One of the delightful things about Americans is that they have absolutely no historical memory. – Zhou Enlai
“Zhou and Dick” was conceived (as was our daughter) following a trip to Beijing in 1989, after the dust at Tiananmen Square had settled. In fact, I was one of 3 visitors on the 100-acre plaza when it was reopened the day after the army left. We had watched the PLA’s convoys grind past our hotel the middle of the night before, with soldiers standing in the back of what appeared to be dump trucks. There being no line that day, we were granted a look at the Great Helmsman himself (Mao) in his mortified state. They could have made him look as good as Snow White, but instead he looked like a half-eaten plate of General Tsao’s pork, so I know it was really him..
Nixon was also in Beijing when we were there, and we saw him on Chinese television, chatting with Deng Xiaoping one evening, right after the Grain Report. Tonnage was up and the future looked great. I hadn’t seen Tricky Dick in a number of years and he looked frail and gray. I was reminded of Nixon’s outreach to China in 1972, when the clumsy, wooden leader of the Western World supped with China’s ailing genius of politics and diplomacy, Zhou Enlai. Here were the greatest politician that ever lived and the weirdest.
I here include details from my own dinners in China, with the cigarette pack begging for a Raymond Loewy re-design were it not 50 years too late, and the orange pop, bottomless juice glasses of thin local beer, mystery broths and a graceful and smiling host. The table cloth is red in my retelling of the event. Need I explain why?