About Face: A History of America's Curious Relationship with China, From Nixon to Clintonby James H. Mann, Jim Mann
This is the fascinating inside story of the people, forces, politics and diplomacy that have shaped contemporary relations between the United States and China. James Mann, the Beijing bureau chief for the Los Angeles Times from 1984 to 1987, draws on hundreds of newly uncovered government documents, scores of interviews and his own experiences in writing this superb… See more details below
This is the fascinating inside story of the people, forces, politics and diplomacy that have shaped contemporary relations between the United States and China. James Mann, the Beijing bureau chief for the Los Angeles Times from 1984 to 1987, draws on hundreds of newly uncovered government documents, scores of interviews and his own experiences in writing this superb investigative history.
Mann begins with an account of the process by which Richard Nixon and Henry Kissinger first courted and built up ties to China's Communist government in an attempt to find a way out of the war in Vietnam. At first, the aim was to create flexibility for the United States in dealing with both the Soviet Union and China; but gradually, as the 1970s progressed, the opening to China took on a life and momentum of its own. During the Carter and Reagan administrations, American leaders saw China as an ally against the Soviet Union, and a tacit understanding emerged that the United States would not subject China to the standards and principles applied to other countries. We are shown how subsequent administrations failed to construct a new framework for dealing with ChinaPresident Bush tried to preserve the old American relationship with Beijing, and President Clinton has been unsuccessful in his efforts to create something new.
Mann also reveals little-known episodes in the history of U.S.-China relations: that the price of Kissinger's first visit to China in 1971 was a secret promise that the United States would never support independence for Taiwan; how the United States and China worked together in guerrilla operations in Afghanistan and Cambodia; how the movement to restrictChina's trade benefits originated and how Bill Clinton came to support these efforts during his1992 presidential campaign. The disclosure of new information, coupled with Mann's incisive and compelling analysis, makes About Face a work that is sure to shed light on the current debate on the United States' relations with China.
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Then two things happened in 1989: the Soviet Union ceased to exist, and the Chinese leadership ordered the shooting of its own citizens in Tiananmen Square.
With the demise of the Soviet Union the whole rationale for supporting China evaporated, and the shootings deeply angered the U.S. public. Yet Mann, a Los Angeles Times correspondent formerly based in Beijing, argues that post-1989 policy was trapped by the policies that had preceded it. The overly positive image of China portrayed by successive U.S. administrations and the elite, secretive nature of the U.S.-China official dealings before 1989 made Tiananmen that much more bewildering to the public and to Congress. Consensus on what to do about China was thus difficult to build. If after 1989, the U.S. feared the military power of China, it was a power the U.S. had done much to create. If the economic strength of China made it a difficult nation to ignore, the U.S. had done much to develop that strength.And it was, claims the author, U.S. commercial interests with that country that eventually pushed Clinton toward rapprochement with China.
Basing much of what he writes on previously classified documents, Mann's conclusions are most persuasive. A fine history that skillfully unravels the tangled tale of recent U.S. China policy.
- Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group
- Publication date:
- Product dimensions:
- 6.61(w) x 9.59(h) x 1.54(d)
Meet the Author
James Mann, the author of Beijing Jeep, is a diplomatic correspondent and foreign affairs columnist for the Washington bureau of the Los Angeles Times. He lives in Silver Spring, Maryland.
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