May 17th, 2011
08:26 PM ET

Book of the week: Kissinger's "On China"

My book of the week is former U.S. Secretary of State Henry Kissinger's latest, On China. This is a must read.

Part history, part memoir of Kissinger's extensive dealings with Chinese leaders over 40 years and part analysis, this is a major work.

That Henry Kissinger could write such an ambitious book at the age of 87 is just extraordinary.

Here's the description of the book from Amazon:

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.


soundoff (5 Responses)
  1. paula Jay

    you don't think kissinger had some help with the book do you?????

    May 17, 2011 at 8:29 pm | Reply
  2. fbzeus

    Wondering how Mr. Kissinger knows about China? Can he speak/read Chinese?

    May 17, 2011 at 11:26 pm | Reply
  3. Greg Autry

    Kissinger is, of course a diplomatic genius, and a brilliant student of history. Nobody knows the US-China relationship better and therefore his book, surely is a must read. However he has reached a level of abstraction where he is able to sit with men who killed millions and leave the debate over issues of human rights to others. That's a disturbing detachment from reality.

    Greg Autryhttp://i.cdn.turner.com/cnn/.element/img/3.0/1px.gif
    author of Death by China

    May 21, 2011 at 7:35 pm | Reply
  4. BSTEH

    To understand the significance and relevance of a book, it may be instructive to first understand its author. What is the objective of his book? How profound is his understanding of the subject? What was his role in the said subject?

    To put it crudely, has he an axe to grind? How much does he know of China and the Chinese? Is his knowledge of the subject restricted to a specific period pertinent to his personal involvement? Can anyone truly understand a subject based on arm chair research and intelligence?

    Many books have been written about China and the Chinese but given that Chinese culture, ideology and philosophy evolved over 4000 years, it is nothing if not a daunting subject. Much have been made of Chinese subtlety, inflection, nuances of Chinese thought processes and methods. Perhaps, it is a credit to Mr.Kissinger that he should even attempt at all.

    May 24, 2011 at 4:18 am | Reply

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