Honoring the 50th Anniversary of Mike Mansfield's Visit to China

Mike Mansfield with Chinese Diplomats
Maureen and Mike Mansfield with People’s Republic of China Premier Zhou Enlai during the Mansfields’ visit to China in 1974. Photo courtesy of Archives & Special Collections, Mansfield Library.

Reflections by Mansfield Center Executive Director Deena Mansour for the Chinese People’s Institute of Foreign Affairs Commemoration of the 50th Anniversary of the First China Trips by the US Congress, an online symposium

April 26-27, 2022

The 50th Anniversary of Senator Mike Mansfield’s official trip to China in April and May 1972 presents an opportunity to reflect on the history of U.S.-China relations in the past half century and to contemplate the path forward for two of the world’s leading powers. As Executive Director of the Maureen and Mike Mansfield Center at the University of Montana, I am privileged and delighted to join my Chinese and American colleagues in marking this anniversary.

Mansfield’s 1972 visit helped reconnect the United States and China after a gap of more than 20 years, during which our two countries confronted each other on the battlefields of Korea and were on opposite sides of the Cold War. As the Senate Majority leader, Mansfield welcomed the opportunity to revisit China, a country he had first briefly glimpsed as a young Marine, and to reacquaint himself with a people and civilization that he deeply admired and studied.

Mansfield first travelled to China in 1922, when he visited Tianjin and Shanghai while stationed in the Philippines as a U.S. Marine. This visit sparked a lifelong interest in China and East Asian affairs. He taught courses in Far Eastern history as a member of the University of Montana faculty and, in 1944, during his time in the U.S. House of Representatives, convinced President Roosevelt to send him to China as a special emissary.

Through these experiences, Mansfield developed an interest in U.S. policy in Asia. In a 1968 speech entitled, "China: Retrospect and Prospect", that Mansfield gave at the University of Montana, he expressed his view that “there will be no durable peace in Korea, Viet Nam, or anywhere else in Asia unless there is a candid confrontation with the problems of the Sino-U.S. relationship.” Mansfield argued that it was essential that the two countries end their mutual distrust and suspicion.

The election of Richard Nixon Presidency in 1968 brought a staunchly anticommunist Republican to the U.S. presidency. However, Nixon had come to believe that re-opening ties with China was in the national interest. Though he kept his intentions secret, President Nixon made an opening to China a central part of his foreign policy agenda, eventually traveling to China in February 1972.

Majority Leader Mansfield soon followed, joined on his visit by Minority Leader Senator Hugh Scott and their wives. This trip was the culmination of Mansfield’s dream to revisit China after more than 25 years of diplomatic isolation between the two countries, and was an important step in rebuilding the shattered relationship. They met with Premier Zhou Enlai and other leading Chinese officials, traveling to Beijing, Shanghai, Guangzhou, and the countryside.

Upon returning to the U.S., Mansfield completed an official report documenting the trip and outlining his observations. The report, entitled Journey to the New China, stressed the positive aspects of China’s economic and social growth in the more than two decades since the creation of the People’s Republic of China. Overlooking the tragedy of the Cultural Revolution, Mansfield concluded that China “has become a viable modern society with an approach to social participation and responsibility which is rooted in the past, meets the needs of the present, and offers a soundly based hope for the future.”

The Mansfield Center was founded by an act of the U.S. Congress in 1983, but functions as an autonomous academic unit of the University of Montana, responsible for its own funding and programs. Among our core priorities is educating the American people about the history and current relations between the United States and the people of Asia.

A productive relationship with China is critical to the U.S. – and to the Mansfield Center. While we are at one of the most challenging times in our relationship, it is important that each side finds a way to set aside differences to find a path forward that serves stability and peace. There will never be progress on the great challenges of our day – such as climate change, global health, weapons proliferation, peace on the Korean Peninsula – until both sides find ways to make our relationship work.

Mike Mansfield was an historian, a teacher, and a statesman, born and raised in the best tradition of American democracy, who also studied, taught, and respected the great accomplishments of the Chinese people. We at the Mansfield Center who honor and carry forward his legacy believe as he did in a commitment to truth, tolerance, and universal human values that transcend the current profound political and ideological differences between the United States and China. That commitment must be the foundation upon which our two great peoples, who in their power bear a special responsibility to humanity, work together to address such existential problems of the 21st century.

Thank you.






2022 年 4 月 26 日/27 日



美国参议员迈克·曼斯菲尔德 (Mike Mansfield) 在1972 年 4 月和 5 月对中国进行了正式访问,到现在已有50 周年。这是一个让我们反思过去半个世纪中美关系历史的机会,以及深入思考作为世界两个主要大国的前进道路。作为蒙大拿大学莫林和迈克·曼斯菲尔德中心的执行主任,我很荣幸,也很高兴能与我的中美同事一起庆祝这个周年纪念日。

曼斯菲尔德 1972 年的访问帮助美国和中国在时隔 20 多年后重新接触,在此期间,我们两国在朝鲜战场上相互对抗,并处于冷战的对立面。作为参议院多数党的领袖,曼斯菲尔德很高兴有机会重访中国,这是他作为年轻的海军陆战队员时第一次短暂领略过的国家。这次重新访问使他又一次认识了中国的人民,并钦佩中国的文明。

1922年,当曼斯菲尔德首次前往中国时,他还是一位驻扎在菲律宾的美国海军陆战队员,他访问了天津和上海,这激发了他对中国和东亚事务的终生兴趣。在蒙大拿大学,他作为教授开设了远东历史课程,并于 1944 年在美国众议院任职期间,说服罗斯福总统将他作为特使派往中国。

基于这些经历,曼斯菲尔德对美国方面制定的亚洲政策产生了兴趣。1968 年他在蒙大拿大学发表演讲的题目就是--“中国:回顾与展望”,他表达了这样的观点:“除非坦诚面对中美关系问题,否则韩国、越南或亚洲其他任何地方都不会有持久的和平。”曼斯菲尔德当时认为,两国必须结束相互的不信任和猜忌。

1968年,理查德·尼克松(Richard Nixon)当选为美国总统,作为一位坚定反共的共和党人,在他的总统任期,尼克松逐渐相信,重新开放与中国的关系符合美国国家利益。尽管尼克松总统对他的意图保持缄默,但他将向中国开放作为其外交政策议程的核心部分,最终他于1972年2月访问了中国。

随后,多数党领袖曼斯菲尔德很快跟进,加入了少数党领袖参议员休·斯科特(Hugh Scot)和他们的妻子们对中国的访问。此行是曼斯菲尔德在中美两国外交孤立超过 25 年后重访中国的梦想的高峰,也是重建两国破碎关系的重要一步。他们会见了周恩来总理和其他中国主要官员,并参观了北京、上海、广州和农村等地。




迈克·曼斯菲尔德(Mike Mansfield)是一位历史学家、教师和政治家,在美国最好的民主传统中出生和成长,同时,他也学习、教学和尊重中国人民的伟大成