8 Handshakes That Changed History

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Richard Nixon - Mao Zedong

February 1972

President Richard Nixon and his wife traveled in a landmark visit to the People's Republic of China in February 1972. The trip would begin a new period of Chinese-American relations. Nixon's visit was a strategic maneuver made after relations between the West and the Communist East were gradually changing. China had publicly disagreed and split from the Soviet Union. Nixon used this confrontation, which was peaking in the early 1970s, to make a visit that would stun the world.

The picture of Richard Nixon, a virulent anti-Communist since his time as a Congressman during the Alger Hiss case, shaking hands with the leader of Communist China was one most never imagined they would see. The handshake was of particular importance to Nixon as he was told that John Foster Dulles's decision not to shake hands with Zhou Enlai had left him insulted. Nixon wanted the visit to be a picturesque message sent around the world, preferring cameramen to reporters covering the event.


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