Signs of thaw in Relations with China
No recent news was more evocative of the past—and more prescient of the future—than the accounts of the American Ping Pong team's recent (April 10–17) tour of mainland China. For this unexpected visit, undertaken at Peking's invitation, cracked the barrier of hostility that has existed since 1949 between that country and the United States. The visit obviously signaled a change in American relations with China, a change that could lead eventually to a new configuration of global power relationships. For many it raised hopes for a speedier end to the war in Viet Nam and a lowering of tensions that threaten new wars. Fear and distrust persisted, however.
At first it seemed that two decades of icy hostility had begun to melt down into a mutual willingness to let bygones be bygones. China's leaders spoke of renewing old friendships with Americans. President Nixon signaled his pleasure by lifting trade and travel bans and by expressing a personal wish to visit China. Memories of the past of what has been called America's long love affair with China began to flood the American consciousness.
Sober second thought made it clear that the spring thaw had barely begun and that new freezes may lie ahead. On both sides hard truths were reasserted about issues that bar reconciliation. One requiring immediate consideration is the future status of the other China—the Nationalist government of Chiang Kai-shek, known as the Republic of China, which governs only Taiwan and a few neighboring islands but claims all of China as its rightful domain. The United States must decide whether to revise its position on admission of the People's Republic of China to the United Nations before the U.N. General Assembly convenes in September.