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Nixon and Mao: The Week That Changed the World
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Nixon and Mao: The Week That Changed the World

3.76 of 5 stars 3.76  ·  rating details  ·  503 ratings  ·  75 reviews
With the publication of her landmark bestseller Paris 1919, Margaret MacMillan was praised as “a superb writer who can bring history to life” (The Philadelphia Inquirer). Now she brings her extraordinary gifts to one of the most important subjects today–the relationship between the United States and China–and one of the most significant moments in modern history. In Februa ...more
Hardcover, 404 pages
Published March 5th 2007 by Random House (NY) (first published January 1st 2006)
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Book nine of the "Joey B reads himself some presidential goodness" series. I had been dreading reading about Richard Nixon. All I knew was that he is universally accepted as a horrible president and a horrible person. Was he? Mostly, but this book does raise some interesting issues.

I decided to read this book as opposed to a general biography because I wanted to focus on the one act of his presidency that is widely seen as a triumph: his trip to China.

I had always heard about this trip but didn'
MacMillan entertains as well as educates readers yet again, exploring some of the most important aspects of the 20th century. Her focus, the February 1972 meeting between Nixon and Mao; her hypothesis, that it formulated a permanent change whose reverberations are still being felt around the world. While only an hour face-to-face, this meeting and its lead-up set the groundwork for lasting change in three major ways: political developments on many fronts, ideological shifts in the midst of the C ...more
Jun 06, 2008 Dirkus added it
Perhaps relevent given all the nonsense talk of "appeasement" in today's campaign.

Once again: praise be to MacMillian. Her previous book has singlehandedly overturned the Keynesian interpretation of the Versailles Tready that dominated for some 70 years. Here she gives a tremendous account of everything that went into getting the two titans together, from the grandiose to the rediculous. Each chapter provides the necessary history to give the reader the proper grounding in topics such as Chines
Omar Ali
A rare book that delivers more than it promises. Short but interesting looks at the careers of Zhou, Mao and Lin Biao as well as Nixon. And of course Henry Kissinger gets a lot of coverage too. Rich in detail about the diplomacy and planning leading up to the visit. Very readable and packed with interesting anecdotes as well as some very objective analysis. Steers clear of postmodern guilt AND imperialist propaganda. Great job.
Ending this book with a quotation from Star Trek really rubbed me the wrong way.
Jeni Enjaian
I'm adding Margaret MacMillan to my list of favorite authors of history. Quite simply, she did a masterful job weaving together a complex story using the structure of Nixon's historic week long visit to China. It does not hurt that the narrator was pretty spectacular too.
MacMillan walked a delicate line as she weaved back and forth between narration of the specific events of that particular week and several background biographies of the principal characters, American and Chinese, and of the coun
Justin Tapp
the author provides all the necessary background information--mini biographies of all the key players involved, the historical context, a brief history of U.S. involvements in East Asia (namely Korea, Vietnam, and the support of Taiwan), a brief history of Communist China under Mao, stories of Kissinger's secret trips and the diplomatic backchannels over the years that made the trip possible, the details of every part of the week-long trip, the world's reaction, etc.

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Nixon and Mao provides a great look at how these two enemies came together to begin a rapprochement that would change the dynamic of modern world history and begin to crumble the traditional roles of the Cold War. It would bring a president whose paranoia matched those of the people he negotiated with. Margaret MacMIllain does a superb job of blending together the complex array of issues facing a negotiation with the Chinese. From Kissinger's secret visit via Pakistan to the handshake that chang
Any history book that claims to be about a single small span of time of course expends half of the book on context, events years before and after. The time span is a good device that gives the book a focus, and also provides a reason to repeatedly step back from the bigger picture and add details like the type of candy provided by the Chinese hosts to Nixon.

Zhou is apparently pronounced very close to 'Joe', as in 'Zhou the premier of the People's Republic of China'.

I liked the examination of al
The book is an interesting overview of the openning of US-China relations. The author does an effective job of describing all of the events and personalities surrounding the eventual meetings (from ping-pong diplomacy, the logistics of the actual trip, biographies of the major players). Much this has been covered in more detail in other books (biographies of Nixon, Mao, histories of China etc) but the book is interesting and does cover a lot of ground, which helps illustrate the importance of th ...more
The actual meeting between Nixon and Mao was boring and uneventful. However, this books is really about everything surrounding the meeting, which was much more significant. MacMillan makes the invisible nature of diplomatic tensions and maneuvers visible, as if she is adding dye to an apparently placid river and revealing the patterns of turbulence beneath.

