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On China

4.02 of 5 stars 4.02  ·  rating details  ·  2,342 ratings  ·  245 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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Chan Yee
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
...more
Hadrian
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
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Dave
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
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umberto
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
Mark
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
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Mike Orszag
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
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Bob Gustafson
"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
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Zohar - ManOfLaBook.com
“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 Ze
...more
Jessica
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
Ray
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
...more
Alex Bowman
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
Lazarus
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
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
...more
Robert Morris
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
Salvatore
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
...more
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
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
...more
Ejieok23
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
Peter
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
...more
Nelson Cardozo
Un profesor nos dice sobre este libro para conocer un poco más acerca del monstruo naciente. Henry Kissinger fue uno de los primeros en establecer contacto con los diplomáticos chinos, llegando a conocer incluso al gran Mao Tse Tung. La experiencia habla cuando el autor relata sobre lo que le costó y le sigue costando a Estados Unidos mantener una sana relación con este país.

Si bien se demuestra que la revolución china esta en auge, también hay una gran cantidad de datos que demostrará para cual
...more
Diane
Apr 06, 2014 Diane rated it 4 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: Brian
I picked up On China on CD because I had several long drives and needed a book companion. What a find. Kissinger is an excellent writer and provides a scholarly and detailed look at our relationship with China. He does a great job of showing how China has historically dealt with the world and how different this approach is to the typical western mentality of go to war and win. China’s approach has been much more subtle – war is a last option; the point is maintaining superiority in balance of po ...more
Christian Ness
This book is an in depth analysis of the relationship between the west and China which focuses heavily on the cultural differences which have made diplomatic contact with China both successful and full of challenges. Small anecdotes from the style of strategic games, to larger, more sweeping analysis of major historical forces make this work compelling and the arguments easy to grasp.

Major questions for consideration including how to calculate the interests of the United States in China, and ho
...more
John Schneider
Perhaps the most difficult and essential task to understanding modern China is grasping how differently the Chinese view the world in comparison to the West. In "On China" Henry Kissinger achieves this and much more as he recounts Chinese diplomacy over the last two centuries. By the end of the book, I was able to see how the Chinese way of approaching diplomacy and international relations was much different from my own. I was also able to place contemporary Chinese actions in a more consistent ...more
Dave B.
This was my first book by Kissinger. Ironically, I own three of his books: Diplomacy, On China and World Order. I choose to read this book once I bought the third one, World Order. I am very happy to say I enjoyed Kissinger’s analysis and believe his final arguments present a great application of critical thinking. He supports his analysis and provides a counter argument.
In summary; Kissinger provides a rolling overview of China’s history. He starts with a small snapshot of their mythology and p
...more
Rob Best
In "On China," Henry Kissinger provides a very insightful look at China-US politics since the first secret meetings between the Nixon administration and the Mao regime. This book provides an interesting lens through which to view Chinese politics and the scope of the country's change throughout the past several decades. While it can be criticized for still being an outsider's account, Kissinger's academic approach and the longevity of his involvement with China provides an unparalleled and objec ...more
Luis
China is destined to play a greater role in world politics in this century. It behooves us in America to try to understand that country of 1.3 billion as much as we can and On China is a good start. Henry Kissinger, former secretary of state and national security advisor, has written a first rate book on the Chinese mind. Part history and part personal experience, Kissinger weaves through the mystery of China and tries to give westerners a picture of a culture that is ancient, complex, proud and ...more
James
A pretty good overview of China's more recent history with the primary focus on the last half century. The book is tainted, though, by Kissinger's close association with Nixon and his administration. Any disruption to Nixon's engaging China is blamed on "The Watergate Affair" rather than Nixon and the Republican Party's malfeasance in that scandal. It feels like if no one had found everything would have been just fine.

Kissinger also takes a very pragmatic approach to China, sacrificing conversat
...more
Kent
Masterful! I now understand the use of one word reviews. That would be mine for On China.

Kissinger expertly addresses in a single volume the important aspects of the political history of China, focused primarily on the People's Republic of China, established in 1949. However, Kissinger's early presentation of the historical background of the Chinese peoples and ancient dynastic rulers and their strategies in foreign relations helped set the foundation for understanding the Chinese political mind
...more
Willy
Aug 26, 2012 Willy added it
Shelves: china
'On China' roughly breaks down in 3 sections

1. A historical introduction to China's foreign policy
2. The relationship between China and the United States since 1971 until this date
3. Contemplating the future

I believe this is a book of great significance, in each of these three sections.

The historical introduction goes beyond the known story of how China's Qing dynasty could not withstand colonial ambitions of Western nations. Kissinger gives insight in the culture and way of thinking underpinni
...more
Derek
I really enjoyed Kissinger's presentation of Chinese diplomatic history, particularly the digest of early Chinese interaction with foreign powers. I understand that Kissinger has a strong attachment to his work, it is just unfortunate that he's not able to separate himself more from the subject - much of the more recent historical perspective is filtered through the author's personal experience. While Kissinger does have extensive experience with China policy, my impression was that he made hims ...more
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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
...more
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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.” 7 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.” 6 likes
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