Reading Corner: Nixon and Mao
Although we are mostly a political and social commentary site I also think we can do our readers a service by providing them with commentary and reviews on good books, movies and the like. Recently I had the pleasure of reading the above book which is about the week Richard Nixon spent in China during February of 1972.
For those of us who look back on this event as history it is difficult to understand just how momentous this event was. It would perhaps be the same as President Obama flying to Havana to meet with the new Cuban leadership.
The book is by Margaret MacMillan who is best known for writing the book Paris 1919 which covered the peace conference and Treaty of Versailles. As with her first book she very effectively interweaves the current story with tons of background about the people involved and the events leading up to the main story.
In this case she provides insight into the background of Nixon, Kissinger, Mao, Chou and many others. She also provides us with lots of very interesting background details about the events of that week. For example when the US delegation flew in ahead of Nixon to set things up the Chinese were amazed at things like the Xerox machine because they had never seen anything like it before.
China had been almost totally isolated from the outside world for 20 years and thus many Chinese had no idea than man had walked on the moon or the basics of how American society works. The story also details how the visit of a US Ping Pong team to Japan was one of the first steps towards the eventual meeting between Nixon and Mao.
There is also lots of background geopolitical intrigue on both sides which shows just how difficult it was to bring the visit about.
All things considered this is a fascinating read and I think anyone with an interest in history or politics would find it very much worth their time.