22 February 1972: Richard Nixon begins a seven-day visit to the People’s Republic of China – the first visit to the country by a US president
Peking, February 21
Capping one of the most improbable of days, President Nixon and the Chinese Premier Chou En-lai [Zhou Enlai] toasted each other at a sumptuous banquet tonight in words that promised success for their summit talks this week.
A correct but austere reception upon the President’s arrival at Peking.
Hearing the People’s Liberation Army Band play The Star Spangled Banner first at the airport and again at the banquet. The main banquet hall also echoed with PLA Band’s rendition of Home on the Range, American the Beautiful and Turkey in the Straw.
A proletarian state dinner, a contradiction in terms but an apt description of the occasion. All of the estimated 300 Americans here for Mr Nixon’s visit were invited to the dinner Mr Chou gave in honour of the President.
A banquet repast of countless courses that included shark’s fin and steamed chicken with coconut and almond junket (a type of pudding).
Mr Nixon consumed little Mao Tai, a potent Chinese drink distilled from sorghum. He seemed merely to let the white liquor touch his lips as toasts were exchanged.