Beyond the diplomatic procedural account of "the week that changed the world," several chapters are devoted to the personal background of th
Terry Earley
I enjoyed MacMillan's treatment of this important event. Without sugar-coating Nixon's weaknesses, she went into great detail and included Kissinger's and Chou En Lai's important roles. In fact, she probably wrote more pages relating to these two than on Nixon or Mao.

It was enlightening to learn that Kissinger was passing secrets of Soviet security to demonstrate good will, and that he and Nixon did all they could to keep the US State dept out of the event, much to their dismay and anger.

You can
Like most Americans at the time (pre-internet & 24/7 news) one day I learned that there were American ping pong players in China and not long after that our president would be going. Like all diplomatic breakthroughs, it did not "just happen" and Margaret MacMillan describes details on both sides.

I did not know that this was Nixon's initiative and that Kissinger, at first, was a reluctant follower. I did not know that upon departure, there was no firm commitment from the Chinese that Nixon a
In Nixon and Mao, historian Margaret MacMillan weaves a flowing narrative that recounts the events of one historic week for U.S. foreign relations. In February of 1972, Richard Nixon became the first American President to visit China. While isolationism had been China’s overarching foreign policy, a recent Communist overthrow and Mao Tse-tung’s rise to power made this Cold War meeting finally possible. Both Nixon and Mao prided themselves on their abilities as statesmen, and each recognized an o ...more
Bookmarks Magazine

Margaret MacMillan follows Paris 1919: Six Months That Changed the World (**** Mar/Apr 2003) with another tale of a world-changing encounter. She draws parallel narratives of how the two world leaders met in a momentous (if stilted) handshake, and she peppers her analysis with fascinating details, such as what led to Mao's 1958 decision regarding the offshore islands of Quemoy and Matsu and the American commitment to defend Taiwan. MacMillan's use of flashback (the narrative begins with Nixon's

This book has been riveting to read. All of this history happened during my lifetime.. I was just too small to remember any of it. C said that the only thing that he really didn't like about President Nixon is that the Watergate hearings bumped his favorite program The Flintstones. You can see that point of view I'm sure. Anyway we were young, but are living in a time now where Nixon's opening of China has made great changes in the world we live in today. I honestly don't know that there would h ...more
Very good overview of one of the most important foreign-policy shifts of the 20th century which set the foundation for inarguably the most important bilateral relationship in political and economic terms in the world today. MacMillan is remarkably impartial in discussing the positive and negative characteristics of both sides, and does a good job exploring not only what happened during that groundbreaking week but setting the stage for that week, investigating the foreign-policy dynamics of the ...more
Babak Fakhamzadeh
Excellent book on the rapprochement between the US and China under Nixon. The only issue I have is that the author several times tries to make the point that the Soviet Union was expansionist in the 1970s. They were perhaps seen as such, but knew they were overreaching, specifically in their support of nonaligned countries, talking about support, without putting their money where their mouth was.
The author should have known this.
Douglas Graney
Very impressive work by Margaret MacMillan.

The subtitle is The Week That Changed The World, and while that is true, the week itself, in a literal sense really only amounted to both sides trying to save face over Taiwan and to a lesser extent N. Vietnam.

But the meetings, banquets and sight-seeing ultimately led to full diplomatic relations.

Chou en lai is the most interesting of the Big 4 (Chou, Mao, Nixon, Kissenger). I found myself thinking "he has some good points" as he pointed out US interf
Jan 25, 2009 Tom rated it 3 of 5 stars
Shelves: history
Margaret McMillan's first book since Paris 1919, this one on more recent events leading up to and during Nixon's visit to China. I found it an interesting glimpse into an event that I recall. I was left however still wondering how Nixon, a staunch anti-communist in his earlier political career came to the conclusion that he should open relations with China under Mao. The only reason given was that it acted as a counter balance to the Soviets. While strategically plausible, it nevertheless seems ...more
Ryan Curell
This starts well and gets to the brunt of the matter: the meeting with Nixon and Mao. Everything's pretty much down hill from there.

