Sino-American Alliance

The Peoples Republic of China (PRC) was established in 1949. For the next thirty years this regime was not recognised by the United States who instead, maintained diplomatic relations with the Republic of China government who were in exile on Taiwan. Despite this the Americans retained a consular presence on mainland China until the personnel were withdrawn in 1950.

Any hope of a reopening a dialogue between the PRC and America was dashed when the military forces of the two countries fought against each other in the Korean War.

The United States continued to work to prevent the PRC from taking China's seat in the United Nations Assembly. America placed an embargo on trade and encouraged her allies not to deal with the PRC. Despite this a series of meeting did take place between the two governments beginning in 1954 and continuing until 1970. One of the outcomes of these meetings was that by the late 1960's the United States began to relax trade restrictions with China and was looking for ways to develop a more open dialogue.

An incident involving the table tennis teams of America and China is seen by many as a catalyst for the ensuing change in the relationship between the two countries. In April 1971, at the World table tennis championships in Nagoya Japan, Glenn Cowan, a member of the American team boarded the Chinese team bus. At that time it was a serious offence for a Chinese citizen to speak to a foreigner. The Chinese player Zhuang Zedong felt that to ignore Cowan was contrary to the Chinese tradition of hospitality and so he offered the American a gift.

This broke the ice and subsequently due to the intervention of Mao, the American team were invited to compete in a competition held in Beijing.

In April 1971, the United States lifted its trade embargo with China and in June of that year Henry Kissinger (Security Adviser to Richard Nixon) made a secret visit to Beijing to make arrangements for a visit by President Nixon the following year.

The visit took place in February 1972 amid great media coverage. This visit symbolised the way forward and although few concrete achievements were made at the time, the visit helped to ease the tensions between the two powers. Further visits followed in subsequent years -President Ford in 1975 and President Carter in 1977. All this activity finally led to the establishing of diplomatic relations between the United States and China on 1 January 1979.