- Save 10% on selected children’s books, compliments of Amazon Family Promotion exclusive for Prime members .
On China Hardcover – 17 May 2011
|New from||Used from|
Special offers and product promotions
Customers who bought this item also bought
What other items do customers buy after viewing this item?
Enter your mobile number or email address below and we'll send you a link to download the free Kindle App. Then you can start reading Kindle books on your smartphone, tablet, or computer - no Kindle device required.
To get the free app, enter your mobile phone number.
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.
Top customer reviews
"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." Except for the relatively brief period when China was eclipsed and bullied by Niall Ferguson's technologically superior West (plus Japan), it represented on the order of thirty percent of world GDP. Its current resurgence is simply a resumption of its natural status. Kissinger admires this long horizoned realpolitik and contrasts it favorably with his old bête noire, the United States' periodic outbursts of ideals-based foreign policy.
Kissinger's recounting of his personal role is moderately interesting, but the tale has been told many times before - indeed there has even been a major opera written about it. He gives due credit to Richard Nixon but this is mainly his own story. His reverence for his Chinese interlocutors is almost boundless. Thus he glosses over the Stalinesque scale of Mao's atrocities to focus on his strategic genius; he listens intently to the aging Chairman's "bantering and elliptical ... conversation" and decodes his every Chauncey-Gardnerish uttering as a gem of oracular wisdom.
Kissinger's interpretation of China is decidedly one dimensional, focusing on the geopolitical dimension of the story and then predominantly on Sino-American relations. The roles of Russia, India, Japan, Korea and Europe in the future evolution of China's strategy receive only superficial analysis. He makes little attempt to explain or even describe the economic miracle of the past thirty years other than to give credit to Deng's "reform and opening up" policy for unleashing it. He does not consider the implications of China's role as the world's creditor, or how rising costs might affect its economy - already factories, even some owned by Chinese companies - are moving to Vietnam and Bangladesh. He does not wonder how the demographics of an aging population and the rise of generations of single child families of piano-playing "little emperors" might affect the evolution of policy. He brushes over the potential for unrest, whether from ethnic or religious minorities, the disadvantaged or an increasingly educated, world travelled and vast middle class - recent election results in Singapore suggest that even a prosperous and pampered Confucian population can eventually tire of a benign autocracy. He barely mentions China's steady building up of its military capabilities, its economic imperialism, its propping up of dodgy regimes, its disregard of intellectual property rights and its extensive cyber-espionage activities.
Much of the writing in "On China" is generic, possibly reflecting the role of Schuyler Schouten, Kissinger's principal research assistant. There are too few character summings up of the caliber of his comment on Jiang: "the least Middle-Kingdom-type of personality that I encountered among Chinese leaders." And there is a disappointing dearth of Kissingerian aphorisms such as "Strategists rely on the intentions of the presumed adversary only to a limited extent. For intentions are subject to change," or his comment on Deng's retirement which perhaps was equally about himself: "the nostalgia of those who are leaving activity in which, by definition, every action made a difference, for a world in which they will soon be largely spectators."
Kissinger's closing plea to China and the United States is that they must find a way to avoid a new cold war. He prescribes the way forward as being some form of Pacific arrangement akin to the North Atlantic alliance. He is not very specific and his optimism is not very convincing.
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. It holds that the United States has an obligation to spread its values to every part of the world. China's exceptionalism is cultural. China does not proselytize;it does not claim that its contemporary institutions are relevant outside China. But it is heir to the Middle kingdom tradition, which formally graded all other states as various levels of tributaries based on their approximation to Chinese cultural and political forms;in other words, a kind of cultural universality.
At the time when Buddhism appeared in Indian culture stressing contemplation and inner peace, and monotheism was proclaimed by the Jewish - and, later, Christian and Islamic - prophets with an evocation of a life after death, China produced no religious themes in the Western sense at all. The Chinese never created a myth of cosmic creation. Their universe was created by the Chinese themselves, whose values, even when declared of universal applicability, were conceived of as Chinese in origin.
