Presidents of the United States in China

Presidents of the United States in China
40 Years of U.S.-China Relations

Follow us as we go back in history to 1979 to learn more about American Presidents connections and visits to China.

President Reagan and Nancy Reagan meeting with Deng Xiaoping

President Reagan and Nancy Reagan meeting with Deng Xiaoping

“Let us hope that, as contacts grow between the Chinese and American people, each of us will continue to learn about the other, and this important new friendship of ours will mature and prosper.”

Ronald Reagan was the first sitting American President to visit China after the re-establishment of diplomatic relations by the U.S. and the People’s Republic of China on January 1, 1979.

The six-day state visit took place during April 26 – May 1, 1984. The President and first lady traveled to Beijing, Xi’an, and Shanghai. In Beijing the couple met with China’s leader at the time, Deng Xiaoping, as pictured here on April 28, 1984. During this trip, Mr. Reagan expressed gratitude for the Chinese people’s ”admirable patience and endless courtesy.” (Photo: Ronald Reagan Presidential Library)

Ronald Reagan and First Lady Nancy Reagan visited the Terra Cotta soldiers

Ronald Reagan and First Lady Nancy Reagan visited the Terra Cotta soldiers

U.S. President Ronald Reagan and First Lady Nancy Reagan visited the Terra Cotta soldiers near Xi’an on April 29, 1984. A reporter for The New York Times observed that they visited the site with “a mixture of awe and whimsy.” The couple posed for pictures with soldiers, horses, and chariots, commenting on how real everything looked. President Reagan, who was a rancher and horseman, motioned toward a Terra Cotta horse and asked his Chinese host, “May I touch it? I know it can’t kick me.” The President said it was hard to absorb everything at this site all at once and that he would be thinking about it for a long time. “My trip to China has been as important and enlightening as any I’ve taken as President,” Reagan said on the final day of his visit to China.(Photo: Ronald Reagan Presidential Library)

President Reagan and Chinese Premier Zhao Ziyang

President Reagan and Chinese Premier Zhao Ziyang

On April 30, 1984, during President Reagan’s trip to Beijing, the U.S. and China signed a series of new agreements. The agreements were for scientific and cultural exchanges, economic cooperation, and the development of nuclear energy. President Reagan and Chinese Premier Zhao Ziyang are pictured here shaking hands after the signing ceremony. During his remarks that day, Mr. Reagan said the agreements were an indication that growing ties with China had been ”one of the principal events in postwar diplomacy.” Before he left China the next day, Reagan and Zhao spoke by phone. Zhao told him, “I think that your visit has enhanced understanding and improved relations between our two countries. So I would like to congratulate you on the success of your visit.” In response, Reagan replied that he was departing China “with many warm memories and a warm feeling for you and your people.” (Photo: Ronald Reagan Presidential Library)

President Ronald Reagan in Shanghai

President Ronald Reagan in Shanghai

Shanghai was U.S. President Ronald Reagan’s last stop during a six-day tour of China in 1984. In this picture, Mr. and Mrs. Reagan watch as a Chinese girl dances in his honor at the Rainbow Bridge Township Day Care Center on May 1, 1984. During this Chinese Labor Day holiday, hundreds of thousands of Chinese people jammed the streets of the old commercial city to greet Presdient Reagan. Some said it was the biggest reception of his career. At one point the President dabbed his eye with a hankercheif, apparently touched by the warm greeting. While in Shanghai, Mr. Reagan met with 700 students at Fudan University. “We invite you to know us,” he said, presenting a personal account of the United States as a nation of immigrants displaying fairness, idealism, compassion, optimism, religion and love of peace. “My young friends, history is a river that may take us as it will. But we have the power to navigate, to choose direction, and make our passage together. The wind is up, the current is swift, and opportunity for a long and fruitful journey awaits us.”(Photo: Ronald Reagan Presidential Library)

George Herbert Walker Bush visited Guangzhou

George Herbert Walker Bush visited Guangzhou

As U.S. envoy to China in 1975, Mr. George Herbert Walker Bush visited Guangzhou for the first time.  He attended the Guangzhou trade fair and took the train to Hong Kong.  Mr. Bush reflected on the scenery from the window of a train in his personal diary:  “As far as the eye can see, there are bright green fields and cultivation.”  When he returned to Guangzhou again in 1985, then Vice President Bush repeated the train ride.  This time, he and his wife Barbara took a special train from Guangzhou to Shenzhen, as pictured here aboard the train on October 13, 1985.  (AP)

Bush visited Guilin

Bush visited Guilin

From 1974-75, Bush was appointed by President Ford as the U.S. envoy to the People’s Republic of China. Because the U.S. and China did not yet have full diplomatic relations at the time, Mr. Bush served as chief of the U.S. Liaison’s Office instead of as Ambassador. Mr. Bush and his wife Barbara visited many parts of China during their two-year stay. Later, during Mr. Bush’s time as Vice President from 1981-1989, they returned to China. The Bushes are pictured here on October 13, 1985 visiting beautiful and historic Guilin.(AP)

