Welcoming and Sending-off Scenes
In the early 1970s, China and the United States slowly began to reestablish diplomatic relations through a series of people-to-people dialogues and activities. The historic visit by the U.S. table tennis team sent to China to compete against the Chinese national team opened the door for future exchanges, including Nixon’s visit to China in 1972. The visits to China of the CCAS delegations in 1971 and 1972 were two of many exchanges occurring at the grassroots level before China and the United States established formal diplomatic relations in 1979 (He 2017).
The first delegation went to thirty-one different local organizations which included “factories, rural communes, hospitals, schools, local governments, housing settlements, retail stores, and research units” (CCAS 1972, 51). The second delegation visited work units of a similar nature, some in the same cities and communes visited by the first delegation including Beijing, Shanghai, Guangzhou and Dazhai. A sizable portion of the photos taken during both trips depicted scenes of hosts welcoming and sending off their American guests. Through the lenses of the delegations, workers, hospital staff, teachers, students, and children were seen congregating at the entrance of their workplaces to welcome the visitors. These welcoming scenes were highly routinized in that people assembled and stood along the sides of the gates. On some occasions, groups were so crowded that lines of people extended to the outskirts of the entrance, creating a wide aisle for the delegation.
People applauded and waved to the delegation members when they arrived. Small children, too young to grasp the meaning of these visits, were encouraged by their teachers to clap and wave their hands to welcome the foreign visitors. The outpouring of warmth and enthusiasm was evident in many photos. In some cases, drums and gongs were played and theatrical dance was performed as part of the ceremony. One local woman, a member of the Chinese militia, approached the delegation to tell them that “although we are in the militia to defend China, we are not enemies of American people…we know you, and most Americans, do not support the U.S. government policies, and we want to be friends. We feel no hostility for the American people” (CCAS 1972, 67). As the visit progressed, the delegation further commented that “everywhere, too, the people of China made the same distinction between our groups, as representatives of the American people, and the U.S. government... Because of this, there was no hesitation on their part in offering us their full friendship—everywhere, without question, the Chinese were warm, open and quick to accept us” (CCAS 1972, 67). The same impression was reiterated by William Joseph after he came back that “we were never treated with anything but the greatest warmth where we went” even in a time of heightened tension in Vietnam (Joseph 1972, 10). The same level of friendliness was also seen at sending-off scenes. From a slowly departing train , delegation members waved goodbye and expressed their gratitude to their Chinese hosts.