A Joint Communiqué was issued in Shanghai on February 27, 1972, by the United States and China on the occasion of President Richard. Nixon’s visit to the People’s Republic of China. The Shanghai Communiqué would officially break the cycle of antagonism between the two countries and would be the instrument on which their new relationship would be built. The communiqué is also important because it allowed the two sides to embrace friendly relations while deferring the contentious issue of the status of Taiwan.
The first steps toward reconciliation were taken in 1969 when the United States relaxed certain trade and travel restrictions to China. By 1970 the two sides had reopened informal talks in Warsaw. In April of 1971 Chinese officials invited the U.S. table tennis team to Beijing, resulting in a well-publicized visit and a warm welcome by the Chinese government. By June of 1971 President Nixon had revoked the 21-year trade embargo with China.
On July 9 of the same year, U.S. National Security Advisor Henry Kissinger secretly visited Beijing in order to lay the foundation for President Nixon’s trip and to take steps toward the normalization of relations between the two countries. On July 15, 1971, Nixon shocked the world by announcing that he would visit
China to seek the normalization of relations between the two nations.
From February 21 to February 28, 1972, Nixon visited China, meeting with Chinese leaders including the chairman of the Communist Party Mao Zedong (Mao Tse-tung). Toward the end of the trip, the two sides announced the Shanghai Communiqué, which was the product of months of intensive negotiations.
The communiqué announced that progress toward the normalization of relations between China and the United States was in the interests of all countries. It stated that both sides wished to reduce the danger of international military conflict and that neither should seek “hegemony” in the Asia-Pacific region. It also asserted that each was opposed to efforts by any other country or group of countries to establish such hegemony.
On the issue of Taiwan, both sides outlined their respective positions. The Chinese stated that the government of the People’s Republic of China was the “sole legal government of China” and that Taiwan was a province of China. The Chinese further argued that all U.S. forces and military installations must be withdrawn from Taiwan. The United States declared that the U.S. government would not challenge that position. The United States also expressed its hope for peaceful settlement of the “Taiwan question.” The United States further affirmed its ultimate objective as the withdrawal of all U.S. forces and military installations from Taiwan. In the meantime, the United States pledged to reduce its forces and military installations on Taiwan.
The two sides agreed to the expansion of cultural, technological, and commercial contacts to complement the normalization of diplomatic relations. Both expressed their hope that the gains achieved during Nixon’s visit would open up new prospects between the two countries and would contribute to the relaxation of tensions in Asia and the world.
President Nixon would refer to his visit to China as the week that “changed the world.” His visit reflected China’s alignment with the West against the Soviet Union and resulted in a fundamental change in the global balance of power. The United States no longer had to prepare for war against China and could focus its resources against the Soviet Union. Better relations would have benefits for the People’s Republic of China as well. They allowed China an ally in a potential confrontation with the Soviet Union. The format of the communiqué allowed China to claim an equal footing with the United States in the world, something it had long sought. Mao would hail the visit as a “great diplomatic victory” for China.
Despite this progress, U.S. support for Taiwan would prevent the establishment of formal U.S.Chinese diplomatic relations for several years. On January 1, 1979, the United States would finally establish normal diplomatic relations with China, removing its troops from Taiwan and abrogating the U.S.-Taiwan Defense Treaty. Despite opposition from Chinese officials, the United States continued to maintain the right to sell defensive weapons to Taiwan.