A Week That Changed The World

Xi Jinping’s Empire of Tedium, Appendix V


Assignment: China is a multipart documentary series focussed on the journalists who have described the remarkable changes in China since the 1940s. Conceived and supervised by Clayton Dube and written and reported by Mike Chinoy, both at the U.S.-China Institute of the University of Southern California, this historical series features interviews with journalists which are illustrated by archival news footage and other material.

With the kind permission and support of Clayton Dube, we offer links to two episodes from Assignment: China  as part of ‘1972 朝 — Coups, Nixon & China’, a joint miniseries both in Xi Jinping’s Empire of Tedium and Spectres & Souls published by China Heritage.

— Geremie R. Barmé


, Editor, China Heritage
Distinguished Fellow, The Asia Society
23 February 2022


Related Material:


From left to right: Zhou Enlai, Wang Hairong, Mao Zedong, Richard Nixon, Henry Kissinger (Winston Lord, initially deleted from the officially released photograph) meeting in Mao Zedong’s study at Zhongnanhai, Beijing, 21 February 1972

Click here for a transcript of the meeting.


The Week That Changed the World

Richard Nixon’s visit to China in February 1972 changed the course of history — reshaping the global balance of power and opening the door to the establishment of relations between the People’s Republic and the United States.

It was also a milestone in the history of journalism. Since the Communist revolution of 1949, a suspicious regime in Beijing had barred virtually all U.S. reporters from China. For the Nixon trip, however, the Chinese agreed to accept nearly 100 journalists, and to allow the most dramatic events — Nixon’s arrival in Beijing, Zhou Enlai’s welcoming banquet, visits to the Great Wall and the Forbidden City — to be televised live.

The coverage was arguably as important as the details of the diplomacy. It profoundly transformed American and international perceptions of a long-isolated China, generated the public support Nixon needed to change U.S. policy, and laid the groundwork for Beijing’s gradual move to open China to greater international media coverage.

While the outlines of the Nixon trip are familiar, the behind-the-scenes story of how that momentous event was covered is much less well-known. This segment of Assignment: China focuses on journalists who went with Nixon and includes interviews with those officials who sought to shape the coverage. The Week that Changed the World contains previously unreleased footage of the Nixon visit, as well as interviews with journalistic luminaries such as Dan Rather and Bernard Kalb of CBS, Ted Koppel and Tom Jarriel of ABC, Barbara Walters of NBC, Max Frankel of the New York Times, Stanley Karnow of the Washington Post, and many others.

Reported and narrated by U.S.-China Institute Senior Fellow Mike Chinoy, formerly CNN’s Senior Asia Correspondent and Beijing Bureau Chief, and edited by USCI Multimedia Editor Craig Stubing, the film offers a fascinating and previously untold perspective on one of the most important historical moments of the 20th century. Clayton Dube conceived of the Assignment: China project and supervises it.





End of an Era

After the Nixon opening (1972) and before Mao’s death and the fall of the Gang of Four (1976), American news organizations began to get greater access to China. This segment in the Assignment: China series focuses on the challenges journalists faced and what they were able to accomplish during reporting trips and their continued overall reliance on the techniques of China-watching from Hong Kong.

The documentaries prepared by the networks offered a much richer look at China than had been possible previously. CBS focused, for example, on Shanghai and ABC on “the people of People’s China.” One journalist managed, as part of a left-wing group, to get to work at various sites in China, including Dazhai, the model commune. Others visited to cover the trips of American leaders including Secretary of State Henry Kissinger and President Gerald Ford. During the latter’s visit, one of Chairman Mao’s translators, Nancy Tang [唐聞生], sparked the imagination of cartoonist Gary Trudeau who turned her into the character “Honey” in his Doonesbury strip. The political strains of the era were felt by all. One especially interesting story involves a return visit thirty-years later to re-interview a teacher who was terrified of her students.

During this period, several of the Hong Kong-based China watchers reported on political struggles among China’s leaders. Deng Xiaoping reappeared on the scene, only to be purged again. Mao welcomed Nixon back to China in 1976, but the Chairman, along with Premier Zhou Enlai, exited the stage in 1976. Jiang Qing, Mao’s widow, and her associates moved to consolidate power, but the episode ends with them in prison and a giant propaganda campaign to condemn them.




A Note on ‘Honey’:

A graduate of Peking University (Class of 1974), Honey Huan has had a notable if largely inexplicable career. Her service as translator to U.S. Ambassador to China Duke inspired her to attend Georgetown University in Washington, DC, where she studied with Henry Kissinger. Her association with Duke resumed when they co-founded a small business working the waters off the Florida coast. Subsequently she helped him found the Baby Doc College of Physicians, serving as dean, and later president.

After working for the Dr. Whoopee condom company, and pursuing some personal business with the Gambino family, she became Social Director aboard Donald Trump’s yacht, the Trump Princess. Returning to Peking for a college reunion led to her inadvertent involvement in the Tiananmen Square uprising: She sought refuge in the U.S. Embassy after being named one of China’s 25 most-wanted hooligans. Secreted out of the country by husband-of-convenience Duke, she went on to serve as his sub-Maximum Pro-Consul in post-invasion Panama. Although no longer married, they also worked together to develop Club Scud, a social hub in Kuwait City during and after the Gulf War, and, after peace was restored, went on to found the Nothing But Orphans Home for Foundlings.

She and Duke played a critical role in organizing inaugural festivities for Jesse “Mind over Body” Ventura. And it was Ms. Huan’s counsel which led to Duke’s fascinating and futile 2002 run for the White House. Most Honey-watchers agree that Ms. Huan is the only person standing between Duke and permanent incarceration, having devoted her considerable talents to the thankless task of protecting her imagined paramour from himself. This role was never more important than during the former Ambassador’s harrowing stint as Mayor of the city al-Amok in Iraq. Nor more tested than during her courtship there by a green-card-besotted suitor named Nebuchadnezzar (aka “Nebby” whose treatment of Ms. Huan was, improbably, worse than Duke’s.

After fleeing the war-torn country to seek more gainful — and survivable – employment as part of the Hurricane Katrina rebuilding effort, the duo ultimately reached an impasse in their ever-strained relationship. Liberating herself from permanent sidekick status, Honey left Duke and had a New Orleans epiphany while serving as a float captain for FEMA at Mardi Gras. She has never looked back. During the summer of 2009 Ms. Huan served in China as a member of the Olympic Committee, and a fortuitous twist of fate allowed her and Duke to rejoin forces briefly to put together a team for Berzerkistan.

More recently, Honey appeared in Washington as part of an official PRC delegation to thank Mitt Romney for creating jobs in China while working at Bain Capital.