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Ambassador Chas Freeman was Nixon’s translator in 1972 and has both witnessed and helped shape a half-century of Washington’s international relations with China (as well as the Middle East). In this in-depth, penetrating and substantive interview given by Freeman to WiC last week he discusses the deterioration in Sino-US relations and why he thinks the time to watch out for an invasion of Taiwan is between November 2024 and January 2025. On the topic of the dangers of a conflict over Taiwan he talked about the nuclear dimension and the economic one too.

When asked by WiC, for instance, whether a Taiwan invasion would lead to the worst economic chaos since World War Two, he responded: “Taiwan is important globally. I think if we look at the example of the Ukraine war and its unintended effects on matters like food security, energy prices, inflation, and a whole range of issues, I think the answer is yes. A war over Taiwan would be disastrous for the global economy, not just for China and the United States. Taiwan is a hi-tech centre with a dominant market share in the semiconductor field. This would be a horrifying development for the global economy which is a very good reason not to want to have a war and to do things to prevent it.”

Click here to read the interview in full on our website.

Freeman began his career in India and Taiwan before becoming Chargé d’Affaires in Beijing and Bangkok and later Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs where he helped negotiate the withdrawal of Cuban troops from Angola. He then served as Ambassador to Saudi Arabia during Operations Desert Shield and Desert Storm and later became US Assistant Secretary of Defense in the Clinton administration. Freeman also served as the principal interpreter for President Nixon during his trip to China in 1972.

The 79 year-old is one of a rare (perhaps shrinking) breed of American foreign affairs specialists with a deep understanding of China, it language and its long and complex history.

Freeman ended the WiC interview by sharing some anecdotes from his famed trip with Nixon to China in 1972, even debunking one of the most famous quotations from Zhou Enlai, Mao’s Zedong’s longtime deputy. Clue: he wasn’t talking about the 1789 French Revolution after all.

The PDF digital magazine version of the interview (with photographs) can be downloaded here.

Best regards,

Steven Irvine
The Editor

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