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1984: Reagan arrives in China
The US President, Ronald Reagan, has landed in China at the start of a six-day visit - the first by an American president since Nixon in 1972.

He arrived with his wife, Nancy Reagan, just after 1400 local time (0600 GMT), and was driven to Tiananmen Square, in the centre of the Chinese capital, Beijing, for a welcoming ceremony outside the Great Hall of the People.

He was greeted by the Chinese President, Li Xiannian, to the deafening sound of a 21-gun salute.

Mr Li told Mr Reagan he shared his view of the importance of the Pacific region, referring to a comment made by Mr Reagan in a statement before his arrival.

'Mutual benefit'

President Reagan then attended a banquet given in his honour by President Li.

Mr Reagan used the occasion to speak, in Chinese, about the need for "mutual respect and benefit" between China and the United States.

The president is accompanied in China by a party of more than 600 journalists, aides, secret service men and officials who guard the codes for launching nuclear missiles.

The talks start tomorrow, and are expected to address a variety of subjects.

The White House spokesman, Larry Speakes, said the United States and China are expected to reach an agreement to assist US companies in helping develop commercial nuclear power in China.

Taiwan deadlock

But there is no sign of any compromise over the key issue of Taiwan.

The government-controlled People's Daily newspaper has today re-stated the view of the Chinese government that relations with America are being held back by Washington's support for the Kuomintang nationalist regime in Taiwan.

Until Nixon's visit in 1972 Washington only recognised the ousted nationalist government in Taiwan, where it had been forced into exile after being overthrown by communist forces in 1949.

Nixon, however, signed the Shanghai Communique, which for the first time recognised the communist government in Beijing. It resulted in diplomatic relations between the two countries for the first time, as well as the transfer of diplomatic recognition to Beijing as the Chinese capital.

Washington still continues to support Taiwan, however, and maintains unofficial links, including the sale of arms, to the frustration and anger of the communist leadership in Beijing.

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Reagan with George Schultz and Robert McFarlane
President Reagan (left) spoke of the need for "mutual respect"

In Context
There was, as expected, no agreement on the key issue of Taiwan. Chinese leader Deng Xiaoping told President Reagan the US "should not interfere" in the process of reunifying China.

The Sino-American relationship is widely seen as one of the most important bilateral relationships in the world, and has gone through many ups and downs.

Perhaps the lowest point was the Chinese army's brutal suppression of student democracy protests in Tiananmen Square in 1989. US-China relations were frozen for almost 10 years.

There have also been several difficult incidents, such as the Nato bombing of the Chinese embassy in Belgrade in 1999, and the collision of a US spy plane with a Chinese jet in 2001.

Washington continues to supply Taiwan with arms, and there is still little progress towards addressing persistent criticisms of China's human rights record.

But China's campaign for wider global acceptance resulted in its membership of the World Trade Organisation in 2001.

Diplomacy between the two countries still remains fraught with difficulties, and looks set to remain a delicate balancing act for the foreseeable future.

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