- Paperback: 464 pages
- Publisher: Vintage; 58863rd edition (February 15, 2000)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0679768610
- ISBN-13: 978-0679768616
- Product Dimensions: 5.1 x 1 x 8 inches
- Shipping Weight: 15.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars See all reviews (19 customer reviews)
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #244,411 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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About Face: A History of America's Curious Relationship with China, from Nixon to Clinton 58863rd Edition
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In the 1960s, China and the United States had no trade relations and no direct diplomatic contacts. At the end of the 20th century, the two nations are major trading partners who regularly swap visits between their heads of state, and the relationship between the world's most populous nation (with its nuclear weapons and rapidly expanding economy) and the world's most powerful nation (standard-bearer of democracy and capitalism) has become increasingly vital to world peace. Though it remains fraught with problems, the relationship between China and America has survived such crises as the Tiananmen massacres and confrontations over Taiwan.
James Mann, a foreign policy columnist for the Los Angeles Times, was that newspaper's bureau chief in Beijing from 1984 to 1987. In the clear language of a veteran journalist, he analyzes the political and historical developments since America's first overtures to a xenophobic China in the early 1970s. President Richard Nixon and Secretary of State Henry Kissinger were interested in China as a counterweight to Soviet Russia; the Clinton administration is interested in China's markets, with a nod paid to human rights along the way. In this fascinating study, Mann uses his firsthand experience of the events and players to guide us confidently through the twists of a tortuous diplomatic journey, in which China has continually been able to play its opponents--including not only the U.S. and other nations but opposed political factions within America--off one another. --John Stevenson --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
From Publishers Weekly
The Cold War may be over, but its effects live on in the United States's desire to seek close ties with China. That's one of the main threads that Mann (Beijing Jeep), a Los Angeles Times reporter, skillfully pulls through his entertaining history of Sino-American relations since Henry Kissinger's fateful 1971 mission to Beijing. Mann deftly chronicles how Nixon's desire to open up China in order to diplomatically outflank the Soviet Union has become a virtual straitjacket on American policy. America's key decision-makers in successive administrations, Mann argues, mistakenly believed that younger leaders would reform China in much the same way that Mikhail Gorbachev transformed the Soviet Union. Using scores of interviews with top American players (former secretaries of state, national security advisers and CIA directors), as well as documents obtained under the Freedom of Information Act, he shows that the U.S. has been unable, especially in the wake of the Tiananmen Square massacre of 1989, to pressure China to reform. By the 1990s, economic ties with Beijing had become such a driving force that the Chinese knew that all American threats?most importantly the threat of revoking Most Favored Nation trade status?were empty. Mann's descriptions of the behind-the-scenes jockeying among U.S. policy makers?the micropolitics behind the geopolitics?are so entertaining that his book will appeal to readers beyond foreign policy junkies.
Copyright 1998 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Top customer reviews
The structure of the book focuses on the back and forth, love and hate, approach to China that has characterized US policy for 20 years. Behind this contradiction lies competing visions of where China is going, which Mann describes well.
Not only did we not recognize them we fought them in Korea and it is thought that we killed over 1,000,000 of their soldiers. The fighting there was so bitter that it appeared at times our own troops might be completely wiped out and killing of the wounded and prisoners was taking place on both sides at times. Then in Vietnam the Chinese backed the Vietnamese and Khmer Rouge elements as well as the Laotian communist insurgents. In short they were on the other side in conflicts that killed over 80,000 of our soldiers and in which we killed millions of communist soldiers, civilians, etc. They were one of the great powers involved in causing the conflicts because it was the communists who invaded in both conflicts not the other way around. In the 1960's the Chinese hordes were seen as a great threat to western civilization it was they after all who drove McArther back to the demarcation line in Korea (suffering staggering losses including the son of chairman Mao). They were second only to the Soviet Union on the list of threats to the U.S. and this was only exacerbated when they exploded their first nuclear weapon.
Isn't it strange that although the government today is the same government that existed back then only with different faces and that we are now such good allies when in some respects little has changed? Why this sudden about face with a country that had been our enemy prior to the Nixon mission and who has failed to change significantly from what they were before. For all the economic reforms taking place in today's China the government more closely resembles Fascism than Communism and neither of them are particularly compatible with western democracy. Why do we cut them so much slack and why he change? That's what the book is about.
Consecutive administrations since the Nixon mission reestablished relations with the mainland have consistently sought to curry favor with the communist administration in Beijing. Initially it made sense in the respect that it drove a wedge of sorts between the "communist giants" and weakened their united front. With the decline of the Soviets and the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989 and the subsequent disintegration of the USSR that followed that rationale no longer held up. Yet to this very day we continue to treat our relationship with Communist China as a "special friend" situation politically.
We do this despite the fact that they have been directly implicated in practicing espionage against our military industrial complex, computer industry, and nuclear development agencies (in the 1990's). We do this despite the fact that they are thought to be spending $80 billion annually on armaments when they claim $20 billion and the major expressed military objective is to counter the hegemony of the US. We do this despite a steady track record of doing and saying very unfriendly things most recently the incident with the ramming of our spy plane and then holding our personnel for a period of time. We do this despite the fact that our concepts of human rights are directly opposed to one another and incompatible (we believe in the rights of human beings to choose their own destiny, political and religious freedoms etc. Their definition of human rights and freedom is quite literally free housing, medical, etc all provided and controlled by the government). China is one of the countries systematically undermining the western concept of the value of human life because they consider human being expendable and always have (hence the human waves sent against our overwhelming firepower in Korea that still knocked us back at a terrible price).
The book looks at these questions and is somewhat critical of U.S. policy to some extent because we have helped a potentially hostile country survive with a repressive military regime in place that is not reluctant about slaughtering it's own citizenry in their hundreds if not thousands (Tianamen Square). Saving face in Asia is more important element than it is in west but are we being disingenuous in taking the insults and transgressions of the Chinese Communist government lightly and will it come back to haunt us later in the century?
In short there are disturbing aspects to the relationship and to some extent it appears we are in bed with the devil on this one at this time.
The best part about this book, however, is simply how well written it is. It is completely scholarly, yet it reads like a story. It's rare that I say this about a nonfiction book, but I couldn't put "About Face" down.
Most recent customer reviews
My professor at Fletcher, Tuft assigned this book and I love it.