The President Announces Visit to the Peoples Republic of China (1971)

President Nixon Announces his Visit to China

NBC Studios in Burbank CA

Type Of Activity
 Televised News Conference
 Burbank CA
Date of Activity
 July 15 1971
 34°09'14.7"N 118°20'00.5"W

15 Jul 1971 President Nixon announces upcoming trip to China

The President and first Lady arrived in San Clemente on July 3rd 1971 for an extended stay at the Western White House. At the time we were unaware of what would come in two weeks. The President’s trip was pretty routine without many side trips and seemed more like a working vacation as the Senior Staff was very busy. On July 13th Henry Kissinger arrived and participated in a series of meetings with the President and the Senior Staff. 

The next day the CCT was told to get ready to leave for the NBC Studios in Burbank CA. for a live national TV and Radio broadcast that the President would conduct! As we departed no one on the team knew the magnitude of the pending press release.

I had been to NBC Studios on a couple of occasions prior to this visit so I had a basic knowledge of the physical layout! During the 1968 Presidential election I was in CA supporting Candidate Nixon.  He was planning to do a spot on Rowan and Martin’s “Laugh In” and I needed to make sure that the Secret Service had radio coverage for security of the then Candidate Richard Nixon. I knew that the warehouse had easy access to the roof so we set up our base stations in a small room in the warehouse.  We surveyed the studio where the President would Speak and started to prepare for the broadcast!

The President and Henry Kissinger arrive at NBC Studios with HR Haldeman and Ron Ziegler
The President and Dr. Henry Kissinger with the Senior Staff departed San Clemente aboard Marine One and arrived at NBC Studios at 6pm.

At 7:30 pm during a live television and radio broadcast, President Richard Nixon stunned the nation by announcing that he will visit communist China the following year. The statement marked a dramatic turning point in U.S.-Chinese relations.

“It was such a shock,” longtime CBS anchor Dan Rather said, “that President Nixon, the quintessential Cold Warrior, was changing colors, as it were.”

The shock of the announcement unleashed a barrage of opinions, both in favor of the trip and against it, with most somewhere in between. The presidential visit the following February, however, would produce one of the most lasting shifts in the international order in generations — one that reverberates ever stronger to this day.

The President Announces his Planned Trip to China
231 - Remarks to the Nation Announcing Acceptance of an Invitation To Visit the People's Republic of China.
July 15, 1971

Good evening:

I have requested this television time tonight to announce a major development in our efforts to build a lasting peace in the world.

As I have pointed out on a number of occasions over the past 3 years, there can be no stable and enduring peace without the participation of the People's Republic of China and its 750 million people. That is why I have undertaken initiatives in several areas to open the door for more normal relations between our two countries.

In pursuance of that goal, I sent Dr. Kissinger, my Assistant for National Security Affairs, to Peking during his recent world tour for the purpose of having talks with Premier Chou En-lai.
The announcement I shall now read is being issued simultaneously in Peking and in the United States:

Premier Chou En-lai and Dr. Henry Kissinger, President Nixon's Assistant for National Security Affairs, held talks in Peking from July 9 to 11, 1971. Knowing of President Nixon's expressed desire to visit the People's Republic of China, Premier Chou Enlai, on behalf of the Government of the People's Republic of China, has extended an invitation to President Nixon to visit China at an appropriate date before May 1972.

President Nixon has accepted the invitation with pleasure.

The meeting between the leaders of China and the United States is to seek the normalization of relations between the two countries and also to exchange views on questions of concern to the two sides.

In anticipation of the inevitable speculation which will follow this announcement, I want to put our policy in the clearest possible context.

Our action in seeking a new relationship with the People's Republic of China will not be at the expense of our old friends. It is not directed against any other nation. We seek friendly relations with all nations. Any nation can be our friend without being any other nation's enemy.

I have taken this action because of my profound conviction that all nations will gain from a reduction of tensions and a better relationship between the United States and the People's Republic of China.

It is in this spirit that I will undertake what I deeply hope will become a journey for peace, peace not just for our generation but for future generations on this earth we share together.

Thank you and good night.

Note: The President's remarks. were broadcast live on radio and television at 7:31 p.m. from the NBC studios, Burbank, Calif.

Citation: Richard Nixon: "Remarks to the Nation Announcing Acceptance of an Invitation To Visit the People's Republic of China." July 15, 1971. Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project.

The President’s handwritten notes from that day, before delivering his announcement: 
Nixon undertook his historic visit to China the following year, thus beginning a long and slow process of normalization of relations between the People’s Republic of China and the United States. The immediate diplomatic and political rewards of Nixon’s initiative were not readily apparent. The war in Vietnam dragged on until January 1973, with the Chinese apparently having little, if any, impact on North Vietnam’s negotiating stance. Nixon’s trip to China did inspire a good deal of anxiety in Moscow, but whether the policy of detente was helped or not is debatable. The 1972 trip was certainly front-page news in the United States, and may have been one small factor in Nixon’s resounding victory in the presidential election of that year.

 NBC Studios site of President Nixon’s announcement 
that he was going  to visit China in March of 1972
When the broadcast was finished the Presidential party departed the NBC studios for dinner at Perino’s Restaurant in Los Angles. 

We were notified at 10pm that the President had departed Los Angles and was headed back to San Clemente. At which time we began to tear down our equipment and load it on trucks to return to our shop at El Toro MCAS.

This event was only the beginning of the involvement that the San Clemente CCT would be associated with the President’s trip to China.  In Oct 1971 we were dispatched to Hilo HI to support Henry Kissinger when he flew to Beijing to finalize the President’s visit and the team was sent to Guam where we provided communications support while the President stopped in route and return from his visit as well as being back-up for the people working on mainland during the entire visit!

We spent the best share of the month of March 1972 in Agana Guam supporting the China Trip.

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