your hand has stretched across the largest ocean of the world".
"Nixon's tour was a significant chapter in Sino-US relations, during which the two countries ended two decades of conflict and started the process of normalizing diplomatic ties," said Ji during an interview with Xinhua.
The US had refused to recognize the People's Republic of China since it was founded in 1949 because of the ideological difference.
Nixon's visit came at a time when the two super powers, the US and the former Soviet Union, were seeking hegemony. The US adjusted its China policy from conflict to dialogue.
During his visit, the Shanghai Communique was issued which laid the groundwork for establishing official diplomatic ties some five years later.
The larch tree saplings Nixon brought with him and planted in the Hangzhou botanical park in east China's Zhejiang Province have been propagated and now grow in numerous other places in China.
Nixon was gifted with a pair of pandas, Lingling and Xingxing, by the Chinese government and they became instant celebrities at the Washington Zoo. More than 75 million people visited the panda couple at the zoo where they lived until Lingling died in 1992 and Xingxing in 1999.
Nixon's visit not only helped normalize the relationship between China and the US, but also broke China's diplomatic deadlock with the western world. After Nixon's visit, many developed countries forged or normalized diplomatic ties with China, including Japan, Italy and Spain. China became more integrated to the international community.
Nixon's visit also had a great impact on international situation. Since then, the US had gradually taken favorable position in its competition with former Soviet Union until the early 1990s when the cold war ended.
At a recent seminar in New York to commemorate Nixon's China tour, Stapleton Roy, former US ambassaodr to China, called the visit the "turning point of the cold war".
Nowadays, multipolarization and globalization enables China and the US to have closer cooperation both in world affairs and trade. The US became China's second largest trading partner. The trade volume between the two countries hit US$262.6 billion in 2006.
Carla Hills, chairman of the Board of Director of the National Committee on United States-China Relations said the two countries are doomed to have more common interest in the future, and as long as they can learn what each other needs, they would handle disputes effectively and improve their relationship in a healthy way.
(Xinhua News Agency February 24, 2007)