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The Eagle and the Dragon
Recent meetings between Chinese and U.S. leaders have shaped history
Conan Milner, The Epoch Times Chicago Staff

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Chinese President Hu Jintao’s trip to the U.S. this month is a milestone in meetings between two world leaders sometimes known as “the Eagle and the Dragon.” Mr. Hu, age 62, is part of a younger generation of Chinese leaders who are being closely watched to see if they break with the past.

After World War II, the U.S. rose to become the leader of the free world as communism took over China. Throughout the 50s and 60s the two countries traveled along divergent paths, each growing more suspicious of the other.

McCarthyism spread throughout the U.S. in an effort to ferret out communist sympathizers, while Mao Zedong insisted that rightists were hidden among, and poisoning, the Chinese people. In the thick of the Cold War era, the world was divided.

Following Henry Kissinger’s secret mission to Beijing (and a surprise invitation for the American table-tennis team in what was known as “ping-pong diplomacy”), Nixon announced a trailblazing trip to China. Known as “the week that changed the world,” Nixon’s 1972 visit not only started to open communication between the two countries, but also brought back a week-long television special where Americans could finally get a glimpse from behind the “bamboo curtain.”

The eastward journey and closed-door negotiations that followed produced the Shanghai Communiqué, spelling out a new state of relations between the two countries.

Over the 70s and 80s, relations between the two countries improved. U.S. President Gerald Ford traveled to China for a five-day visit, later calling for a normalization of U.S. relations with China. Chinese Vice-Premier Deng Xiaoping’s well-publicized visit to the U.S. in 1979 helped to strengthen this relationship.

Zhao Ziyang was the first Chinese premier to visit the United States. Three months after Zhao’s initial visit in January 1984, staunch anti-communist Ronald Reagan visited China.

In the run-up to his 1984 reelection, Reagan’s China trip gave the President a stage to play his trademark role as the “Great Communicator.” Although authorities in Beijing censored some of Regan’s speeches on freedom and democracy, his speech at Fudan University in Shanghai was carried on live television, giving the President an opportunity to communicate directly to the Chinese people.

After the Tiananmen Square massacre in 1989, years of diplomacy started to crumble. In 1998, President Bill Clinton’s China trip helped to bridge diplomatic isolation brought about by the Chinese Communist Party’s bloody crackdown against democratic change.

During the George W. Bush administration, both Bush and former president Jiang Zemin exchanged visits, including Bush’s 30-hour trip in 2002 to commemorate the 30th anniversary of the release of the 1972 Shanghai Communiqué.

Jiang’s lame-duck trip later that October to the U.S. was met with scores of protesters wherever he was scheduled, similar to when he visited in 1997. Crowds held banners commenting on China’s appalling human rights abuses and lack of religious freedom. They stood next to “cheerleaders,” Chinese students and others who were paid by the Chinese consulate to wave flags and cheer, and were often bused in from miles away.

Hu Jintao previously visited the U.S. in April-May 2002, when he was heir apparent to the presidency. He stopped in California to meet business leaders and local political leaders, and in Washington, D.C. to meet high-ranking federal officials, including President Bush.

This year, Hu’s original itinerary was to have taken him to three stops in the U.S. before going to Canada and Mexico. Hu will still go to New York for the U.N. World Summit, where he will meet with President Bush on the sidelines. But the September 5-8 U.S. portion of the trip was canceled last Saturday (see related item).

His second visit has many curious to see what will happen with this new generation of Chinese leaders. With more recent concerns like North Korea and Taiwan, as well as long-standing human rights criticisms, these key global players will, as always, have a lot to talk about.

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