For more than twenty years after the Communist Revolution in 1949, China and most of the western world had no diplomats in each others' capitals and no direct way to communicate. Then, in July 1971, Henry Kissinger arrived secretly in Beijing on a mission which quickly led to the reopening of relations between China and the West and changed the course of post-war history.
For the past forty years, Kissinger has maintained close relations with successive generations of Chinese leaders, and has probably been more intimately connected with China at the highest level than any other western figure. This book distils his unique experience and long study of the 'Middle Kingdom', examining China's history from the classical era to the present day, and explaining why it has taken the extraordinary course that it has.
The book concentrates on the decades since 1949, presenting brilliantly drawn portraits of Mao Zedong, Zhou Enlai, Deng Xiaoping and other Chinese leaders, and reproducing verbatim Kissinger's conversations with each of them. But Kissinger's eye rarely leaves the long continuum of Chinese history: he describes the essence of China's approach to diplomacy, strategy and negotiation, and the remarkable ways in which Communist-era statesmen have drawn on methods honed over millennia. At the end of the book, Kissinger reflects on these attitudes for our own era of economic interdependence and an uncertain future.
On China is written with great authority, complete accessibility and with many wider reflections on statecraft and diplomacy distilled from years of experience. At a moment when the rest of the world is thinking about China more than ever before, this timely book offers insights that no other can.
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.