This week’s reading was especially interesting to me since I am planning on majoring in International Relations. So being able to analyze Chinese history through that lens in addition to the usual historical perspective was quite enjoyable! With this in mind, it was interesting to read the toasts that Nixon and Zhou Enlai gave at the banquet on February 25th, 1972. Specifically, the continuous and (ostensibly) subtle references that the two kept making to their ideologies. For example, Nixon mentioning that American journalists and press have the “right to speak for themselves and that no one in government can speak for them”, as well as his reference to “…the determination of the Chinese people to retain their independence throughout their long history.” Zhou also made similar (if slightly more subtle) remakes, mentioning the fact that China was “deeply convinced that the strength of the people is powerful” and his belief that “the general trend of the world is definitely towards light and not darkness”, a nod to the Marxist view that history will eventually lead to the greatest “light” of all: an entirely classless society.
This also brought to mind liberalism in international relations (which, by the way, is not the same as political liberalism), which adheres to a progressive view of history. This is, in essence, the idea that human society is projected to go ever upwards and that humanity can only become better with each passing century. While I highly doubt that Zhou held to a liberal view of international relations, I still find it to be another fascinating parallel between the Chinese and the Americans. This is mainly because of Henry Kissinger’s view of international relations heavily favored realism, which oftentimes opposes liberalism. For example, a realist view of history would be cyclical rather than progressive, meaning that history is bound to repeat itself forever and that, partly due to this, the international system is an eternal struggle for stability and power. So again, the ideological spilt between the two nations is on display. As I mentioned, I do not think that this was the message Zhou intended to get across with that line, but it still showcases just how different the countries (and leaders in charge of the countries) were, even unintentionally. Although Nixon and Mao put on quite the show of pretending that their friendly talks had overcome any differences that the two nations might have had, it will be interesting to see how that relationship will play out in the coming weeks of this class.
Richard Nixon and Zhou Enlai, “Toasts at a Banquet Honoring the Premier“, February 25, 1972