The year 1979 marked turning points in both contemporary Chinese history and Sino-American relations. Deng Xiaoping initiated market reforms and an opening to the global economy which would transform China, with Guangzhou (Canton) at the forefront. Washington and Beijing’s mutual diplomatic recognition triggered an across-the-board expansion of relations between the United States and China.
When Vice President Walter Mondale traveled to Canton for the formal opening of a new consulate there, career diplomat Richard Williams took office as the first U.S. consul general in mainland China in 30 years, tasked with projecting an American presence, cultivating local contacts, reporting on southern Chinese political and economic developments, promoting U.S. business interests, and issuing visas. Williams’s Chinese wife, having left the country 30 years earlier as the Communist government assumed power, was emotionally reunited with brothers and sisters still recovering from Cultural Revolution travails. His son and daughter encountered problems and found adventure as the only foreign teenagers in Canton.
Told with insight, humor, and pathos, At the Dawn of the New China is Ambassador Williams’s account of the eventful two years he and his family and colleagues spent in Canton and on extensive travels elsewhere in China. He has expanded his detailed journal with declassified official cables, newspaper accounts, and other materials to provide a vivid and compelling human picture of a China on the brink of great change.