Tang Wensheng

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Tang Wensheng
Personal details
BornMarch 1943 (aged 76)
New York City, New York, U.S.
EducationBeijing Foreign Studies University
OccupationDiplomat, interpreter

Tang Wensheng (Chinese: 唐闻生; born 1943) is an American-born Chinese diplomat. She played an important role during U.S. President Richard Nixon's historical 1972 visit to the People's Republic of China, serving as Mao Zedong's chief interpreter.

Early life and career[edit]

Tang Wensheng, also known as Nancy Tang, was born in Brooklyn, New York City, in March of 1943. Her father, Tang Mingzhao [zh], was a Chinese diplomat who served as Under-Secretary General of the United Nations.[1] In the early 1950s, Tang and her family moved to mainland China. Upon completing high school, she enrolled at the Beijing Institute of Foreign Languages (today known as the Beijing Foreign Studies University).[2] Tang entered diplomatic service for the Chinese Foreign Ministry as an English interpreter. She was later recommended by fellow interpreter Ji Chaozhu,[3] a family friend in New York, to be an intepreter for Chairman Mao Zedong and Premier Zhou Enlai of China.

Role as interpreter[edit]

In 1972, U.S. President Richard Nixon made a historic visit to the People's Republic of China, which included a meeting with Chinese leader Mao Zedong[4]. The meeting included President Nixon and National Security Advisor Henry Kissinger of the U.S. delegation, and Chairman Mao Zedong and Premier Zhou Enlai of the Chinese delegation. Tang served as an interpreter for the meeting, playing an important and essential role in China–United States relations.[5]

In interviews, Tang has spoken about her experience as an interpreter at the 1972 meeting. On the topic of Nixon, Tang has said, "I do think that [the Chinese delegation] respected President Nixon very much, because he was a man of courage to come to a country as the President of the United States, which was a major superpower at that time, to a country with which it had no diplomatic relations...he was bold enough to do so, and he spoke very candidly".[6] Wensheng has also said that the U.S. delegation initially came off as "condescending", before treating the Chinese delegation as "equals".

Later career[edit]

After serving as interpreter for Chairman Mao and Premier Zhou, Tang continued her career at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. She became a member of the Department of North American and Oceanian Affairs, and later Deputy Director General of the department. She also served as a member of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC), the Vice Chairman of the Hong Kong, Macau, Taiwan & Overseas Chinese Affairs Committee, Advisor to the All-China Federation of Returned Overseas Chinese, and Vice President of China's Soong Ching Ling Foundation.[7]


  1. ^ Wei, Wang (August 1, 2008). "Tang Wensheng". China.org.
  2. ^ "Life in China - Story of Tang Wensheng". english.cri.cn. Retrieved 2019-08-31.
  3. ^ Barboza, David (2012-02-17). "Ji Chaozhu, Man on Mao's Right, at Center of History". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 2019-08-31.
  4. ^ "The Opening of China » Richard Nixon Foundation". Richard Nixon Foundation. 2017-01-18. Retrieved 2019-08-31.
  5. ^ "Mao Zedong meets Richard Nixon, February 21, 1972". US-China Institute. Retrieved 2019-08-31.
  6. ^ EXCLUSIVE Tang Wensheng, an Eyewitness of U S President Richard Nixon’s Visit to China, retrieved 2019-08-31
  7. ^ "Story of A Top Advisor: Tang Wensheng - All China Women's Federation". www.womenofchina.cn. Retrieved 2019-08-31.