A brief history of US Presidents visiting China
US President Donald Trump will embark on his first trip to China on Wednesday, making him the eighth US President who has ever come to China.
Who are the previous seven US Presidents? Where have they been in China and what did they say about their impressions of this country? Let's take a brief view of the seven US Presidents' trips in China.
1. Richard Nixon – the first US president to visit China
Visiting time: Feb. 21-28, 1972
Places: Beijing, Hangzhou, Shanghai
In 1972, Richard Nixon became the first US president to visit China since the founding of the People's Republic of China in 1949. This trip marked a turning point in formally normalizing relations between China and the US and was one of the most remarkable international relations events in the 20th century.
Chairman Mao Zedong shakes hands with U.S. President Richard Nixon in Beijing, Feb. 21, 1972. [Photo: CGTN/Nixon Presidential Library]
During this visit, Nixon met with Chairman Mao Zedong and held talks with Premier Zhou Enlai. At the conclusion of his trip, Feb. 28, the Chinese and the US sides issued the Joint Communiqué in Shanghai (also known as the Shanghai Communiqué).
"As I walked along the wall, I thought of the sacrifices that went into building it; I thought of what it showed-about-the determination of the Chinese people who retained their independence throughout their long-history; I thought about the fact that the wall tells us that China has a great history and that the people who built this wonder of the world also have a great future."
Nixon said at the Great Wall of China.
2. Gerald Ford – Visit China after 'breaking the ice'
Visiting time: Dec. 1-5, 1975
Gerald Ford was the first US president to visit China after the normalization of Sino-US relations. He met and held talks with Chairman Mao Zedong and Vice Premier Deng Xiaoping. Both sides reaffirmed their commitment to the principles of the 1972 "Joint Communiqué."
During his stay in Beijing, Ford and his wife visited the Temple of Heaven, the Great Wall, the Summer Palace and watched sports and modern dance performance. His wife, Betty Ford, even learned Chinese dance from Chinese students while touring a dance school.
"Our bilateral ties are very important… It was certainly common perceptions and common interests which brought our countries together four years ago. Among these is our agreement not to seek hegemony over others and our fundamental opposition to the efforts of others to impose hegemony in any part of the world."
Ford toasted at the farewell party.
3. Ronald Reagan – Visit the Terracotta Warriors and Horses
Visiting time: April 26-May 1, 1984
Places: Beijing, Xi'an, Shanghai
Ronald Reagan and his wife visited Terracotta Warriors and Horses in northwest China's Xi'an City. When he climbed the ladder to leave the place, he glanced back at the magnificent underground army and joked, "dismissed!"
"We may live at nearly opposite ends of the world. We may be distinctly different in language, customs, and political beliefs. But on many vital questions of our time, there is little difference between the American and Chinese people."
Reagan said in a speech at the Great Hall of the People.
4. George H.W. Bush – Visit China soon after taking office
Visiting time: Feb. 25-26, 1989
George H.W. Bush started his official visit to China one month after he was sworn in as US President in 1989, the soonest of all.
Bush served as head of the US Liaison Office in Beijing between 1974 and 1975, when he and his wife, Barbara, often rode bicycles exploring the streets of Beijing, as both an exercise and a direct way to learn about Chinese society and reach ordinary people. He even won the nickname "a bicycle-riding envoy" during the mid-1970s.
Deng Xiaoping meets with George H. W. Bush in Beijing on Feb. 26, 1989. [Photo: Xinhua]
When he paid a state visit to China as a US President in 1989, he and his wife received two brand new "Flying Pigeon" bikes as gifts. Bush hopped onto the bike and posed for a ride in front of the media.
"We value the new relationship our two countries have established with each other… We remain firmly committed to the principles set forth in those three joint communique that forms the basis of our relationship. And based on the bedrock principle that there is but one China, we have found ways to address Taiwan constructively without rancor…And this trend, this new environment, is consistent with America's present and longstanding interest in a peaceful resolution of the differences by the Chinese themselves."
Bush toasted at the welcome banquet.
5. Bill Clinton – With the richest journey in China
Visiting time: June 25-July 3, 1998
Places: Xi'an, Beijing, Shanghai, Guilin, Hong Kong
Bill Clinton visited five Chinese cities – Xi'an, Beijing, Shanghai, Guilin, Hong Kong – in nine days. He paid visits to famous historical sites such as the Terracotta Warriors and the Place Museum, made a speech at Peking University, spoke to Shanghai citizens on the air via radio, and toured Guilin Lijiang River in south China's Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region.
The New York Times reported that Clinton's delegation to China amounted to over 1,000 people, the largest group of all visiting US presidents.
"The Great Wall here is very beautiful, very grand, more beautiful and grander than what I imagined...It was now a symbol which China used to welcome visitors, rather than to keep them out."
Clinton said while visiting the Great Wall.
6. George W. Bush – Visiting China most frequently
Visiting time: Oct. 18-20, 2001; Feb.21-22, 2002; Nov. 19-21, 2005; Aug. 7-11, 2008
Places: Shanghai, Beijing
George W. Bush, the son of George W.H. Bush and the 43rd US President, made the most frequent trips to China.
He attended the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) leaders' meeting in Shanghai in 2001 and paid two official visits in 2002 and 2005. In 2008, he attended the opening ceremony of the Beijing Olympic Games and three other related activities.
"We see a China that is becoming one of the most dynamic and creative societies in the world… China is on a rising path, and America welcomes the emergence of a strong and peaceful and prosperous China."
Bush spoke at Tsinghua University in 2002.
7. Barack Obama – Most diverse forms of visiting
Visiting time: Nov. 15-18, 2009; Nov. 10-12, 2014; Sept. 3-5, 2016
Places: Beijing, Shanghai, Hangzhou
The most recent visit to China of a US President is made by Barack Obama, the 44th US President who stepped down from office at the beginning of this year.
His state visits were composed of both official events and also relaxing activities, making the interaction modes between the heads of the two nations more diverse. On the night of Nov. 11, 2014, President Xi Jinping and Obama, both dressed casually, had an informal meeting at Yingtai in the Zhongnanhai leadership compound in Beijing after APEC meetings. On Sept. 3, 2016, during the G20 Summit in Hangzhou, they took a stroll along the West Lake with a tea break.
Chinese President Xi Jinping (R) meets with U.S. President Barack Obama in Hangzhou, capital city of east China's Zhejiang Province, Sept. 3, 2016. [Photo: Xinhua]
"I brought back the admiration for the Chinese civilization, I bring here the greetings of American People."
Obama said when ascending a watchtower to enjoy a distant view at the Badaling section of the Great Wall.
While looking back on these stories of previous US Presidents visiting China, we are also wondering what stories might come with the forthcoming President Trump.