Nixon Opens China - Study Guide for the Classroom
Themes: International relations, foreign policy, government, media,
diplomacy, role of the presidency
Before Viewing Discussion
- Richard Nixon said, "We can see that China is the basic cause
of all our troubles in Asia." Locate China on a world map. Discuss
contextual world politics at the end of the 1960s. Include such issues as
cold war tensions, the raging conflict in Vietnam, the United States’
relationship with Taiwan/non-relationship with China, and lingering effects
of the Korean War. The Timeline
provides useful reference points. Use the Tours
Link to more closely study China’s position in Asia; talk about the
"domino effect" as well as China’s borders and relationship with
the Soviet Union. How might a good U.S.—Sino relationship have served the
U.S.? How might better relations with China affect the U.S.—Soviet
- Talk with students about the role communism played in Nixon’s political
rise. Include discussion of Nixon’s membership in the House Un-American
Activities Committee and his actions in the Alger Hiss espionage case. (Nixon’s
Biography) Did Nixon’s anti-Communist actions appeal
to the majority of Americans at that time? Why might a cold warrior such as
Nixon want, at long last, to open doors to "Red China"?
- Discuss Nixon’s foreign policy methods: Why did he keep so many
activities secret? Did secrecy help or hinder his ultimate goals? Was it
legal? Who was harmed? Who had a right to know about such foreign policy?
Was Nixon successful?
- Nixon said of his trip to China, "This was the week that changed the
world." Discuss the meaning behind these words: How did the balance of
global power shift? What relationships were changed? How do they affect the
world today? Have these changes been for better or worse?
- Henry Kissinger noted of the television coverage of Nixon’s historic
trip, "Pictures overrode the printed word." Nixon made television
coverage of his public actions in China a priority, and created a
presidential public relations opportunity of a lifetime. Ask students to
research and compare various press coverage from Nixon’s
trip–newspapers, Time magazine, television coverage included in the
film. Which type of coverage do they think was most effective from Nixon’s
point of view? From the public’s point of view? Why? Which was more
critical? Which do students find more appealing? Why?
- One newspaper noted of the outcome of Nixon’s China trip, "They got
Taiwan, we got egg rolls." Divide the class into two groups to debate
whether Taiwan was treated fairly by Nixon. Students may use the People
& Events feature "The Shanghai
Communiqué" as reference. Did Nixon live up to previous promises?
Did Taiwan suffer? What, if anything, did Taiwan lose? What, if anything,
did China gain at Taiwan’s expense? Which countries ultimately profited
from Nixon’s actions?
- Intuitions as communes, factories, schools, hospitals, and kitchens, as
well as to accompany her husband to social functions. She largely kept her
opinions to herself. How has the foreign relations role of First Lady
changed since Pat Nixon lived in the White House? How has it remained the
same? Ask students to compare Pat Nixon with Hillary Rodham Clinton. Have
them research personal papers, newspaper stories and columns, and
photographs to discuss in class the public role of each. How meaningful are
their actions? How controversial? How do their methods differ? How do their
causes differ? Who has been successful, and why? What, in students’
opinions, should be the role of First Spouse?
- Although William Rogers was Secretary of State, it was national security
advisor Henry Kissinger who acted as Nixon’s right-hand diplomat during
the China visit. Have students write a letter home from the point of view of
William Rogers. Tone may be as informal as they like. Ask students to
consider the following: What is the role of Secretary of State? Who actually
acted in that role during the China visit? Was Rogers treated well by Nixon?
Did he have all the information that he needed? Did he have input? How did
he feel towards Henry Kissinger? (Students may reference the Henry
Kissinger interview.) How
did Rogers feel about the outcome of Nixon’s visit?.