Nixon in China

A bold, historic leap of faith that can only be accomplished by a leader or party that has established a sterling reputation for opposing such a move. A rare example of an Americanism being used to describe Canadian politics.

In the early 1970s, US President Richard Nixon launched an historic diplomatic breakthrough with China. It was, ironically, Nixon’s personal political history of implacable and often bellicose anti-communism that enabled him to achieve this defining success. A president on the left would have been perceived as “soft”, and the move as a dangerous undermining of national security. Nixon, on the other hand, was trusted by hardliners not to compromise national security. Moreover, he was able to bring his political “base” along with him on a move that would have been previously unthinkable.

The expression “Nixon in China” has subsequently described such situations as Jean Chrétien’s Liberals in the 1990s being trusted by the public to inflict massive budget cuts, in a way that Brian Mulroney’s Conservatives never were.

Similarly, Stephen Harper’s Conservatives were able on November 27,2006 to propose – and pass – a Parliamentary motion declaring Quebec a “nation”,1 is something only he, leading what had begun as a Western Protest Party, could accomplish.

Image Source: Wikimedia Commons


  1. CBC News, House passes motion recognizing Québecois as nation, Nov 27, 2006.

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