On this day in 1972: In what was arguably the most dramatic trip ever taken by a president of the United States, Richard Nixon arrived in China for an eight-day visit. The announcement that Nixon, a lifelong hardline anti-communist, would visit China stunned the world. The United States and China had been foes for a quarter-century, but Nixon recognized the need for better ties — which would also help the U.S. in its Cold War standoff with the Soviet Union. During his week-long visit, Nixon met with Mao and Zhou En-Lai; it is seen today as the beginning of China’s drive to modernize and enter the modern world. China’s economy is now the world’s second largest, trailing only that of the U.S itself. Nixon called it “the week that changed the world,” and the phrase “Nixon going to China” has since become a metaphor for an unexpected or uncharacteristic action by a politician.
Here’s what else happened on this day in history