Christopher Nixon Cox, the 34-year-old grandson of the late President Richard Nixon, says his grandfather would be amazed with the changes the country has gone through.
Cox is retracing his grandfather's landmark 1972 trip to China, reports The Los Angeles Times
, and although he has already been to China 15 times, he imagines the country's skyscrapers, bumper-to-bumper traffic and rising wealth would leave his grandfather in awe, but would please him as well.
"I remember my grandfather telling me that to have one billion of the world’s most hard-working and talented people in isolation is something that is dangerous for the world," Cox told the Times on Saturday near the Great Wall. "He felt that a prosperous China was critical for peace and stability."
Many historians credit Nixon's trip for opening China back up to the world. His grandson's commemorative trip, marking what would have been the late president's 100th birthday, was organized by the Nixon Foundation and the Chinese People's Association for Friendship with Foreign Countries.
Cox will visit, like his grandfather, Beijing, Hangzhou, Shanghai, Tiananmen Square, the Great Hall of the People and the Great Wall.
He's traveling with his wife, Andrea Catsimatidis, a supermarket heiress who is getting a great deal of attention from the Chinese, and a delegation of more than 40 people including former National Security Adviser Robert "Bud" McFarlane.
Retired Marine Corps Col. Jack Brennan, who became Nixon's chief of staff after he resigned the presidency, is the only member of the delegation who was along for the 1972 trip.
"It feels like this country has advanced a couple of centuries," said Brennan. "In 1972, there was just a small landing strip for the airport. When we drove in, we hardly saw any people and only a few Soviet-made cars . . . When it snowed, instead of snowplows there were hundreds and hundreds of Chinese sweeping the streets with brooms."
Cox is also aiming for a political career, having run unsuccessfully in 2010 in the Republican primary for a New York congressional seat. He travels frequently to China to raise money and help U.S. companies in the Chinese market.
He admits that his grandfather’s connections help, as the former president is remembered fondly there.
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