The predominant values of Chinese society were derived from the prescriptions of Confucius (551-479 B.C.). Confucius was concerned with the cultivation of social harmony. His themes were the principles of compassionate rule, the performance of correct rituals, and the inculcation of filial piety. The Confucius canon would evolve into something akin to China's Bible and constitution combined. Its maxim the harmonius society. Confucius preached a hierarchical social order. Oriented toward this world, his thinking affirmed a code of social conduct, not a roadmap to the after-life. At the pinnacle of the Chinese order stood the Emperor, a figure with no parallel in the Western experience. He combined the spiritual as well as the secular claims of the social order. The empire was administered by high literate bureaucracy selected following national examination.
In Diplomacy rarely did the Chinese statesmen risk the outcome of a conflict on a single all-or-nothing clash;elaborate multiyear maneuvers were closer to their style. Where Western tradition prized the decisive clash of forces, the Chinese ideal sressed subtlety, indirection, and the patient accumulation of relative advantage.
China's most enduring game is wei qi. Wei qi translates as 'game of surrounding pieces;it implies a concept of strategic encirclement.
Chess on the other hand, is about total victory. The purpose of the game is checkmate, to put the opposing king into a position where he cannot move without being destroyed.
A similar contrast exists in the case of China's distictive military theory. Chinese thinkers developed stragetic thought that placed a premium on victory through psychological advantage and preached the avoidance of direct conflict. The seminal figure in this tradition is known to history as Sun Tzu, author of the famed treatise 'The Art of War'. What distinguishes Sun Tzu from Western writers on strategy is the emphasis on the psychological and political elements over the purely military. Where Western strategists reflect on the means to assemble superior power at the decisive point, Sun Tzu addresses the means of building dominant political and psychological position, such that the outcome becomes a foregone conclusion.
The author is incisive in describing the personalities of Chinese leaders including Mao's and Zhou's:'The difference between the leaders was reflected in their personalities. Mao dominated any gathering;Zhu suffused it. Mao's passion strove to overwhelm opposition;Zhou's intellect would seek to persuade or outmaneuver it. Mao was sardonic;Zhou penetrating. Mao thought himself as a philosopher;Zhou saw his role as an administrator or negotiator;Mao was eager to accelerate history;Zhou was content to exploit its currents. A saying he often repeated was 'The helmsman must ride the waves.' When they were together there was no question of the hierarchy, not only in the formal sense but in the deepest aspect of Zhou's extraordinary deferential conduct.'
And then we come to Deng. Mao destroyed China and left its rubles as building blocks for ultimate modernization. Deng was the builder. The China of today - with the world's second-largest economy and largest volume of foreign exchange reserves, and with multiple cities boasting skyscrapers taller than the Empire State building - is testimonial to Deng's vision, tenacity, and common sense.
Mao had governed as a traditional emperor of a majestic and awe-inspiring kind. He embodied the myth of the imperial ruler supplying the link between heaven and earth and closer to the divine than the terrestrial. Deng governed in the spirit of another Chinese tradition:basing omnipotence on the ubiquitousness but also the invisibility of the ruler.
Mao had governed by counting on the endurance of the Chinese people to sustain the suffering his personal vision would impose on them. Deng governed by liberating the creativeness of the Chinese people to living above their own vision of the future.
In the epilogue the author outlines possible scenarios in the relationship between USA and China:
The conflict scenario: The United States is more focused on overwhelming military power, China on decisive psychological impact. Sooner or later, one side or the other would miscalculate.
The above scenario is countered by China's demographics and the capability of modern military technology.
Another scenario is that the crucial competition between the United States and China is more likely to be economic and social than military.
The author concludes appropriately the book with a wish:that the United States and China could merge their efforts to build the world.
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.
Would you like to see more reviews about this item?
Most recent customer reviews
A Proud People:
First 3 British Ambassadors (Macartney, Amherst, and Napier) all failed in their objectives to open China to the...Read more
Maos influence on china must still be there.
Look for similar items by category