Why was President Nixon believed to be the only President capable of opening diplomatic, economic and cultural relations with China?
It was generally felt by intelligent Americans that the only way for us to get out of the Vietnamese debacle was to make a deal with China. We couldn't just pull out because it would be a humiliation and would leave thousands of American prisoners in Vietnamese captivity. They could put these prisoners on trial one by one and sentence them to long prison terms or even execution. The Chinese were keeping the North Vietnamese supplied with weaponry and other necessities. President Nixon opened diplomatic, economic and cultural relations with China--he "played the China card"--because he was the President at that critical time. No doubt another president would have done the same thing, but Nixon was the man in the Oval Office, so he gets the credit and the blame. He relied heavily on Henry Kissinger, as well as many other advisers, in dealing with the Chinese and the North Vietnamese. Once he paid his rather embarrassing personal visit to China and gave them U.S. recognition, the Vietnamese problem seemed to resolve itself by magic. We put the best face on it we could, but it was a defeat and a humiliation--and a good lesson to our government and our military.