Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Nixon in Winter 6

On page 206 of Nixon in Winter, Monica Crowley relates the following discussion that she had with Richard Nixon about China:

"'Some want the United States to build a universal culture,' I said.

"[Nixon] turned to me, horrified.  'You mean like Americanize everything?...That's not only wrong, that's a crime.'

"'I heard from somebody in Guangzhou that when the Chinese decided to build the hotel we stayed in, they brought in an American manager, who gave all the Chinese workers American names because it was easier for him,' I said.

"Nixon's jaw dropped.  'No!  Why, that's...insulting!  I can't believe it.  Who did he think he was?  Coming over here, to one of the strongest, richest, oldest, proudest cultures in the world and stripping them of their identity?...That's bad,' he said, shaking his head.  'Nobody should let that happen: not us, and not the Chinese."

This passage reminded me of two things.  First of all, it called to my mind Nixon's aversion to colonialism.  I can't make a blanket statement about this, for Nixon in a speech in Great Britain (which he included in his book, Six Crises----see here) praised colonialism, and Nixon was quite critical of President Dwight Eisenhower's anti-colonialist policy of refusing to assist Britain, France, and Israel in going after Egypt after Egyptian President Nasser nationalized the oil in the Suez.  But, in reading Nixon's memoirs and other books, Nixon does strike me as someone who sincerely tried to understand the perspectives of other countries, including their aversion to colonialism.  Nixon was also critical of solely treating the Third World as a battleground for the Cold War.  People can argue about whether Nixon was sufficiently anti-colonial or empathetic towards other countries----or if he even was those things at all.  (He certainly had a record of supporting U.S. intervention in other countries.)  All I'm saying is that I'm not surprised that he would be horrified by the view that America should Americanize the world, or by an American manager who gave Chinese workers American names.

Second, I thought of Nixon's overall love for China.  Nixon's respect for the Chinese people shines through in his memoirs and also his 1980 book, The Real War.  Moreover, on page 539 of Nixon: Ruin and Recovery, 1973-1990, Stephen Ambrose says the following about Nixon during the 1980's: "He hosted dinners----stag, intimate, off-the-record affairs for the opinion makers...The dinner was invariably Chinese.  (Nixon's love affair with China was ongoing.  His home was decorated in a Chinese motif; his house servants were a Chinese couple; his bookcases carried works on Chinese history. Chinese art, Chinese politics.)"

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