For decades, China looked up to the US - but the times, they are a changin'

Beijing considers its ties with Washington as the single most important bilateral relationship in the world.PHOTO: REUTERS

BEIJING - Beijing and Washington became Cold War rivals after Mao Zedong plunged China into the Korean War in 1950. He scoffed at the United States, calling it a "paper tiger".

Following relentless anti-US rhetoric by the Chinese government for about two decades, ordinary Chinese men and women were shocked and left scratching their heads when then US President Richard Nixon arrived in Beijing for a landmark visit in 1972. Detente began.

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