On China by Henry Kissinger

by |April 28, 2011

For the first time in a full length book Henry Kissinger writes about the 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 21st-century world.

The unique conditions under which China developed continue to shape its policies and attitudes toward the outside world. For millennia, China rarely encountered other societies of comparable size and sophistication. It was the ‘Middle Kingdom,’ treating people 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 emphasized long-term structural advantage rather than absolute victory, and that prized the virtues of subtlety, patience, and indirection over feats of martial prowess.

With the enduring institutions of Chinese statecraft and civilization clearly in mind Kissinger examines key episodes in Chinese foreign policy from the earliest days through the 20th century. He illuminates the inner workings of Chinese diplomacy during such events as the initial encounters between China and modern European powers, the formation and breakdown of the Sino-Soviet alliance, the Korean War, the opening of relations with the United States, the Tiananmen Square crackdown, and China’s accession to the World Trade Organization. He also analyzes the two towering figures of the People’s Republic of China, Mao Zedong and Deng Xiaoping, and their divergent visions of China’s modern destiny. The book provides a sweeping historical perspective on Chinese foreign policy from one of the premier statesmen of the 20th century.

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