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On China

4.06  ·  Rating Details  ·  3,401 Ratings  ·  309 Reviews
In this sweeping and insightful history, Henry Kissinger turns for the first time at book-length to a 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 ...more
Hardcover, 608 pages
Published May 17th 2011 by Penguin Press HC, The (first published January 1st 2011)
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Sternej I've seen this book bashed by some who don't like Kissinger for his political past. Hoever, there's no denying that he is a briiliant man. He deftly…moreI've seen this book bashed by some who don't like Kissinger for his political past. Hoever, there's no denying that he is a briiliant man. He deftly gives an overview of ancient Chinese history and culture, then moves into modern times. Since he was more in charge of diplomatic relations between the U.S. and anyone for at least 35 years, who better to tell that story? Since he has all this inside information and personal observation of the Chinese leaders since Mao, he makes it personal and that keeps it from becomong a dry history book.(less)
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Chan Yee
Oct 19, 2011 Chan Yee rated it did not like it
Kissinger’s Ignorance about China

China is a complicated large country with a long history and civilization entirely different from Western ones. Chinese top leading group is a black box. Its operation is tightly kept confidential. For an autocracy like China, one cannot understand it without understanding its leaders. No wonder Western China watchers are frustrated in understanding China.

However, as a well-experienced diplomat who helped Nixon achieve rapprochement with China, Kissinger must be
Henry Kissinger's reputation remains controversial at best today, but many consider one of his most profound achievements in foreign policy to be the opening of China in the 1970s. Few, past or present, could dare to approach the depth of his expertise in this area.

The first few chapters of the book cover a broad outline of Chinese history up to the early 20th century, and ventures an explanation of the nature of their relations with other nations - primarily as tributary states, as all challeng
Jul 10, 2011 Dave rated it liked it
First of all, the humorous aspects of the book:

1. Take a look at the cover itself! Kissinger's name seems slightly bigger than the actual title.
2. A disproportionate amount of the photos feature the distinguished author. "Here is the author talking with X," "Here is the author talking with 'Y,' and my favorite, "Here is the author playing ping-pong with one of his aides." Well I guess you are a regular guy after all!

So, Kissinger lives up to his reputation as being somewhat self-important.

With t
Babak Vandad
Mar 25, 2016 Babak Vandad rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
کتاب از زبان و دیدگاه یک سیاستمدار عالیرتبه و باسابقه نوشته شده و این مهمترین ویژگی کتاب است: در این کتاب درمییابیم که یک دیپلمات چطور حرف میزند، چطور حرفهای دیگران را میشنود و خلاصه اینکه، آنچه که در رسانهها میشنوید از دید یک دیپلمات چه معنی و مفهومی دارد.

کتاب سرگذشت چین معاصر را از جنگ تریاک در قرن نوزده تا زمان ریاست جمهوری باراک اوباما، پوشش میدهد. با این حال، همه حوادث مهم را برنمیرسد؛ برای نمونه، الحاق هنگکنگ به سرزمین اصلی.

کیسینجر از میان همه مسائلی که یک کشور دارد فقط به دیپلماسی آن میپر
Nov 07, 2015 Chris rated it it was amazing
Wow. I had always known the name Henry Kissinger but wasn't intimately familiar with his work in the State department or what the general view of his legacy was until started doing some research ahead of reading 'On China', with him clearly being a controversial figure for his embodiment of 'realpolitik'. I will also caveat that I haven't studied Chinese history in too much depth so don't have many other perspectives to compare this against.

All that said, this book is incredible. Kissinger's co
Michael Taylor
Jan 22, 2016 Michael Taylor rated it did not like it
Shelves: did-not-finish
Excited to expand my understanding of Chinese history, and America’s current diplomatic relationship with China, I bought a beautiful hardback first edition of On China by Henry Kissinger. Given that Kissinger has decades of diplomatic experience with China I assumed that he would be a great primary source to learn from.

