Published May 1971 — Download PDF of the original newspaper column
Byrd's-Eye View By U.S. Senator Robert C. Byrd The Two Faces of a Paper Tiger Communist China, after inviting the American table tennis team to visit the Mainland, has reverted back to its policy of total hostility toward the United States. The return to hostility was a move that should have been expected; and its shows that Red China, rather than putting on a new face during the "ping pong diplomacy," was just taking on a second one. In recent days, Premier Chou En Lai has reminded the people of Communist China that the government of the United States is both "repressive" and "imperialistic." This is the same Chou En Lai who, just a short time ago, described the U.S.-Chinese table tennis matches as opening "a new page" in relations between the United States and The People's Republic of China. The contradictory statements point up the need for the United States to proceed with extreme caution in its dealings with Communist China. Further steps should be taken to open additional channels of communication between the two countries, but the United States cannot afford to concede too much simply to assure a return match of table tennis. For instance, as long ago as 1965, America lifted the travel ban for doctors and medical scientists to travel behind the Bamboo Curtain. A year later, the ban was lifted for scholars, writers, and persons engaged in cultural, athletic, and educational activities. But China would admit none of these Americans. Only July 21, 1969, the United States made another move, announcing the automatic validation of passports for Americans to travel to Mainland China. However, of the 1,000 passports validated, China allowed only three Americans to enter. Even in the field of trade, the United States has been making overtures toward China for the past 12 years. The trade ban invoked on December 17, 1950, has been gradually lifted. American drug manufacturers were told they could sell medicines to Communist China; and the limitation on the amount of Chinese-made products that could be purchased by American tourists was lifted. The Chinese response to all these initiatives was to invite the United States table tennis team to visit the Mainland~ hardly a magnanimous gesture when compared to the American moves t h a t preceded it. It would be a mistake for the United States to welcome Communist China into the international family of nations without first waiting for Peking to show some stronger initiatives. Ping Pong Diplomacy is one thing~and it should continue. However, the real world in which we have to live demands that we proceed with caution, and on a more substantive diplomatic 1 eve 1, when dealing with Communist China.