On this day 48 years ago, President Richard Nixon declared he would visit the People’s Republic of China, ending an almost twenty-five-year span of zero communication between the two countries. Nixon’s visit to Beijing in February 1972 became one of the most significant events in over two hundred years of U.S.-China history. Nixon’s visit not only resumed the bilateral relationship after a break of almost a quarter of a century but served as a foundational step in China’s economic boom.
For the Nixon trip, Pan American World Airways produced an unknown quantity of commemorative attaché bags. To create the design, Pan Am updated its iconic travel bag with the inscription “The Visit of President Richard M. Nixon’s to The People’s Republic of China.” Curiously, the inscription fails to mention the date of the trip. Why? Perhaps the date was top secret, or perhaps the certainty of the trip was too unstable to mark a precise date at the time of manufacturing. More abstractly, the lack of a date underscores the importance of the trip, as if to say that the trip was so remarkable its date should be known to all, or so universally significant that its date bears little importance.