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A Great Wall: Six Presidents and China Paperback – September 5, 2000

3.4 out of 5 stars 12 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

When the People's Republic of China was proclaimed in 1949, the balance of power in Asia was irrevocably changed. Ever since, democratic America has been obliged to contend with a Communist colossus whose world objectives are diametrically opposed to its own--how to deal with a leader, Mao Zedong, who once said, "Let 400 million Chinese die and 300 million will be left"? This book is no dry history; the author describes how easily escalating tensions over Taiwan could involve the USA in a major war today. Trained as an investigative journalist, Patrick Tyler is a marvelous writer, combining shrewd diplomatic analysis with deft descriptions of the protagonists, many of whom he saw in action when he was New York Times bureau chief in Beijing. His cast of characters includes the greatest political figures of the day, from Mao and Gorbachev to six American presidents, beginning with Nixon, whose bold knocking opened China's door, and ending with Clinton's gamely attempting to balance America's commercial interests with human rights issues. Tyler's personal experience and formidable research, including 15,000 pages of newly declassified documents, produce gems such as Brezhnev's attempt to run off with a briefcase belonging to an American negotiator visiting the men's room, and the shocking picture of Kissinger passing national secrets to Chinese officials. A Great Wall is a highly readable account of relations between the world's most powerful and the world's most populous nations and their momentous implications for the new millennium. --John Stevenson --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Library Journal

In this book, Tyler (former Beijing bureau chief for the New York Times) utilizes his expertise as an investigative reporter to describe how six presidential administrations (Nixon to Clinton) dealt with China. Through transcripts and interviews with people who worked in these administrations, Tyler very loosely reconstructs the sequence of U.S.-China relations, but he obviously prefers assessing power relations among "the presidents' men" to analyzing the presidential role. For example, he describes Kissinger's maneuvering and details just how Carter aide BrzezinskiA"whose ego stood like a pompadour over his sharp features"Acompeted with Holbrooke, who "tried to stick the knife in with as much delicacy as possible." Compared to Leonard Kusnitz's Public Opinion and Foreign Policy (1984), this book does a poor job of identifying the presidential role in foreign policy. Also, in contrast to foreign correspondents Nicholas Kristof and Sherye Wudunn (China Wakes, LJ 7/94), Tyler's is a study in mere trivialities (for example, he presents as fact Mao's supposed sexual attraction to President Ford's blonde-haired, 16-year-old daughter, Susan). Not recommended.APeggy Sitzer Christoff, Oak Park, IL
Copyright 1999 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Product Details

  • Series: Century Foundation Book
  • Paperback: 512 pages
  • Publisher: PublicAffairs (September 5, 2000)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1586480057
  • ISBN-13: 978-1586480059
  • Product Dimensions: 6.1 x 1.2 x 9.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (12 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,478,449 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
One of the most absorbing, well-researched books on contemporary U.S.-China relations that I've read in years. I was surprised as well as disappointed by the book's revelation of our nation's intent to agree to a China-America pact yet use every ruse to circumvent its true intent, particularly in regard to the Taiwan agreement.
To me, one of the most interesting parts was that of Gen. Alex M. Haig, Jrs, participation while Reagan's Secretary of State, and that because of the subterfuge, it eventually led Haig to confront President Reagan with "play the game or I resign." Haig stuck to his word and resigned.
I appreciated Tyler's professionalism, his thorough research and his palatable journalistic style of presentation.
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Format: Hardcover
For those whose circles don't include the halls of power in Washington and Beijing, Patrick Tyler's "A Great Wall" offers a valuable historical perspective and background information. As Tyler makes clear in his concluding chapter, understanding the complexities of the U.S.-Chinese relationship since the Communist victory in 1949 will be of critical importance to the next U.S. administration, which will have to deal with such key issues as Taiwan. "A Great Wall" makes an excellent companion piece to Nicholas Kristof's and Sheryl WuDunn's "China Wakes" (Vintage Books, 1994). I recommend this work to those with a casual interest in China and to those who are just beginning their quest for knowledge about the Sino-U.S. relationship.
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Format: Hardcover
Though there are many great books about China, I was not aware of many great books about U.S. policy towards the PRC. I was excited to read that one of my favorite author's, Robert D. Kaplan, had written a very postive review of this book. He was right on the money. Reading like a novel, A Great Wall, gives you the behind the scenes stories of Nixon, Kissinger, Cater, Ford, Reagan, Bush and China. I highly recommend this book.
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Format: Hardcover
As someone who follows China closely, this book is a refreshing change from the one-sided anti-China sentiment we have been experiencing. Mr. Tyler did a superb job recounting his experience and observation without being ideologically biased. His story about traveling in a Russian jet with ordinary China travelers shortly after Deng's death is memorable. I hope people in Washington and indeed in the U.S. take this story, as well as numerous others in this book, seriously. History may not always be on the Chinese side as Clinton stated in Beijing, but history would be a lot less kind to us if we fail to engage China and support Chinese reformers (NOT the dissidents)-- it is in the American's national interests and the interests of ordinary Chinese people that we do so. As a native Chinese who have lived both in China and U.S., I cannot think of a better book on China to recommend for open-minded and interested readers. For readers who did not have the opportunity to be in China witnessing history, this book would be the second best option, period. I commend Mr. Tyler for his journalistic integrity, which is such a rarity nowadays. He has made timely contribution which I hope would not go unnoticed.
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Format: Hardcover
I had mixed feelings about this book. On the one hand, Tyler's attmepts to punch up the book by including details he could not possibly know about(see his blow by blow description of the fighting on the Sino/Soviet as seen from the perspective of a hapless Soviet lieutenant) recalls some of the worst excesses of Bob Woodward. On the other hand, Tyler does a great job of showing how internal forces within the various administrations combined to form China policy. The descriptions of Kissinger Vs Rojers and Vance Vs Berezinski are well worth reading. On the whole, however, I feel that James Mann's About Face is a better book, and covers much of the same material. If you have time read both, if not go with the Mann book.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I heard Patrick Tyler participate in New York at a luncheon discussion and was so impressed that I went out and got his book. Not being a "China hand," I expected to have difficulty with the subject matter. But Tyler writes in a lucid, entertaining style, and his book is filled with revealing anecdotes and cogent analysis. There's meaty historical data as well, and a lot of contemporaneous material not publicly revealed until now. I'm awed by Tyler's research, and by his ability to synthesize the sheer volume and expanse of the subject matter.
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