President Jimmy Carter

President Jimmy Carter

When it comes to China, U.S. President Jimmy Carter is perhaps best known for re-establishing official diplomatic relations between the two countries on January 1, 1979.  After leaving office, Mr. Carter and his wife Rosalynn founded The Carter Center in 1982.  The former President was invited by the new leaders of China to Beijing in 2012.  Here he is pictured with then China’s Vice President and Party Chairman Xi Jinping at the Zhongnanhai leadership compound in Beijing on December 13, 2012.(Photo: @AP Images)

Carter’s return to southern China in 2011

Carter’s return to southern China in 2011

Former U.S. President Jimmy Carter describes U.S.-China relations as “one of the most important friendships in the world.”  President Carter sometimes talks about his lifelong fascination with China.  When he was a small boy, his uncle who was in the Navy sent him letters and gifts from China.  Carter remembers fondly visiting southern China on his first submarine in 1949 and still has photographs of Hong Kong Bay, streets, and rickshaws.  Years later, this picture shows Carter’s return to southern China in 2011.(Photo: Consul General James Levy personal photo)

President Bill Clinton's visit to China

President Bill Clinton's visit to China

“A new day is dawning for the Chinese people, for China’s greatness lies, as always, with its people,” declared U.S. President Bill Clinton during his arrival ceremony to China’s ancient capital of Xi’an. President Clinton traveled to China for a state visit from June 24 to July 3, 1998. Mr. and Mrs. Clinton are pictured here greeting students in Xiahe village outside of Xi’an on Friday, June 26, 1998.

Earlier in the day, the President held a roundtable discussion in this rural village, one of 500,000 communities that held democratic elections of local leaders. The people of Xi’an said it was one of the largest spontaneous gatherings they could remember, according to coverage by The New York Times. “There’s never been another event like this here – I don’t think I’ve ever seen this many people come out for anything,” said Sun Qinqi, an engineer. During the course of this nine-day trip, Mr. Clinton, First Lady Hillary, and their daughter Chelsea made stops in five cities: Xi’an, Beijing, Shanghai, Guilin, and Hong Kong. After Xi’an, Mr. Clinton would move on to engage in a debate with Chinese President Jiang Zemin broadcast on live television, deliver a speech to 500 students at Peking University, and tour the Li River in Guilin to highlight environmental protection. After taking questions from university students, Mr. Clinton said, “The questions were far more important than my speech.” He added, “I never learn anything when I’m talking. I only learn things when I’m listening.”(Photo: @AP Images)

President George W. Bush visited Shanghai in 2001

President George W. Bush visited Shanghai in 2001

President George W. Bush visited Shanghai from October 18-21, 2001 to attend the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) forum. During this summit, leaders from across the Pacific Rim signed a visionary statement against terrorism. Chinese President Jiang Zemin read the opening of the declaration, “Leaders unequivocally condemn in the strongest terms the terrorist attacks in the United States on 11 September 2001, and express their deepest sympathy and condolences to the victims of a large number of nationalities and their families and to the people and Government of the United States of America.” Jiang and Bush are pictured here in traditional Chinese silk jackets before an informal meeting on the last day of the 2001 APEC summit. During the summit, Mr. Bush expressed America’s gratitude: “The American people are grateful for the world’s sympathy and support following September 11. We truly are. We won’t forget the American Stars and Stripes flying in solidarity from every fire truck in Montreal, Canada; or children kneeling in silent prayer outside the embassy in Seoul; baseball players in Japan observing moments of silence; a sign handwritten in English at a candlelight vigil in Beijing that read, “Freedom and justice will not be stopped.” (Photo: @AP Images)

President George W. Bush and First Lady Laura Bush visited China in 2002

President George W. Bush and First Lady Laura Bush visited China in 2002

In February 2002, President George W. Bush and First Lady Laura Bush arrived in Beijing on the 30th anniversary of President Richard Nixon’s historic first visit to China.  In his remarks at Tsinghua University, President Bush recognized this anniversary:  “Thirty years ago this week, an American President arrived in China on a trip designed to end decades of estrangement and confront centuries of suspicion.  President Richard Nixon showed the world that two vastly different governments could meet on the grounds of common interest, and in a spirit of mutual respect.  As they left the airport that day, Premier Zhou Enlai said to President Nixon, ‘Your handshake came over the vastest ocean in the world – twenty-five years of no communication.’” During this second visit to China since taking office, President Bush held a summit with Chinese President Jiang Zemin on February 21-22.  The American first couple also took some time to see the sights. They visited the Great Wall together, and Mrs. Bush attended a cooking demonstration at the U.S. Embassy.

