February 1979. It was very much like an American Presidential state visit. For the first time a press plane packed with reporters followed a Chinese leader across America, chronicling his every move: from a White House cabinet meeting to a Texas rodeo.
From Beijing to Washington, Atlanta, Houston, and Seattle: it was a whirlwind tour. Deng Xiaoping was treated as a celebrity wherever he went. Houston was the most memorable stop. First the Johnson Space Center. Then a rodeo. My Chinese colleagues travelling with me on the press plane were astounded to see their leader don a ‘ten gallon’ hat. Deng Xiaoping appeared to genuinely enjoy himself. [more coming soon]