From this point any discussion of Sino-Soviet relations is meaningless in isolation from a consideration of the general tenor of world events and the relations of both countries with the United States, Japan and Western Europe. Of the greatest importance were their relations with the United States. Starting from 1969, Beijing* began to effect a radical re-alignment of its foreign policy designed to seek world recognition as a great power and obtain Western technological, diplomatic and financial support to counter the powerful threat it perceived from Moscow. After the United States invaded Cambodia in March 1970 the Sino-American ambassadorial talks were again suspended, but when Mao's old friend, the left-wing American journalist Edgar Snow, visited him at the end of the year, China's new foreign policy course appears already to have been set. In April 1971 a US table· tennis team went to China, and in July US Secretary of State Kissinger flew secretly to Beijing to arrange for the visit of President Nixon. The policy of detente with the United States, favoured especially by Zhou Enlai within the Chinese leadership, was being challenged by Lin Biao, who saw himself gradually losing favour to Zhou in Mao's sight. Lin had apparently long maintained some secret contacts of an insurance nature with the Soviet Union and in September 1971, possibly with Soviet support, he attempted a military coup against Mao and his supporters. When it failed, Lin seemingly fled towards the Soviet frontier in an aircraft which crashed in Outer Mongolia on 13 September, killing all on board. The still mysterious incident cleared the way for the denouement of the Sino-American entente. Nixon's visit took place early in 1972, followed by the

Shanghai Communique announcing the new rapprochement. China had ceased to be an isolated revolutionary state or a Soviet semi-satellite, but was emerging onto the stage of world politics as an important independent actor, although for the next decade showing signs that it found the environment still somewhat strange.