Reading the recent coverage of Richard Nixon’s downfall reminded me of an experience I had in 1997. I was part of a Pennsylvania Peace Links delegation to China as guests of the Chinese People’s Association for Peace and Disarmament, where one of our stops was visiting a resort in Hangzhou, on a beautiful lake. Henry Kissinger had stayed there when he was on a secret visit in preparation for the normalization of relations between China and the United States.
We were proudly shown the suite of rooms he had occupied, with an idyllic view of the lake’s two small islands connected by a typical Chinese footbridge. We were told that while sitting at his desk and facing the view, Kissinger was inspired by the metaphor of the two countries bridging their gap and wrote the speech that Nixon later used to mark the historic occasion.
In a private conversation I later had with one of our hosts, I commented that although I understood the special regard that the Chinese had for Nixon for his role in making the change happen, I wanted him to understand that in the United States his reputation included many negative components, especially regarding the damage that he had done to some of our basic democratic rights and institutions. My host, who not only spoke excellent English but also knew our idioms, looked at me with a twinkle in his eye and said, “You mean, Tricky Dicky?”