The administration improved relations with China but paid a price for doing so. Both Vance and Brzezinski visited the People's Republic, eager to break the diplomatic stalemate that had prevailed since 1972 and to normalize relations between the two countries. The Chinese, flanked by the Soviet Union and Soviet-influenced Vietnam, viewed the Soviets as aggressive and worried about what appeared to be an American retreat from containment. Brzezinski, who saw the mounting tension between the Communist giants as opening an opportunity for the United States, assured the Chinese that the United States would remain strong in Asia and would check the Soviets. Taiwan appeared to be a stumbling block. Seeking a formula that would enable the United States to abandon the regime there and recognize Beijing without suffering severe political damage at home and abroad, the Carter administration experienced frequent frustrations. Finally, on 1 January 1979, it recognized the People's Republic as the sole government of China and reestablished normal diplomatic relations with it, breaking its official ties with Taiwan to reach this objective. Taiwan, its friends in the United States, and the Soviets denounced the settlement, but the outcome pleased the president.