In July/August of 1976, the National Committee organized the first congressional staff member delegation to the People’s Republic. The 14 participants were drawn from 11 different House and Senate committees that work on foreign affairs, and included participants with a broad range of interests and expertise. The three-week historic trip included stops in Beijing, Xinxiang, Zhengzhou, Nanjing, Yangzhou, Wuxi, and Shanghai.
Over the next three weeks, there were brief introductions at factories and communes, universities and kindergartens, healthcare facilities in both urban and rural settings; extensive economic and political briefings were given by government officials in Beijing and by Revolutionary Committees at institutions around the country; and the group even visited a local militia brigade on a commune in Xinxiang (the Chiliying Commune, where Mao had proclaimed “People’s Communes are good”) and a People’s Liberation Army unit in Yangzhou.
The host, the Chinese People’s Institute of Foreign Affairs, always extremely solicitous of National Committee delegations, was even more so with this group, as the Tangshan earthquake, the deadliest of the 20th century, occurred the second night of the group’s stay in China. Though Tangshan is about 110 miles from Beijing, the latter was affected as well, and the picture above shows the delegation in varying states of dress and undress, outside the Peking Hotel at about 4:00 am, shortly after the first major tremor.
After a hiatus of two decades, the Committee resumed working in this area, sponsoring visits of both members of Congress and Senate and House staff members, both D.C. and state/district-based.