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On China [Hardcover]

Henry Kissinger
4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (14 customer reviews)

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Book Description

17 May 2011

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.

Product details

  • Hardcover: 608 pages
  • Publisher: Allen Lane (17 May 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1846143462
  • ISBN-13: 978-1846143465
  • Product Dimensions: 16.5 x 24.2 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (14 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 101,607 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description


Diplomacy: the art of restraining power. (Henry Kissinger )

About 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 and articles on foreign policy and diplomacy, and is currently Chairman of Kissinger Associates, Inc., an international consulting firm.

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
39 of 40 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars HENRY'S A FAN 1 Jun 2011
By Diacha
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
Henry Kissinger's "On China" falls somewhere between a lap of honour and a potboiler. It is always a pleasure to experience Kissinger's massive, strategic intellect at work and he was, after all, present at the creation. At the same time, this book, for all its 530 pages, offers little new perspective and is so uncritical of its subject that it reads like an authorized history.

"On China" comprises three main parts. The first two hundred or so pages provide a panoramic, four thousand year history of the Middle Kingdom. The second section deals in detail with the momentous period of Kissinger's own involvement in his official role as National Security Advisor and Secretary of State and in the years following when he still had a fair degree of access to and influence over the principals on both sides. The final stretch speculates about the future and whether China and the United States will be able to plot a course of productive "co-evolution" or are doomed to enact a modern version of Europe's nineteenth century rivalry among the Great Powers.

Kissinger sees Chinese foreign relations as shaped by its vast dimensions of time and space. Its leaders work under "a mantle of almost limitless history." The Middle Kingdom is so vast and so vastly populous that it can afford to think of itself as self sufficient and can absorb virtually all assaults by outsiders - even, Mao promised, a nuclear attack would kill a mere three hundred million. For China, the central metaphor is the game of wei qi (or "Go" in its Japanese version) and not chess (though chess too originated in Asia). Whereas the West thinks in terms of "victory," the Chinese pursue "relative advantage....through elaborate, multi-year maneuvers.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
By Rolf Dobelli TOP 500 REVIEWER
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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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
By reneve
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
Great description of how China has experienced the last 250 years and a balanced view (US and China) of how the pacific relationship has evolved. Well written.
Mandatory reading for any westerner who wants to do business in China and who should understand how history and ideology influence thinking and decisionmaking in China, whether in business or in government.
Even for someone like me who has lived several years in Asia and at some point was at least once a month in China, this book puts a number of pieces of the puzzle together.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
The book covers a huge historical period. It is true, however, that the first of a total of eighteen chapters plus an epilogue covers a period of millenia. It commences with the unification of China in the 3rd century B.C. and ends in the 19th century, a period of humiliation for China with incursions, depredations, and its semicolonization by the Western powers. The aim of this first chapter is to familiarize the reader with China's Confucian culture, its approach to Diplomacy and its conception of the Art of War. The balance of the book covers the remaining period to the present year. This latter period includes the very period of its humiliation including the notorious opium war, the 22 year civil war which ended with communism prevailing in 1949;the Mao era and the turbulent sixties with the Great Leap Forward which left in its wake 20 million Chinese dead from famine, the Cultural Revolution which nearly ruined China and forced Mao to reverse it. But it also describes the unprecedented growth under Mao's successor, Deng Xiaoping and the Chinese leaders that followed him rendering China an Economic Superpower.

The credentials of the author for writing the book are impeccable:the book was written 40 years after the author's first high level mission to China at the behest of president Nixon in 1971 and following 50 additional travels and discussions with four generations of Chinese leaders in the interval.

The book aims, partly drawing on the discussions with Chinese leaders as primary source, to explain the conceptual way the Chinese think about problems of peace and war and international order, and its relationship to the more pragmatic American way.

American exceptionalism is missionary.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Splendid and enlightening 28 May 2014
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
This is an excellent history and analysis of political China from the point of view of someone who saw more of the inside of Chinese politics than any other outsider in the 20th century. Kissinger gives what I found a most informative description of the culture within which Chinese political matters occur. In particular he emphasizes the continuity of the history and the fact that with such a long and continuous historical record, the Chinese invariably have a past example to point to, and by which to interpret and analyse current events.

The description of the Nixon-Mao meetings is riveting with the characters of the two leaders - and their lieutenants - Lin Biao, Zhu Enlai, Deng Xioaping and of course Kissinger, interweaving, with strengths and weaknesses, and fears of an aggressive Soviet Union driving events in a manner which was entirely unexpected at the time, but which resulted in the avoidance of serious conflict.

Overall, a very very interesting, and very well written book.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
1.0 out of 5 stars No real page numbers
There are actually no real page numbers (though it is advertised that there is). I have contacted Amazon to let them know and update the webpage. Read more
Published 2 months ago by Richard Lonergan
5.0 out of 5 stars Essential
Essential reading to understand China today. Intelligent and brilliant. Basically, it tells that, to be successful a diplomacy should take into account the other side's history... Read more
Published 5 months ago by john akwils
5.0 out of 5 stars Incredible understanding, an excellent and useful read
I have just read this for a course at graduate school. I will be reading it again in the near future, as there are so many different events and parts of history mentioned - all of... Read more
Published 11 months ago by Ian Goley
4.0 out of 5 stars Kissinger On China
Its a great book written by an expert on world history. Chinas complicated events are very understandably explained.
Maos influence on china must still be there.
Published 14 months ago by Carlos
4.0 out of 5 stars Explaining China.
Incredibly most of us in the Western world know next to nothing about China. I found the book a fascinating account of Chinese history and philosophy and how Chinese traditions... Read more
Published 16 months ago by Alan Beck
5.0 out of 5 stars !!!!
The order came earlier in perfect condition. I am very happy with the purchase. 10 from 10. And the book is definitely 'must have' for people interested in US Foreign policy!!!
Published 18 months ago by Lachezar
4.0 out of 5 stars When you sup with the devil...
It is hard to criticise Henry Kissinger, the scholar, diplomat, strategist and Cold war warrior who has a fair claim to have played a major role in bringing that war to a... Read more
Published on 2 Jun 2012 by Guy Dawnay
5.0 out of 5 stars excellent
This newly released book is not a narrative history of China. Readers looking for a primer on Chinese history will not find it here. Read more
Published on 6 Jun 2011 by Mr. Leong Wai Hong
2.0 out of 5 stars Very mixed
It should be noted firstly that the title is a bit of a misnomer, as the book is not 'on china' as such, but only really about Chinese foreign policy. Read more
Published on 5 Jun 2011 by Amazon Customer
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