Nicholas Platt on 'Bicycle Diplomacy'
HOUSTON, November 18, 2010 — In 1973 the U.S. Liaison Office in Beijing was probably the only Foreign Service posting where bicycle-rides were requiredduty. Only when ordinary Chinese could sidle up to a fellow cyclist would they bewilling to exchange a few words with an American diplomat. So biking became animportant window on the world of the Chinese people.
Nicholas Platt was among the young diplomats who salliedforth onto Beijingstreets in those pioneer days of U.S.-China relations. In a talk to Asia SocietyTexas Center,he discussed his time there and showed home movies depicting a skyscraper-less China virtuallyunrecognizable today.
Platt, who had accompanied President Richard Nixon on hishistoric trip to China in 1972, wenton to a distinguished government career, serving as ambassador to Pakistan, the Philippines,and Zambia.After retiring from the Foreign Service he served for 12 years as president ofAsia Society in New York.
The occasion for Platt's Houstontalk was the recent publication of his memoir ChinaBoys: How U.S.Relations With the PRC Began and Grew. In an onstage interview conducted byProfessor Hans Stockton of the Universityof St. Thomas, Platt elaborated on howChinahas changed over the past four decades and on his perceptions of Chineseleaders on the 1972 Nixon trip.
Reported by Fritz Lanham