He turned out to be a primary source: a grossly biased primary source. He writes about Mao with a reverence which made me nauseous. The little I knew about China included Mao Zed
Bob Gustafson
May 06, 2014 Bob Gustafson rated it liked it
"On China" is authoritative, scholarly and dull.

Kissinger puts us on the Chinese History Interstate Highway beginning more than two millennia ago. We travel in fifth gear from the time of Confucius, the purpose of which is to give us China's position in the world from a Chinese person's point of view, and get off at the beginning of the nineteenth century. We then travel through that century, in stop-and-go traffic, as Great Britain attempts to take China over in somewhat the same fashion as it
Sep 14, 2013 umberto rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history, china
It is a bit difficult to begin my review with 'I thought ...' for this aptly recently-released non-fiction published in 2012. Instead, I would think this highly informative book on historical, cultural and political China, one of the large countries in Asia in terms of its size and population, written by one of the great American diplomats in the 20th century should be a must for those interested in this amazingly magnificent country in the Pacific Rim; its history itself has dated back since so ...more
Feb 22, 2016 Patrice rated it really liked it
I did not complete this book. I got about 300 pages in.
I absolutely loved the beginning. Kissinger gives a great analysis and description of Chinese history and culture.
He described the Chinese mind-set, something I knew nothing about. He describes the Korean War, briefly and begins to go into great detail about Nixon's (and his) strategy.

Around page 300 he goes into infinite detail about what happened between him, Nixon and Mao. In it's way it was fascinating as he was there and this is a fir
Feb 27, 2012 Jessica rated it liked it
First of all, I should probably say that I didn't finish the last hundred pages or so of this book. To be honest, I got bored. I loved that this book started out with a healthy dose of Chinese history, but I wasn't too keen on Kissinger's analysis of...well, anything. Don't get me wrong, I love the Analects as much as the next girl, but Kissinger's attempts to explain modern China using the game of "wei qi" and a handful of Confucuis' teachings did not have me convinced that Kissinger was doing ...more
Jul 02, 2011 Mark rated it it was amazing
On China records the half century effort of Henry Kissinger and successive American governments to establish normal relations with the government of China. This vigorous and highly readable book lays out in detail every aspect of the diplomacy that brought the once hostile and renegade government of China to join the world economic order.

Kissinger spends the first three chapters in an extensive analysis of the political history of China. Key to understanding China's history is the most fundamen
Mike Orszag
Jun 04, 2011 Mike Orszag rated it it was ok
There are brilliant sections of this book. There is an interpretative history of modern China. There is insight into some of the key personalities. There is history of the relationship between the US and China which Kissinger personally developed and played a key role in over a long period of time.

What is strange though is that for someone who was always very cautious in his views, this is a strangely opinionated book without original opinions.
There is a very clear point of view and it almost re
Catherine Gentry
Excellent overview of Chinese history and the clash of worldviews as the West first began colonizing and then humiliating the Middle Kingdom. I recognized how China represented the last of the indigeonous cultures that the "Roman machine" which began colonizing other peoples first in the Middle East (as in Israel) and then spreading across Europe to the Americas, the Pacific Island peoples, India and finally Asia. The prevalent world view which allows no other and would destroy any competing ide ...more
Jinsong Zhang
Mar 29, 2014 Jinsong Zhang rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Although I don’t completely agree with the author, I thoroughly enjoyed this wonderful book about a country where I came from.

I was immensely impressed by the first-hand materials Kissinger possessed in writing this powerful book. Kissinger chooses wisely the starting point where to begin his account. People, even among the Chinese pay little attention to the literal meaning of the Chinese name of the country. Explaining the meaning of the two Chinese characters helps understand the people’s tra
Zohar -
May 13, 2011 Zohar - rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2011
“On China” by Dr. Henry Kissinger is a non-fiction book in which the famous statesman recounts and advises on the future of Chinese diplomacy with the west.

