On China

On China

3.5 28
by Henry Kissinger
     
 

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In this sweeping and insightful history, Henry Kissinger turns for the first time at book-length to a country he has known intimately for decades, and whose modern relations with the West he helped shape. Drawing on historical records as well as his conversations with Chinese leaders over the past forty years, Kissinger examines how China has approached diplomacy,

Overview

In this sweeping and insightful history, Henry Kissinger turns for the first time at book-length to a country he has known intimately for decades, and whose modern relations with the West he helped shape. Drawing on historical records as well as his conversations with Chinese leaders over the past forty years, Kissinger examines how China has approached diplomacy, strategy, and negotiation throughout its history, and reflects on the consequences for the global balance of power in the 21st century.

Since no other country can claim a more powerful link to its ancient past and classical principles, any attempt to understand China's future world role must begin with an appreciation of its long history. For centuries, China rarely encountered other societies of comparable size and sophistication; it was the "Middle Kingdom," treating the peoples on its periphery as vassal states. At the same time, Chinese statesmen-facing threats of invasion from without, and the contests of competing factions within-developed a canon of strategic thought that prized the virtues of subtlety, patience, and indirection over feats of martial prowess.

In On China, Kissinger examines key episodes in Chinese foreign policy from the classical era to the present day, with a particular emphasis on the decades since the rise of Mao Zedong. He illuminates the inner workings of Chinese diplomacy during such pivotal events as the initial encounters between China and modern European powers, the formation and breakdown of the Sino-Soviet alliance, the Korean War, Richard Nixon's historic trip to Beijing, and three crises in the Taiwan Straits. Drawing on his extensive personal experience with four generation of Chinese leaders, he brings to life towering figures such as Mao, Zhou Enlai, and Deng Xiaoping, revealing how their different visions have shaped China's modern destiny.

With his singular vantage on U.S.-China relations, Kissinger traces the evolution of this fraught but crucial relationship over the past 60 years, following its dramatic course from estrangement to strategic partnership to economic interdependence, and toward an uncertain future. With a final chapter on the emerging superpower's 21st-century world role, On China provides an intimate historical perspective on Chinese foreign affairs from one of the premier statesmen of the 20th century.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
In this canny, engaging historical study, the ex-secretary of state examines China's foreign policy for insights into its statecraft and soul. Kissinger (Crisis) recaps China's geo-strategic wei qi match—his ubiquitous metaphor for the subtle positioning characteristic of the national board game—from the Korean War to today's trade disputes, emphasizing the relationship with the U.S. as it moved from bitter enmity to cordial interdependence. He grounds his narrative in a penetrating analysis of age-old features of Chinese policy, emphasizing the Middle Kingdom's hauteur, wariness of encirclement—to the Chinese, he argues, America is just another barbarian horde to manipulate—and dread of domestic disorder. As an architect of Nixon's opening to China and a freelance go-between for later administrations, Kissinger is a major figure in the story, and the text often revolves around exegeses of his cryptic dialogues with Chinese leaders. The book therefore oozes Kissingerian realism, with its stress on great power machinations, international balance, and high-stakes summitry and its impatience with human rights strictures; a deadpan wit and cold-blooded candor flash out from clouds of diplomatic euphemism. Though it sometimes feels like a mind game between mandarins of many stripes, and Kissinger's generalizations about Chinese national character can also sound outmoded, this insider's account sheds a revealing light on the contours of Chinese-American relations. (May)
From the Publisher
Praise for Henry Kissinger's On China

Fascinating, shrewd… [The book’s] portrait of China is informed by Mr. Kissinger’s intimate firsthand knowledge of several generations of Chinese leaders. The book deftly traces the rhythms and patterns in Chinese history…even as it explicates the philosophical differences that separate it from the United States.”—Michiko Kakutani, The New York Times

