February 21 is the 50th anniversary of Richard Nixon's historic visit to China, which began the normalization of US relations with the world's most populous Communist state — instantly shifting the Cold War balance of power. This bold move by a US president who had made his political reputation as an anti-Communist crusader shocked many at the time, but it helped set the stage for deeper ties between what are now the world's two most powerful nations and largest economies.
How well do you know the details of Nixon's week-long trip? Take our quiz to find out.
1. How did Nixon refer to National Security Adviser Henry Kissinger during his meeting with Mao?
A. A foreign policy genius
B. A ladies' man
C. A doctor of brains
2. The leader of which Asian country brokered Kissinger's secret 1971 visit to China that paved the way for Nixon's trip?
A. Yahya Khan, Pakistan
B. Indira Gandhi, India
C. Suharto, Indonesia
3. What did Nixon say while touring the Great Wall?
A. How long is it?
B. This is a great wall.
C. Who built it?
1. C — According to the now-declassified transcript of their conversation, when Mao asked Nixon about Kissinger's PhD, the US president responded that his National Security adviser was a "doctor of brains." Mao was however also very interested in Kissinger's playboy reputation, which Nixon acknowledged and joked about.
2. A — Soon after taking office in early 1969, the Nixon administration put out feelers to China through Pakistan, whose dictator personally delivered a message for China’s PM Zhou Enlai to relay to Mao. Mao agreed to start a dialogue — under the condition that the US withdraw all its forces from Taiwan. When Zhou finally met Kissinger in Beijing, the Chinese kept their promise to the US of total secrecy.
3. B — On the fourth day of his visit, Nixon took a road trip outside Beijing to check out China's most famous monument. After admiring the centuries-old structure, he famously quipped to the American media: "I think that you would have to conclude that this is a great wall." (The original quote is much longer.)