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This lesson correlates to the National History Standards.

  • Era 10-Contemporary United States (1968 - present)
    • Standard 1C- The student understands major foreign policy initiatives.

Dwight Chapin, Deputy Assistant to the President on the Shanghai Communiqué.

Citation: Dwight L. Chapin recorded interview by Timothy J. Naftali and Paul Musgrave, 2 April 2007; Richard Nixon Oral History Project; Richard Nixon Presidential Library and Museum.

President Nixon and Chairman Mao issued the Shanghai Communiqué on the last day of President Nixon's weeklong visit to the People's Republic of China. In this lesson, students will study the Communiqué to better understand the compromises the two countries made on key issues.

For more information on the Opening of China, visit our special website , download our free iTunesU collection, or visit our virtual exhibit on the Presidential Timeline.

Students will analyze a primary source document to understand the causes, and results of U.S./Chinese foreign relations during the Cold War.


One to two class periods.

Before the Activity:
Prior to reading the primary source document students should have learned about Nixon’s presidency and the Cold War era. Students should also be familiar with reading and interpreting primary source documents. Also, students should have an understanding of China’s policies and culture during the Cold War.


  1. Encourage students to predict the possible outcome of the Communiqué before reading. Ask students what issues could the U.S. and China possibly have with other? What types of things would they likely discuss and what types of things would they most likely disagree on? Discuss the predictions with the class.
  2. Tell students that the meeting between Nixon’s visit to the People’s Republic of China was a dramatic step in normalizing Chinese/U.S. relations. Nixon was the first U.S. president to visit the People's Republic of China. Also, let students know that Nixon’s National Security Advisor Henry Kissinger had made previous trips to China preparing the draft of the Communiqué with Premier Chou En Lai.
  3. Explain to students that they will act as historians in this lesson by uncovering the disagreements between the Chinese and Americans that had to be resolved in the Communiqué.
  4. Split students up into mixed ability pairs. Students will work in pairs reading the communiqué and filling out the issues chart worksheet.
  5. The teacher may want to write definitions for some of the words, such as hegemony, on the board.

After the Activity:

Ask the students:
  • What were some of the issues between the U.S. and China that were discussed in the Communiqué?
  • Do you think the Chinese or United States yielded more of what they wanted to come out the Communiqué? Why?
  • How successful in normalizing relations between the United States and China do you think the Communiqué was?

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