When President Nixon announced his intention to visit China in a television address at NBC's Burbank, California studios on July 15, 1971, the public learned about one of the most significant diplomatic initiatives of the 20th Century. This initiative surprised many who believed the President to be too rigidly anti-Communist to improve relations with the People’s Republic of China. The resulting establishment of formal diplomatic relations between the United States and China is no less important today than in 1972.
President and Mrs. Nixon, along with his advisers, advance team and the press corps arrived in China on February 21, 1972 to spend a week getting to know the Chinese leaders and their people. In observance of the 40th anniversary of the President’s visit to China this exhibition “The Handshake that Changed the World” illustrates the President’s early planning to bring together rapprochement with the Chinese, the actual visit, and the joint communiqué that the two countries issued at the end of the visit. With artifacts, documents, and a historical film presentation, a clearer picture emerges of the issues and problems surrounding this momentous undertaking of opening the door to China.