In late February 1989, a month after becoming president, Bush visited Beijing and invited roughly 500 people to a “Texas barbecue” at a posh Beijing hotel. The invitees included Fang Lizhi, the famous astrophysicist and political dissident. The Chinese and U.S. governments both knew in advance about Fang’s invitation. There were tense consultations about it in both capitals. The Chinese side threatened that its leaders would not attend if Fang were in the room. But then, in the afternoon before the banquet was to happen, word came that they would attend. It seemed an impasse had been broken. What the Chinese side did not tell the U.S. was that it was marshalling hundreds of police to block Fang physically if he showed up. Fang did show up, and was indeed blocked and denied further transportation of any kind; police tailed him for three hours as he and his wife walked the chill streets of the city. The next day, the story blazed in headlines around the world.


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