By Henry Kissinger
Penguin Books, 2011
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
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.