“Nobody living can claim greater credit than Mr. Kissinger for America's 1971 opening to Beijing, after more than two decades of estrangement, and for China's subsequent opening to the world. So it's fitting that Mr. Kissinger has now written On China, a fluent, fascinating…book that is part history, part memoir and above all an examination of the premises, methods and aims of Chinese foreign policy.”—The Wall Street Journal

Fascinating… In On China, statesman Henry Kissinger draws on historical records and 40 years of direct interaction with four generations of Chinese leaders to analyze the link between China’s ancient past and its present day trajectory. In doing so, the man who helped shape modern East-West relations presents an often unsettling, occasionally hopeful and always compelling accounting of what we’re up against.”—The Chicago Sun-Times

Fascinating… No living American has played a more important role than Henry Kissinger, the former national security adviser and secretary of state, in bringing about the historic rapprochement between the United States and China. … [Kissinger] draw[s] deep insights into China's traumatic encounter with much stronger Western powers.”—The San Francisco Chronicle

On China, Kissinger's 13th book, blends an incisive strategic analysis of the moves and countermoves of China, the United States and the former Soviet Union with telling vignettes about his meetings with Chinese Communist Party leaders… entertaining.”—The Los Angeles Times

No one can lay claim to so much influence on the shaping of foreign policy over the past 50 years as Henry Kissinger.”—The Financial Times

“From the eminent elder statesman, an astute appraisal on Chinese diplomacy from ancient times to the fraught present “strategic trust” with the United States. Former Secretary of State Kissinger brings his considerable scholarly knowledge and professional expertise to this chronicle of the complicated evolution and precarious future of Chinese diplomacy with the West. … Sage words and critical perspective lent by a significant participant in historical events.”—Kirkus Reviews

Kirkus Reviews

From the eminent elder statesman, an astute appraisal on Chinese diplomacy from ancient times to thefraught present "strategic trust" with the United States.

Former Secretary of State Kissinger (Crisis : The Anatomy of Two Major Foreign Policy Crises: Based on the Record of Henry Kissinger's Hitherto Secret Telephone Conversations, 2003, etc.) brings his considerable scholarly knowledge and professional expertise to this chronicle of the complicated evolution and precarious future of Chinese diplomacy with the West. Traditionally, Chinese foreign policy as practiced by centuries of emperors was marked by appeasement and generally overwhelming their barbarian enemies with Chinese largesse: the "five baits" included clothing, music, slaves and food to "corrupt" the opponent into seeing things the Chinese way. In their supreme self-containment, the Chinese disdained the importunate advances of the barbarians until the aggressive incursions by the West to force open the barriers to trade in the late 18th century. Foreign threats by the West, Russia and Japan and the series of "unequal treaties" imposed on China impelled it into a period of "self-strengthening" that was finally achieved by the Communist consolidation of power under Mao. From Mao's declaration in 1949 that the Chinese people "have stood up," the Chinese practiced a modern form of pursuing the "psychological advantage," rather than the military (shades of Sun Tzu), in confronting the superpowers. However, a new era commenced under Deng Xiaoping, who was bent on reform and open to travel and new ideas, and normalization of relations with America was finally established under President Carter. Kissinger wisely considers Tiananmen, Taiwan, the elevation of Jiang Zemin and the new era of "cooperative coexistence" maintained by President Hu Jintao. The author warns, however, that despite China's commitment to a "peaceful rise," the U.S.-China relationship will continue to contain an underlying tension.

Sage words and critical perspective lent by a significant participant in historical events.

