9 - “Selling” the Rapprochement: The Nixon Administration's Justification of the New China Policy  pp. 206-221

“Selling” the Rapprochement: The Nixon Administration's Justification of the New China Policy

By Evelyn Goh

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As a consummate politician, Nixon was keenly aware of the imperatives of policy advocacy and the need to present his policies in a way that was palatable to his key constituencies. Indeed, in contrast to the Democratic administrations that preceded it, the Nixon administration was remarkably proactive and firmly led public opinion on China policy. As discussed in Chapter 4, Nixon was forthcoming about his approach to China in public statements and policy gestures, and he paid particular attention to locating his moves toward China within the context of a “grand strategy” of peace through strength and negotiation. All of these moves were undertaken before it was clear that public opinion had moved decisively in favor of China. Once actual policy changes had been made and the Chinese began to respond, the White House moved assiduously toward a carefully managed campaign to convince various domestic and international audiences of the rationality of Nixon's departures in China policy. This was necessary because public distrust of China was deeply entrenched: for example, even after the announcement of Kissinger's secret trip to Beijing in July 1971, a 56 percent majority of the public still regarded China as the world's most dangerous country. Thus the Nixon administration worked to disseminate the new image of China as a “Former Enemy,” with an emphasis on the potential areas for constructive dialogue between the United States and China.

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