The objective of this paper has been to test the claims that Nixon’s much-vaunted opening to China (a bright spot in a political biography now forever blighted by the Watergate scandal) was actually an initiative of the Bilderberg Group. Recent studies, focusing on Senator Fulbright’s 1966 China hearings, and the CFR’s “The United States and China in World Affairs” project, have correctly highlighted how “academics and other members of the foreign policy elite led this national opinion shift on China.” Missing from those studies has been an acknowledgement of the Bilderberg Group’s important role in providing, not only a confidential forum to question and debate what was a highly sensitive issue in the US, but also some of the initial impetus for many of the initiatives that changed the policy. A review of the evidence highlights the extent of the Bilderberg Group’s role:
*It was at the instigation of the Bilderberg Steering Committee that the “problem of China”, or more specifically, US policies towards Communist China, was discussed at four Bilderberg meetings: 1956, 1958, 1959 and 1964. In each case European participants criticised the US policy of non-recognition; in response US participants either agreed with the criticism, but cited the domestic obstacles to changing it, or they tried to defend it.
*But the meetings did more than just discuss and debate the issue; they also identified existing supporters of change, influenced and changed the minds of some participants, and helped established networks of the like-minded. Moreover, at the 1958 meeting there appeared to be a consensus among some participants that only through a “cautious and gradual approach” could US rapprochement with the PRC be achieved. Much of the work that went into changing the policy occurred outside of the Bilderberg meetings, but in line with Bilderberg’s policies of encouraging participants to use Bilderberg deliberations in other forums and for its policy ideas to be developed by other groups.
*At least 13 of the US participants present at the four meetings were involved in some capacity either publicly or privately promoting a change in policy, or they contributed to initiatives from various US think-tanks and pressure groups with the same objective. A number of Bilderbergers, such as Arthur Dean and John J. McCloy were involved in multiple projects. One of the most significant actors in this enterprise was Bilderberg’s US Secretary General, Joseph E. Johnson who was involved in advocating rapprochement with Communist China through at least five initiatives including: both of the Council on Foreign Relations’ China projects; the Rockefeller Brothers Fund’s Special Studies Project; the UNA-USA National Policy Panel study on admitting the PRC to the UN; and the National Committee on US-China Relations.
*Three senior Bilderbergers – Johnson, Dean, McCloy – were part of the Steering Committee of the CFR’s “The United States and China in World Affairs” project, whose first Director was a Bilderberg alumni, Robert Blum. That project has been identified by many observers as critical to changing the climate of opinion in the US; less recognised is that many of that project’s specialists went on to play a leading role in Senator Fulbright’s China hearings and in the National Committee on US-China Relations.
*There is evidence, both circumstantial and direct; that President Nixon’s thinking on rapprochement with China was influenced by the specialists most closely associated with the CFR’s China project. To be sure, Nixon had also personally consulted with key European and Asian allies, but he was clearly aware the climate of opinion in the US had changed enabling him to propose dialogue with China—albeit subject to some conditions (that he later disregarded once in office)—in his Foreign Affairs article in 1967. He also met with three of the CFR’s specialists a few months into his presidency.