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The Film and More
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The American Experience
Suggestions for the Classroom


Themes: International relations, foreign policy, government, media, diplomacy, role of the presidency



Before Viewing Discussion

  1. Richard Nixon once said, "We can see that China is the basic cause of all our troubles in Asia." Locate China on a world map. Discuss contextual world politics at the end of the 1960s. Include such issues as cold war tensions, the raging conflict in Vietnam, the United States’ relationship with Taiwan/non-relationship with China, and lingering effects of the Korean War. The Timeline provides useful reference points. Use the Map feature to more closely study China’s position in Asia; talk about the "domino effect" as well as China’s borders and relationship with the Soviet Union. How might a good U.S.—Sino relationship have served the U.S.? How might better relations with China affect the U.S.—Soviet relationship?

  2. Talk with students about the role communism played in Nixon’s political rise. Include discussion of Nixon’s membership in the House Un-American Activities Committee and his actions in the Alger Hiss espionage case. (Refer to The American Experience’s related Web site on Nixon’s life) Did Nixon’s anti-Communist actions appeal to the majority of Americans at that time? Why might a cold warrior such as Nixon want, at long last, to open doors to "Red China"?



After Viewing Discussion

  1. Discuss Nixon’s foreign policy methods: Why did he keep so many activities secret? Did secrecy help or hinder his ultimate goals? Was it legal? Who was harmed? Who had a right to know about such foreign policy? Was Nixon successful?

  2. Nixon said of his trip to China, "This was the week that changed the world." Discuss the meaning behind these words: How did the balance of global power shift? What relationships were changed? How do they affect the world today? Have these changes been for better or worse?



Activities

  1. Henry Kissinger noted of the television coverage of Nixon’s historic trip, "Pictures overrode the printed word." Nixon made television coverage of his public actions in China a priority, and created a presidential public relations opportunity of a lifetime. Ask students to research and compare various press coverage from Nixon’s trip–newspapers, Time magazine, television coverage included in the film. Which type of coverage do they think was most effective from Nixon’s point of view? From the public’s point of view? Why? Which was more critical? Which do students find more appealing? Why?

  2. One newspaper noted of the outcome of Nixon’s China trip, "They got Taiwan, we got egg rolls." Divide the class into two groups to debate whether Taiwan was treated fairly by Nixon. Students may use the People & Events feature "The Shanghai Communiqué" as reference. Did Nixon live up to previous promises? Did Taiwan suffer? What, if anything, did Taiwan lose? What, if anything, did China gain at Taiwan’s expense? Which countries ultimately profited from Nixon’s actions?

  3. itutions as communes, factories, schools, hospitals, and kitchens, as well as to accompany her husband to social functions. She largely kept her opinions to herself. How has the foreign relations role of First Lady changed since Pat Nixon lived in the White House? How has it remained the same? Ask students to compare Pat Nixon with Hillary Rodham Clinton. Have them research personal papers, newspaper stories and columns, and photographs to discuss in class the public role of each. How meaningful are their actions? How controversial? How do their methods differ? How do their causes differ? Who has been successful, and why? What, in students’ opinions, should be the role of First Spouse?

  4. Although William Rogers was Secretary of State, it was national security advisor Henry Kissinger who acted as Nixon’s right-hand diplomat during the China visit. Have students write a letter home from the point of view of William Rogers. Tone may be as informal as they like. Ask students to consider the following: What is the role of Secretary of State? Who actually acted in that role during the China visit? Was Rogers treated well by Nixon? Did he have all the information that he needed? Did he have input? How did he feel towards Henry Kissinger? (Students may reference the Henry Kissinger interview in the Special Features section of this site.) How did Rogers feel about the outcome of Nixon’s visit?.



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