President Richard Nixon’s grandson is in China to retrace his grandfather‘s famous 1972 trip to the country.
34-year-old Christopher Nixon Cox has visited China before on 15 separate occasions, but this trip is a little different. Organized by the Nixon Foundation (a branch of the late president’s library in California) and the Chinese People’s Association for Friendship with Foreign Countries, it falls in the same year of the president’s 100th birthday.
Nixon’s 1972 trip to China did much to thaw relations between the US and China, with the president later describing it as “the week that changed the world.” Now, Cox is following in the footsteps of his late grandfather, who passed away in 1994.
“I remember my grandfather telling me that to have one billion of the world’s most hard-working and talented people in isolation is something that is dangerous for the world,” Cox says in a Los Angeles Times interview. “He felt that a prosperous China was critical for peace and stability. He would be amazed [at modern China].”
China’s startling economic growth in recent decades was also noted by Jack Brennan. Brennan, a retired Marine Corps colonel, was the only member of the delegation with Nixon’s grandson in China to have gone on the 1972 trip. He told the Times:
“It feels like this country has advanced a couple of centuries. In 1972, there was just a small landing strip for the airport. When we drove in, we hardly saw any people and only a few Soviet-made cars. When it snowed, instead of snowplows there were hundreds and hundreds of Chinese sweeping the streets with brooms.”
While Cox’s visit may lack the diplomatic weight of his grandfather’s visit, there is a chance the visit could boost Cox’s own political ambitions. The investment banker ran unsuccessfully in 2010 in the Republican primary for a New York congressional seat.
He admits to the Times that the Nixon name is useful in making contacts:
“People usually figure it out when we exchange business cards, and it is definitely an icebreaker. But beyond that you still have to bring something to the table and live on your wit.”