Dr. Henry Kissinger writes at length about the country he has known for decades. Recounting Chinese history and culture, Kissinger examines how China sees itself and the outside world.

Dr. Kissinger examines key episodes in Chinese foreign policy, from hundreds of years ago to current events with emphasis on the rise of Mao Zedong.

One of the t
Jul 30, 2012 Ray rated it liked it
This was Henry Kissinger's take on China. It was okay, meaning it was insightful in parts, useful for some historical nuggets, and quite readable. This is, after all, Henry Kissinger, America's greatest diplomat, writing about a country whose modern relations with America were created by him.

He starts out grandly, giving a rather hilarious description of Lord McCartney's ill-fated expedition to China, and covers the Opium Wars and following century of subjugation fairly well, noting the various
Alex Bowman
Oct 14, 2011 Alex Bowman rated it really liked it
I found the book On China by Henry Kissinger to be one that is very intellectual while still having an element of creative process involved. In the book, Henry Kissinger, former Secretary of State and National security advisor under the Nixon administration, addresses the history of China and how it got to be here today. After spending many times visiting China while in office, Kissinger had acquired a great knowledge of the history of this country. He then documented his public relations experi ...more
For those familiar with some of Kissinger's other work on diplomatic history, On China is essentially applies the approach of Diplomacy to the history of China's relationship with the outside world and particularly with the United States, identifying recurring themes and making connections between different events to uncover underlying principles. On China begins with a whirlwind history of China's experience in international affairs, from the classical "Middle Kingdom" period, through China's " ...more
Umair Khan
Mar 06, 2013 Umair Khan rated it liked it
Henry Kissinger is one of those celebrity analysts in the West who are considered an authority on China. Kissinger’s reputation is based on his career as a diplomat turned business consultant.

With a title as generic as “On China”, I wondered what the book would hold for me. Would it be a collection of memoirs? An academic study of ancient Chinese culture and its impact upon the mindset of contemporary Chinese leaders? Perhaps it would provide a historical justification of the paradoxical marriag
Robert Morris
Aug 15, 2013 Robert Morris rated it liked it
Kissinger's unique perspective makes for a fascinating book, but the most interesting bit is the 20 page afterword for the paperback edition. Not the afterword itself, but the choice to include it. The hard-cover version of the book ended with a heart-warming plea for co-existence. Kissinger wrote the book in part in an attempt to outline the very different ways that the US and China see the world and foreign relations. The initial ending of the book opens with a comparison of the rise of German ...more
Sep 20, 2011 Salvatore rated it liked it
An interesting look at the political history (not social) of China. Kissinger's style is fluid and easily readable and accessible, which was a bit unexpected. I thought that his discussions on pre-modern China were much more fascinating, perhaps because I knew less of that information. I had kind of hoped that the narrative would be more encompassing that looking at Sino-American relations of the 20th century, but then again this is probably what Kissinger is best to discuss.

Note that most of hi
Jul 02, 2014 Ejieok23 rated it really liked it
i am chinese and we are quite famaliar with Mr.Kissinger who is considered to be our old friend. IN this book, i can learn a lot of history and break-ice adventure of China and USA. And I quite agree of what H.K describe about China and Confucius:Rarely did Chinese statesmen risk the outcome of a conflict on a single all-or-nothing clash; elaborate multiyear maneuvers were closer to their style. Where the Western tradition prized the decisive clash of forces emphasizing feats of heroism, the Chi ...more
Scott Martin
May 16, 2015 Scott Martin rated it liked it
(Audiobook). It is always interesting to hear the perspectives of men who played such a key role in international affairs, especially men such as Kissinger. He certainly played a major part in opening up US relations with the People's Republic of China in the early 1970s. It is with this experience that Kissinger offers his insight into China. This work is basically a primer of Chinese foreign relations, especially with the West. He starts with discussing the history of Chinese/Western relations ...more
Daver Lau
May 09, 2015 Daver Lau rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Sharing from a distinguished statesman

Among the many books on China, this book is unique in that the writer was a key architect in establishing the Sino-American relationship after WWII. In the four decades since the author served as Secretary of States of the U.S., the author remains a highly respected unofficial "global statesman" who continued to be trusted by the leaders of both countries and as such was called upon for support during the most challenging times between the two countries.