Brantly Womack
On China is former secretary of state Henry Kissinger's attempt to explain Chinese diplomacy to an American audience, to review the course of U.S.-China relations, and briefly but incisively to address the challenge of sustaining a mutually beneficial interaction. It adds an honorable two inches to the diplomat's already broad shelf of works.
—The Washington Post
Michiko Kakutani
Mr. Kissinger's fascinating, shrewd and sometimes perverse new book, On China, not only addresses the central role he played in Nixon's opening to China but also tries to show how the history of China, both ancient and more recent, has shaped its foreign policy and attitudes toward the West. While this volume is indebted to the pioneering scholarship of historians like Jonathan D. Spence, its portrait of China is informed by Mr. Kissinger's intimate firsthand knowledge of several generations of Chinese leaders.
—The New York Times
Library Journal
Originally scheduled for November 2010 and featured in Prepub Exploded of June 3, this study of China past, present, and future—especially in terms of Kissinger himself—has been bumped to May 2011. An aggressive media campaign is promised.

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9781594202711
Publisher:
Penguin Publishing Group
Publication date:
05/17/2011
Pages:
608
Sales rank:
867,394
Product dimensions:
6.40(w) x 9.50(h) x 1.80(d)
Age Range:
18 Years

What People are saying about this

From the Publisher
Praise for Henry Kissinger's On China

Fascinating, shrewd… [The book’s] portrait of China is informed by Mr. Kissinger’s intimate firsthand knowledge of several generations of Chinese leaders. The book deftly traces the rhythms and patterns in Chinese history…even as it explicates the philosophical differences that separate it from the United States.”—Michiko Kakutani, The New York Times

“Nobody living can claim greater credit than Mr. Kissinger for America's 1971 opening to Beijing, after more than two decades of estrangement, and for China's subsequent opening to the world. So it's fitting that Mr. Kissinger has now written On China, a fluent, fascinating…book that is part history, part memoir and above all an examination of the premises, methods and aims of Chinese foreign policy.”The Wall Street Journal

Fascinating… In On China, statesman Henry Kissinger draws on historical records and 40 years of direct interaction with four generations of Chinese leaders to analyze the link between China’s ancient past and its present day trajectory. In doing so, the man who helped shape modern East-West relations presents an often unsettling, occasionally hopeful and always compelling accounting of what we’re up against.The Chicago Sun-Times

Fascinating… No living American has played a more important role than Henry Kissinger, the former national security adviser and secretary of state, in bringing about the historic rapprochement between the United States and China. … [Kissinger] draw[s] deep insights into China's traumatic encounter with much stronger Western powers.”The San Francisco Chronicle

On China, Kissinger's 13th book, blends an incisive strategic analysis of the moves and countermoves of China, the United States and the former Soviet Union with telling vignettes about his meetings with Chinese Communist Party leaders… entertaining.The Los Angeles Times

No one can lay claim to so much influence on the shaping of foreign policy over the past 50 years as Henry Kissinger.”The Financial Times

“From the eminent elder statesman, an astute appraisal on Chinese diplomacy from ancient times to the fraught present “strategic trust” with the United States. Former Secretary of State Kissinger brings his considerable scholarly knowledge and professional expertise to this chronicle of the complicated evolution and precarious future of Chinese diplomacy with the West. … Sage words and critical perspective lent by a significant participant in historical events.”Kirkus Reviews

Meet the Author

HENRY KISSINGER served as National Security Advisor and then Secretary of State under Richard Nixon and Gerald Ford and has advised many other American presidents on foreign policy. He received the 1973 Nobel Peace Prize, the Presidential Medal of Freedom, and the Medal of Liberty, among other awards. He is the author of numerous books on foreign policy and diplomacy and is currently the chairman of Kissinger Associates, Inc., an international consulting firm.

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On China 3.5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 28 reviews.
iliahi More than 1 year ago
Dr Kissenger's tour de force, On China, serves well to those looking to relate with the awakening giant. Hopefully world leaders and businessmen take heed for mutual benefit, world peace and prosperity. It's a book well worth investing time in study and reflection. It shows the way forward!
M_L_Gooch_SPHR More than 1 year ago
I must confess that prior to reading On China, I knew little about the country other than popular culture stereotypes and a smattering of history. This has now changed and I feel more secure in my knowledge of China and the reasons they act illogically and irrational at times. I do not believe that there is another country on the face of the earth where the totality of history must be so strongly considered when constructing diplomatic strategy. Kissinger provides this in-depth history and analysis that provides us a scaffold. In the past, too often we have stumbled around in the dark trying to keep one step ahead of their mindset. And too often, our Congress and leadership has presented simplistic and naïve solutions to the China problem without consideration of this deep history. Throughout the book Kissinger expounds on the Chinese canon of strategic thought that includes subtlety, indirection and patience over sword rattling. The modern western world must understand these strategies to the nth degree or we will once again become vassal states of the “Middle Kingdom”. Kissinger has provided this well written book as a guide and offers wise advice for the future. It greatly concerns me that we will not take it. I hope you find this review / opinion helpful. Michael L. Gooch, Author of Wingtips with Spurs.
Gr82BGrn More than 1 year ago
found this perspective of the history of China's growth as a super power competitor and (often) partner with the US very useful. This is not what you will read in the main stream media, and newly minted history books designed to "change our history." Not so when history participants candidly share their experiences.
PUBLIUS-VERITAS More than 1 year ago
You simply must read this book. Kissinger knows China first hand. There are so many books not to read, this is not one of those. Other books on China you must read include those written by YALE's Sterling Historian Jonathan Spence's highly acclaimed definitive book: In Search of Modern China Here is a webpage with excerpts from both: http : // goo . gl / eSIF please remove spaces from link
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
“On China” provides a historical foundation and development of Chinese geopolitical relations from the perspective of Henry Kissinger, former Secretary of State and diplomacy expert for more than 40 years. Kissinger explains the way the Chinese think about problems of peace and war, international order and the also the relationship with American strategy, diplomacy and economics. The book is either intentional in its presentation to avoid confrontation in the spirit of diplomacy, avoids disclosing too many details to preserve Kissinger’s role as a consultant or cleverly presents the stories in ways to illustrate concepts to frame culture and strategy using a Chinese mindset. Readers looking for critical assessments of China’s approach will be disappointed. Those celebrating China’s success will be left wanting. Historians and students of diplomacy, strategy and culture are likely to be fascinated with the subtleties of actions, reactions or their absence of conclusions. The face-saving approach to this book is exemplified by cold factual conversation, references to communication and lack of deep critical reflection by Kissinger. However, facts are laid out in such a way to inspire the imagination of readers to ask “what if?” or to feed intuitive readers a means to see how events and reactions relate. “On China” presents a cultural perspective which is not commonly available from filtered or standard academic texts. Much of the dialog and evidence is first hand. It provides a unique insight and assessment of overlapping regimes, sensitivities, personalities and influential leaders who have shaped the relationships and international diplomacy. Multicultural business relationships require time to develop. Different goals and values between people and government agencies create unique interpretations of the same information. Understanding history which has shaped the behaviors of a country such as China and be applied to many other situations where clarity is sought from ambiguity. As a result, you need to think and observe from many diverse and opposing views and policies to create the best opportunity. Henry Kissinger does not judge or prescribe detailed solutions, but introduces the reader to strategy with Chinese characteristics. In the movie “Princess Bride”, character Vizzini describes one of the classic blunders in world history to avoid is “Never get involved in a land war in Asia.” “On China” makes a case that the biggest failure is to not understand China.
marnet More than 1 year ago
This was an exceptional book, from a great mind who understands the world, people who live all over it and how their cultures form their actions, interactions as well as responses to others actions. Some may find it shocking, but there is a big, mean, cruel world out there and to hear what happens, what others countries think of the USA is alarming, but true. Thanks Dr. Kissenger, a great piece of work, as always!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This book deals with the high level interactions between Chinese leaders and leaders of other countries primarily since 1949. The foundations of the book are Mr Kissinger's personal contacts and discussions with Chinese leaders over the past four decades, thence it focuses on US - Chinese relations. You will learn how the Chinese leaders interpret the words and actions of other nations, what they think about their own country and develop an understanding of the world from the point of view of the Chinese leaders. You will read about the Chinese fears as related to the US and even the USSR. You will not find much information on the Chinese civil war, the rise of Mao or the suffering endured by the Chinese masses under Mao. If you are looking for this type of history, look elsewhere. The author does not deal with the details of these issues. What he does do is to accept these realities with minimal distractions. On the international level you deal with those in power. And this book deals with the Chinese on that level.
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RolfDobelli More than 1 year ago
In his formidable 500-page-plus book, equally formidable scholar-diplomat Henry Kissinger writes about the nation with which he is inextricably linked: China. Kissinger infuses his text with impressive personal recollections based on more than 50 visits to China over 40 years, working either officially as national security adviser and secretary of state, or unofficially as a foreign policy expert. In that time, he has seen China's evolution through four generations of its leaders. His insights on foreign policy and his personal rapport with top officials enable him to embellish this diplomatic history with extraordinary detail and discernment. getAbstract highly recommends the book's vast scope to anyone seriously interested in examining China's current and future role in world politics and economics, and that should be just about everyone.
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Had cool stuff
ChanKaiYee More than 1 year ago
China is a complicated large country with a long history and civilization entirely different from Western ones. Chinese leaders are usually profoundly shrewd and avoid being seen through by others. The top leading group is a black box. Its operation is tightly kept confidential. However, for an autocracy like China, one cannot understand it without understanding its leaders. No wonder China watchers are frustrated in understanding China. However, as a well-experienced and informed diplomat and politician who helped Nixon achieve rapprochement with China, Kissinger must be in a better position to see through Chinese leaders, since he has met various Chinese leaders many times. I, therefore, read through his book On China, but am greatly disappointed that Kissinger gives distorted images of and misinformation about China and Chinese leaders, especially Chinese madman Mao. Having personally experienced Mao's tyranny, my greatest worry concerning China is the potential emergence of another madman like Mao when China grows into a rival to America. The disaster that he may cause to Chinese and world people will be much more serious than Mao's great famine and Cultural Revolution. Kissinger, however, compared China's rise now with that of Germany before World War I and believes if the state leaders then had known the consequence of the war, they would "have recoiled" from confrontation. So will China and America in the future, he concludes. Kissinger forgets World War II, which is much more relevant. Madmen Hitler and Tojo Hideki started the war because they were callous killers and their mad calculation made them believe they would win the war. Tojo was especially mad. He attacked America when compared with the giant of US economy, Japan's was a dwarf. Due to limited space I will only list a few of Mao's evils: Like Hitler, Mao Was a Callous Killer. In a speech on August 10, 1959, Mao gave the reasons why there was no Hungarian Rebellion (referring to the Hungarian Revolution in 1956) in China, saying that since the communist takeover "more than one million counterrevolutionaries have been killed. Hungary has not killed any counterrevolutionary. For the elimination of more than one million of the 600-odd million people, I think we shall shout hurrah for that." The counterrevolutionaries referred to in his speech were mostly unarmed civilians put to death in peacetime. The terror lies in his pride and joy in the killing. Mao's Fits of Madness: 1. Mao's mad campaign the Great Leap Forward giving rise to a death toll of 20 to 40 million people is now well-known the world over. 2. Mao's second fit of domestic madness the Cultural Revolution is even more notorious. There were no statistics of the death toll and the number of victims. People who personally experienced it like me know that the number was enormous. 3. Mao told Soviet leader Khrushchev that he would fight a nuclear war to eliminate capitalism all over the world even if half of Chinese population (300 million then) died in the war. 4. Mao brought the world to the verge of nuclear war twice by his two Taiwan crises. As Maoism remains popular in China, there is possibility of the emergence of another madman like Mao when China grows into a superpower equal in strength to America. I hope people will not be mislead by Kissinger and thus fail to be on their alert.
judgejim More than 1 year ago
A review of history IN DETAIL. Excellent read.