Renovated Nixon Library highlights his China legacy
Stepping through an iconic moon gate portal, visitors to the newly renovated Nixon Library can relive the historic handshake between Richard Nixon and Zhou Enlai during the president’s 1972 visit to China and explore the relationship between the US and China more than 40 years ago.
The China exhibit — called The Week that Changed the World — is one of the more prominent exhibits at the Richard Nixon Presidential Library and Museum which opened on Friday in Yorba Linda, California, after a major overhaul.
Nixon was the first US president to visit China, where he issued the Shanghai Communiqué, announcing a desire for open, normalized relations. The visit ended 25 years of no communication between the two sides.
Former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger, 93, who attended the opening ceremony on Friday, said Nixon’s trip to China was “one of the great formative events of American foreign policy”.
On prominent display at the library are life-sized, bronze-plated statues of Nixon and Zhou extending hands to each other against the backdrop of a nearly 15-foottall image of Air Force One touched down in Beijing on Feb 21, 1972.
Christopher Cox, grandson of President Nixon, said the statues were his favorite exhibit at the library.
“This moment is so signifi he said, “two countries coming together across decades of lack of communication. This symbolized a new era — not just Sino-US relations but what that means for world peace.”
“That spirit of 1972 is something so important for us to carry forward as we consider the relationship between the US and China in the 21st century,” he added.
The exhibit also features texts, images and artifacts, such as President’s Nixon’s notes on his famous yellow pads during his preparation for his trip to China, and a special gift for the president — sets of Ping Pong paddles and balls with “A Generation of Peace” printed on them.
A touch screen displaying the “toast for peace”, which President Nixon drafted on Air Force One en route to China for the banquet hosted by Zhou Enlai, allows visitors to see the original checklist of “what they want”, “what we want” and “what we both want”.
“I always appreciated many things that he (Nixon) was able to do, and opening up the US to China was amazing,” said Henrietta Kopecky, a visitor to the library.
“It’s important for people to remember what happened in the past and how we are able to come together and be a global community,” said Kopecky. “I think people forget and take it for granted — ‘Oh, well, that was long ago’. But it’s not, it affects us today.”
She said the exhibit brought what she had studied into reality and into a context that she could see, experience and interact with.
I always appreciated many things that he (Nixon) was able to do, and opening up the US to China was amazing.” Henrietta Kopecky, a visitor to the library
With a price tag of $15 million, the renovated Nixon library aims to allow visitors to discover the full impact of President Nixon’s many accomplishments through nearly 70 new exhibits, 10 multi-media experiences, 11 original films and more than 600 photographs.
Other popular exhibits include exact replicas of the Oval Office and the Lincoln Sitting Room, his favorite room in the White House, “the Vietnam War”, “Tough Choices”, an interactive station where visitors can play the role of an unnamed advisor to President Nixon, and the Watergate exhibit remains, where visitors can explore the personalities, actions and intentions at the heart of the scandal.
But opening to China was the thing Richard Nixon will mostly be remembered for, apart from his resignation from office, said former California Governor Peter Wilson.
The reopening and normalization of China-US relation changed the political and economic landscape of the Asia-Pacific region and the world, heralding the end of the Cold War, Chinese Ambassador to the US Cui Tiankai told attendees at the luncheon.
As the two largest economies in the world, China and the US share a responsibility to maintain international peace and promote world prosperity, he said.
“The choices we make today will have a far-reaching impact on the well-being of our peoples and the future of the world,” Cui said.
The choices we make today will have a far-reaching impact on the well-being of our peoples.” Cui Tiankai, China’s ambassador to the US
Henry Kissinger (center) and Chinese Ambassador Cui Tiankai (right) attend the exhibit TheWeekthatChangedtheWorld at the Richard Nixon Presidential Library and Museum on Friday in Yorba Linda, California.