The bamboo curtain was cinched tightly around China before Nixon’s seminal visit in 1972 (think of today’s North Korea). Nixon—the bête noir of anyone left of center—deeply offended many Republicans with his visit—the price of which was to boot Taiwan (then known as the Republic of China) out of the U.N. Security Council and the U.N. itself. (Taiwan still hasn’t gotten back in; it needs China’s Security Council vote for readmission.)
|Presidential Material: A Li River boat cruise|
The gallery offered much forgettable artwork, but then I saw something really special. It was a framed gloss photo of the Nixons in 1972 on a Li River tour boat surrounded by a dozen crew members in cloned satin uniforms. As a friend and I admired the photograph, the gallery’s owner, a woman in her mid-40s who spoke no English, pointed to a uniformed teenage girl standing just behind the Nixons. Then she pointed to herself. In 1972 she had been an eyewitness to a historical watershed; 34 years later she had traveled far beyond, along a propulsive river of cultural and economic transformation.
A helping from the Met's Nixon in China Banquet Scene: