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Follow the Author
On China Paperback – 22 June 2012
About the Author
- ASIN : 0141049421
- Publisher : Penguin Press; 1st edition (22 June 2012)
- Language : English
- Paperback : 604 pages
- ISBN-10 : 9780141049427
- ISBN-13 : 978-0141049427
- Dimensions : 12.9 x 2.7 x 19.8 cm
- Best Sellers Rank: 74,656 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
- Customer Reviews:
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Top reviews from Australia
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Henry Kissinger came to know China and Chinese better than many, I would argue that better than any Caucasian I know of or have been fortunate to read
But the same Kissinger failed to provide for Chinese philosophies and their sense of goal (agitation continuum) | time (beyond any sense of human-lifetimes)| concept of agreement (or sense of convenience) | stratagems in designing and implementing Cold-War strategies at the times of Non-Aligned movement with associated anxieties in the US and NATO, choosing to sleep with double-dealing Pakistan!
Result: China outwitted and outsmarted Kissinger, who was likely aware of the risk all along...
So is life, I have been Satya Chari
Top reviews from other countries
It is a highly detailed book on his work in China as a diplomat of the US government so if you are looking for information on how US-China relations developed during his term in the government it is an invaluable source. Of course, keep in mind that this book has little to say for the last twenty years.
It's a must read for researchers, scholars and aficionados of foreign policy.
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.
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.