I took a Chinese politics course in college and much of this book is a solid review of 20th century Sino-US relations; later chapters on the Soviet Union, Japan, and the Pakistan-India conflict are too long and, save the info on the USSR, not terribly relevant to the topic.

I like the way MacMillan tells history--anecdote followed by detailed history, forming a kal
A solid and unflashy retelling of a well-known event, written by a scholar but with an eye towards a general appeal. Well footnoted, but not for a specialist. MacMillan has a very good sense of the telling detail, like the story of the dog purchased to humanize Nixon, who wouldn't go near him unless bribed copiously with dog biscuits. But the book suffers a bit from a back-and-forth chronology that makes it difficult to follow the week in question; she knows the dates by heart, clearly, but I di ...more
This was a great in-depth into the history, people and thinking that went into Nixon's famous trip into China during 1972. Most certainly, the week Nixon spent in China changed the course of world history. One could argue whether it was inevitable or not that China would eventually emerge on the world stage, but it's hard to imagine someone like Gerald Ford or Jimmy Carter making the first forays. After reading Nixon and Kissinger: Partners in Power this past summer, I had a lot of the backgroun ...more
Todd Kruse
I was excited to read this book so I hate to say it but I think MacMillan's "Paris 1919" is a better book. That said, I learned alot by reading Nixon and Mao including the insights on Mao's personality. Basically I thought Mao was very similar to President Lyndon Johnson - womanizer, country hick, self-centered, and with a total disregard for those around him including while they both defected in front of other people.

MacMillan's note that Nixon was bored with US domestic politics gave me pause
Good book. Good mix of background on nixon/mao, joe/kissinger, sino-soviet conflict + info on Mao's pooping habits + american butt irritations.

My main problem with the book is that the conclusion is really weak. It doesn't go deep into results of china/usa deal, glosses over Kissinger's corporate role afterwards, and doesn't explore what could've been if the deal did not happen.

Most interesting part of the conclusion said the China/USA deal was major because until the deal China was treated as a
Jun 11, 2011 Marisa rated it 3 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Marisa by: Robin Adair
1 remember President Nixon's visit to China vaguely, on the periphery of my more youthful interests. I knew it was important because, after all, Walter Cronkite covered it! Now, as an adult, and having travelled to China, it's interesting to look back on this truly historic event as it is portrayed in Margaret MacMillan's book. While she focusses on that one historic summit week (a week which sowed the seeds of a global shift in superpowers), the author branches out and tells us about the person ...more
Ted Hunt
There are not any major revelations or new interpretations in this narrative history, but it is an interesting read, as it provides a lot of background to the historic week in 1972 when Nixon visited China, as well as a lot of little "nuggets" of information about the personal interactions among the major players. One needs to become accustomed to the way that the book jumps back and forth chronologically, as the author tells the backstory interspersed with chapters about the journey. I was a li ...more
Book gives you insights in one of the significant changes in the relationship with China and the United States. Fully examines all the major players-Nixon, Mao, Henry Kissinger and very importantly Premier Chou En-lai. Lot of historical background information, how the meeting was set up in secret by both sides and a lot of interesting side light to meetings. Cast a new light on the how the relationship between two of the world powers changed. Of the four major power players, Mao was in some ways ...more
"'He would have been a great man had somebody loved him.'" (Kissinger on Nixon, 16)

"'Those writings of mine aren't anything,' Mao said. 'There is nothing instructive in what I wrote.'" (71)

"'He speaks forthrightly -- no beating around the bush, not like the leftists, who say one thing an mean another. ... He is much better than those people who talk about high moral principles while engaging in sinister intrigues. ... There is a man who knows what he stands for, as well as what he wants, and has
Fascinating account of the Nixon-Mao meetings in 1972. The real meat of the book (CD as it were) are the biographies of all the participants: Nixon, Kissinger, Mao, Zhou En-lai, Pat Nixon, etc.

The structure of the book is somewhat choppy as it constantly goes from an event (i.e., Nixon getting off the plane in Beijing) and then dives into the biography of a major player or the description of a significant prior event. As a result, it is difficult to keep track of what actually happened during th
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Margaret Olwen MacMillan OC D.Phil. (born 1943) is a historian and professor at Oxford University where she is Warden of St. Antony's College. She is former provost of Trinity College and professor of history at the University of Toronto. A well-respected expert on history and current affairs, MacMillan is a frequent commentator in the media.


More about Margaret MacMillan...
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