George W. Bush’s third trip to China as President in 2005

George W. Bush’s third trip to China as President in 2005

During this third trip to China as President in 2005, President Bush met with Chinese President Hu Jintao at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing and had lunch with Premier Wen Jiabao.  Bush said afterwards, “We have a complex relationship and it’s a really important relationship.  I mean, China is a big, growing, strong country.  And it’s very important for me to maintain a good working relationship with the leadership here.”  During this visit to Beijing, First Lady Laura Bush toured the Ming Tombs and the Urban Planning Museum with Sarah Randt, wife of U.S. Ambassador to China Clark Randt.  In anticipation of the upcoming 2008 Beijing Olympics, Mr. Bush tried out the Laoshan Olympic Mountain Bike Course in western Beijing. Here he is pictured riding with Chinese cyclists on Sunday afternoon, November 20.  The Presidential Seal and the words “United States of America” were visible on Mr. Bush’s customized carbon fiber mountain bike.  “It is clear that I couldn’t make the Chinese cycling team,” Mr. Bush told reporters that evening, although his hosts did allow him to take the lead.(Photo: @AP Images)

President George W. Bush traveled to China for the last time as President

President George W. Bush traveled to China for the last time as President

In August 2008, President George W. Bush traveled to China for the last time as President. During this five-day trip to Beijing, he dedicated the new U.S. Embassy, attended opening ceremonies of the Summer Olympic Games, and met with Chinese President Hu Jintao. When Mr. Bush dedicated the embassy, he commented on America and China’s shared history: “We share a long history. The first American ship arrived in China just after the year we won our independence. We all remember very clearly when President Nixon came to Beijing to begin a new era of dialogue between our nations. Today the United States and China have built a strong relationship, rooted in common interests.” Bush also attended the opening ceremony of the Summer Olympic Games, which took place later the same day. As the first U.S. President to travel abroad for the Olympic Games, Mr. Bush watched as American swimmer Michael Phelps set a new world record in the men’s 400 meter medley. The two are pictured here on August 10, 2008 after Mr. Phelps was awarded one of the eight gold medals he would earn in Beijing.(Photo: @AP Images)

President Barack Obama made three trips to China while President

President Barack Obama made three trips to China while President

President Barack Obama made three trips to China while President. The first was a three-day, two-city tour of Shanghai and Beijing. He spent the first day in Shanghai and hosted a town hall-style event with Chinese youth at the Museum of Science and Technology. Here he is pictured greeting students after his talk on November 16, 2009. While in Beijing, Mr. Obama met with President Hu, National People’s Congress Chairman Wu, and Premier Wen. The President toured the Forbidden City and the Great Wall. At the Great Wall, he visited the steep, curving Badaling section. This is the same section of the Great Wall visited by President Nixon in 1972 when he said, “My hope is that in the future, perhaps as a result of the beginning that we have made on this journey that many, many Americans…will have an opportunity to come here.” After a brisk, 30-minute climb along the wall with U.S. Ambassador Jon Huntsman and Chinese Ambassador to the U.S. Zhou Wenzhong, Mr. Obama said he had gained perspective. “It’s a reminder of the ancient history of the Chinese people,” Mr. Obama said of the structure: “It gives you a good perspective on a lot of the day-to-day things. They don’t amount to much in the scope of history.” He added, “Our time here on Earth is not that long and we better make the best of it.”(Photo: @AP Images)

President Barack Obama's last trip to China before leaving office

President Barack Obama's last trip to China before leaving office

During his last trip to China before leaving office, President Barack Obama met with President Xi Jinping for a bilateral meeting on the margins of the G20 Leaders Summit in Hangzhou, China. The two heads of state exchanged views and affirmed their commitment to work together to constructively manage differences and decided to expand and deepen cooperation on a variety of global, regional, and bilateral topics. Presidents Obama and Xi were seen going for a late night walk through the diplomatic compound on West Lake after a day of negotiations and stopped at a pagoda to enjoy a cup of tea. Mr. Obama is pictured here near the West Lake State Guest House in Hangzhou in eastern China’s Zhejiang province on Saturday September 3, 2016.(Photo: @AP Images)

U.S. President Donald Trump’s first trip to China as President

U.S. President Donald Trump’s first trip to China as President

U.S. President Donald Trump’s first trip to China as President took place during a five-country tour of Asia in November 2017. Trump’s visit included a meeting with President Xi and a State Dinner. Mr. Trump showed Mr. Xi a video of his granddaughter Arabella Kushner singing in Mandarin and reciting classical Chinese poetry. In response to Arabella’s performance, Mr. Xi said she is worthy of an A+ and encouraged her to visit China soon. President Xi personally gave President Trump and First Lady Melania Trump a tour of the Forbidden City, and then the two first couples watched Chinese opera and an acrobatic display. “That’s something!” President Trump said after the show, as he and Mr. Xi walked away, adding, “We’re having a great time.” Here the Presidents and First Ladies are pictured with opera performers on November 8, 2017.(Photo: @AP Images)