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On China Hardcover – May 17, 2011

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Editorial Reviews


Praise for Henry Kissinger's On China

Fascinating, shrewd… [The book’s] portrait of China is informed by Mr. Kissinger’s intimate firsthand knowledge of several generations of Chinese leaders. The book deftly traces the rhythms and patterns in Chinese history…even as it explicates the philosophical differences that separate it from the United States.”—Michiko Kakutani, The New York Times

“Nobody living can claim greater credit than Mr. Kissinger for America's 1971 opening to Beijing, after more than two decades of estrangement, and for China's subsequent opening to the world. So it's fitting that Mr. Kissinger has now written On China, a fluent, fascinating…book that is part history, part memoir and above all an examination of the premises, methods and aims of Chinese foreign policy.”The Wall Street Journal

Fascinating… In On China, statesman Henry Kissinger draws on historical records and 40 years of direct interaction with four generations of Chinese leaders to analyze the link between China’s ancient past and its present day trajectory. In doing so, the man who helped shape modern East-West relations presents an often unsettling, occasionally hopeful and always compelling accounting of what we’re up against.The Chicago Sun-Times

Fascinating… No living American has played a more important role than Henry Kissinger, the former national security adviser and secretary of state, in bringing about the historic rapprochement between the United States and China. … [Kissinger] draw[s] deep insights into China's traumatic encounter with much stronger Western powers.”The San Francisco Chronicle

On China, Kissinger's 13th book, blends an incisive strategic analysis of the moves and countermoves of China, the United States and the former Soviet Union with telling vignettes about his meetings with Chinese Communist Party leaders… entertaining.The Los Angeles Times

No one can lay claim to so much influence on the shaping of foreign policy over the past 50 years as Henry Kissinger.”The Financial Times

“From the eminent elder statesman, an astute appraisal on Chinese diplomacy from ancient times to the fraught present “strategic trust” with the United States. Former Secretary of State Kissinger brings his considerable scholarly knowledge and professional expertise to this chronicle of the complicated evolution and precarious future of Chinese diplomacy with the West. … Sage words and critical perspective lent by a significant participant in historical events.”Kirkus Reviews

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 on foreign policy and diplomacy and is currently the chairman of Kissinger Associates, Inc., an international consulting firm.

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 608 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin Press; 1 edition (May 17, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1594202710
  • ISBN-13: 978-1594202711
  • Product Dimensions: 6.4 x 1.8 x 9.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 2.2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (258 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #39,342 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

301 of 362 people found the following review helpful By Mariusz Ozminkowski on October 26, 2011
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
The book is worth reading. And yet, a novice to the subject of China, its history, and especially China's foreign relations, should be advised to take Dr. Kissinger's analysis with great caution and skepticism. Kissinger analysis is at times very interesting, at times pretentious, and, unfortunately, very often naïve. Of course he "was there," he experienced a great deal of what he describes, and certainly he had studied the subject. But instead of helping his analysis, his own experience stands on the way of objectivity. First, Kissinger is in awe of Mao Zedong. Mao can do no wrong for Kissinger. All Mao's decisions are based on meticulous planning; informed by the millenia of China's culture; and with long term considerations. In Kissinger's view, when Stalin maneuvers in some negotiations, he is conniving and conspiring, but when Mao is doing the same, he is planning, he is thinking, and following ancient Chinese strategy. Historical facts do not sustain that picture. Although Mao clearly was very skillful revolutionary, his behavior was also very erratic and often reckless. Kissinger rarely, if ever, admits that. For example The Great Leap Forward that led to famine and estimated 30-40 million deaths and set China back decades in economic development is barely mentioned by the author. The destructive and humiliating Cultural Revolution is actually presented in a positive light by Kissinger. Maybe he didn't intend the portrayal to be that way, but Kissinger writes about Cultural Revolution as it would be a political and philosophical campaign that simply didn't fulfill Mao's expectations. It was a "titanic struggle." The fact that China's society and culture was almost destroyed doesn't seem to be bothering Kissinger that much.Read more ›
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Prior to the publication of this book the definitive resource on China was Jonathan Spence's "In Search of Modern China". Spence the Yale Professor, is still indispensible to a modern understanding of this remarkable country. Now there is a second more up to date source and that is Henry Kissinger. The former Secretary of State who is now 88 years fortunately has taken the time to put together this incredible piece of work that only he could have created.

The book demonstrates the necessity of having lived a very long productive life and generating wisdom capable of distilling his understanding of a country down to a 530 page volume of work. It is as good as any of his previous works (13 with this one) and for my money I now put this book in Kissinger's top three, along with WHITE HOUSE YEARS and DIPLOMACY.

First the MECHANICS of the Book

If you are going to read the hard copy as opposed to digital, you are in for a treat. The font is beautiful, and the paper used to print the volume is delicious. I say this because if you are a heavy reader; you really appreciate turning the pages of beautifully textured pages. I annotate all of my books, writing in margins, in the back on blank pages and just about everywhere, and I love writing on beautiful page that take the ink nicely. This book was crafted professionally as good as it gets.


The Secretary has made 40 trips to China in his lifetime, enough that he should be the Honorary Ambassador to the country. He is thoroughly infused in the history of China, and he certainly does give you the history. There are 18 chapters plus an epilogue spread over 531 pages.
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77 of 96 people found the following review helpful By George Bush HALL OF FAME on May 20, 2011
Format: Hardcover
Dr. Kissinger has had personal experience with four generations of Chinese leaders, as well as building an appreciation of its long history. His "On China" primarily covers China's initial encounters between China and modern European powers, the breakdown of its alliance with Russia, rationale behind and its involvement in the Korean War, and President Nixon's historic trip to Beijing. The book is an attempt to explain differences in how the Chinese both view themselves as an exceptional civilization (cultural; non--applicable to other nations) and think about foreign and military strategy, vs. the U.S. (God-given, with an obligation to spread to others). Most of "On China" consists of a readable, but detailed history of China, along with how those events have shaped its leaders. Kissinger's historical accounting begins with with Confucius, and goes on to also summarize the forced opening of China by Great Britain and other 'barbarians,' Japanese and Russian occupation, Mao's takeover and creation of continual chaos, reclaiming former boundaries (India, Tibet, Inner Mongolia; crises over Taiwan), rationale for Sino-U.S. rapprochement, the 1989 Tiananmen Square Massacre, and China's subsequent healing and economic resurgence initiated and led by Deng Xiaoping.

Early China was plagued by internecine conflict that threatened the empire's sustainability. Confucius (551 B.C.- 479 B.C.), an itinerant philosopher largely ignored in his lifetime, provided the 'glue' that has both kept the empire together since, while uniting its people, and providing much of Asia's 'state religion.' Expertise in Confucian thought became the key to advancement after the Han Dynasty (206 B.C. - A.D. 220) adopted Confucius' thinking.
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