Ambassador Nicholas Platt
Ambassador Nicholas Platt discussed his new book China Boys: How U.S. Relations with the PRC Began and Grew, and the resumption of U.S.-China relations in the 1960s and 1970s at the offices of Jones Day in New York. The memoir chronicles the preparations and negotiations that went into Nixon’s 1972 trip; fourteen months later setting up the first American diplomatic office in the People’s Republic, in which he served; and some of the first exchanges between Americans and Chinese, several of them organized by the National Committee. He explained how National Security Advisor Henry Kissinger and President Nixon saw the relationship as an international balancing act among the United States, China and the Soviet Union, delegating the “nuts and bolts” to then mid-level foreign service officer Platt and his colleagues. Over the years these “nuts and bolts” fastened together the United States-China relationship.
Ambassador Platt reflected on how he personally became involved with China and discussed his own experiences living there at such a crucial time of the relationship. Through home videos of his initial stays in China, Ambassador Platt brought to life what it was like to be in the PRC when it was re-opening its borders to the world. Ambassador Platt explained the title of the book: just after signing the Shanghai Communique, President Nixon told him “you China Boys are going to have a lot more to do from now on.”
After focusing on Europe as a student (he holds a bachelor’s degree from Harvard and a master’s from Johns Hopkins), Nicholas Platt thought that China would be a good career choice for a young foreign service officer, even though Americans could not visit China at the time. He studied Mandarin at the Foreign Service Institute in Washington and then in Taichung (Taiwan) before being posted to Hong Kong in 1964. He capped his distinguished career at the State Department as ambassador to Zambia, the Philippines, and Pakistan. Upon his retirement he took on the presidency of the Asia Society, serving for 12 successful years.