Jeffrey A Grenz
Feb 13, 2015 Jeffrey A Grenz rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition

Whether one admires Dr. Henry Kissinger or not, it cannot be denied the man was THERE and knew all the major actors on the world geopolitical stage for the past forty plus years.

His very brief history of China's four thousand year history as a tumultuous state, indeed as the land that created "statehood" as it is traditionally understood, quickly gives way to a slightly more detailed summary of 19th century European colonialism in China. A people that have long see
Mengran Xu
Feb 12, 2015 Mengran Xu rated it really liked it
There is only one reality but many interpretations. How a nation perceives reality is deeply shaped by its history, values, and culture. One incident can generate many narratives. Whether the narrative is reflecting the reality is less of a problem—it is fair to say that no narrative is purely objective—but how much one believes in a particular narrative and how narratives differ from each other are the primary obstacle to mutual understanding. Therefore, when dealing with international relation ...more
Talbot Hook
Mar 08, 2015 Talbot Hook rated it really liked it
I do not like Dr. Kissinger.

Yet, he is clearly possessive of fierce intellect and sharp analytical skills; these are coupled with his ability to understand different peoples and cultures.

The first hundred pages of this book are flawless. They are absolutely exquisite, and I think they should be required reading for anyone studying Chinese history and thought.

The rest of the book is good, and well-conceived, backed up by Kissinger's years of service to our government with interesting anecdotes a
Jul 17, 2013 Kait rated it really liked it
Great. Intelligent, insightful and so readable. It's a wonderful primer of an American's thoughtful understanding of where China has been and where it is going based on his extraordinarily advantaged point of view on the subject. It is also an interesting primer on diplomacy - both in its discussion of the topic and also the diplomatic way the book is written.
Kaitlin Oujo
May 30, 2015 Kaitlin Oujo rated it really liked it
Shelves: read-in-2015
On China

Right off the bat, this subject is not my area of expertise. Kissinger gives an overview of the history of China's diplomatic engagement with its neighbors from the Confucian era onwards, and sheds light on the nuances of China's relations with both the Soviet Union and the United States. As President Nixon's envoy to China when the U.S. and China reestablished relations, he has a lot of very unique experiences and insights to share. I learned an awful lot, and felt that most of the boo
Feb 23, 2014 Peter rated it really liked it
In 2014, it's hard to imagine that only a few years ago China was a weak country with an anemic economy and meager trade with the United States. Kissinger makes the case that the miraculous transformation of China in just two decades, including the vigorous pursuit of science and technology education by exchange students in U.S. schools, and the explosion of international trade is the realization of the vision of one man: Deng Xiaoping.

Although he gives inadequate attention to the tremendous hum
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Henry Alfred Kissinger (born Heinz Alfred Kissinger) is a German-born American bureaucrat, diplomat, and 1973 Nobel Peace Prize laureate. He served as National Security Advisor and later concurrently as Secretary of State in the Richard Nixon administration. Kissinger emerged unscathed from the Watergate scandal, and maintained his powerful position when Gerald Ford became President.

A proponent of
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“It is one of history's ironies that Communism, advertised as a classless society, tended to breed a privileged class of feudal proportions.” 10 likes
“In his essay, ‘Perpetual Peace,’ the philosopher, Immanuel Kant, argued that perpetual peace would eventually come to the world in one of two ways, by human insight or by conflicts and catastrophes of a magnitude that left humanity no other choice. We are at such a juncture.” 9 likes
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