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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

3.79  ·  Rating Details  ·  623 Ratings  ·  93 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 September 1st 2005)
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Apr 03, 2014 Joe rated it liked it
Shelves: listened-to
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'
Apr 23, 2014 Matt rated it really liked it
Shelves: audiobook
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
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
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
Jan 31, 2014 Omar Ali rated it it was amazing
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.
Feb 10, 2016 John rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Another greatly researched book by MacMillan, with detailed coverage of the event itself, and the surrounding history and contemporary impact in the US, China and the other affected countries. The Chinese come across as rather blustery, perhaps due their lack of outside contact at the time, and the ravages on diplomacy from the Cultural Revolution. Kissinger, especially, but Nixon as well, appear a bit obsequious in their political (and for their legacies) need to ensure a deal.
I deduct a star b
Nov 24, 2015 Simon rated it really liked it
Good, brisk account of Nixon's visit to China, which was called "Red" China by many at the time. MacMillan dryly describes the complicated relationship among Nixon, Kissinger (NSA at the time) and William Rogers, Nixon's hapless Secretary of State. Kissinger and Nixon were off the ranch a lot of the time when it came to foreign policy, preferring private machinations and negotiations rather than using the normal diplomatic channels. MacMillan concludes that Nixon disliked Kissinger, and that Kis ...more
Apr 18, 2016 Relstuart rated it liked it
Shelves: history, politics
In February 1972, American president Richard Nixon, became the first American president to visit China. This visit was the beginning of China opening up again in some ways to the rest of the world and shifted some focus from their internal things to also being engaged with the rest of the world. It was a significant event in the Cold War as it made the USSR and other communist nations nervous that the USA and China began to get along so well.

For Nixon, the move made sense. He cared very deeply
Johannes C
May 08, 2016 Johannes C rated it really liked it
Michio Kaku, in The Future of the Mind, wrote "Gossiping is essential for survival because the complex mechanics of social interactions are constantly changing, so we have to make sense of this ever-shifting social terrain... Thousands of years ago, in fact, gossip was the only way to obtain vital information about the tribe. One’s very life often depended on knowing the latest gossip.”

Margaret MacMillan is a first-rate academic gossip, wholly entertaining, with the most fascinating and humouro
Graham Podolecki
Jun 12, 2015 Graham Podolecki rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
In-depth and captivating, 'Nixon in China' gives the reader a window on one of the major diplomatic events of the later 20th century. With China's influence in our world much greater than in 1971-72, seeing where the foundation is put down is fascinating.
Macmillan gives us complex portraits of Nixon, Kissinger and Chou En-Lai, as well as the bizarre nature of late Cultural Revolution China. (All sorts of present day North Korea images come to mind). The work is quality reading but at times repet
Ending this book with a quotation from Star Trek really rubbed me the wrong way.
Mar 30, 2016 Jerome rated it really liked it
A rich, dramatic and well-written history of Nixon’s 1972 visit to China, with a focus on the diplomacy of the visit itself and its modest achievements.

MacMillan gives us great portraits of the main players and covers such details as Nixon’s struggle to learn how to eat with chopsticks on the flight over as well as his attempts to keep Secretary Rogers out of the loop, and how secretively Nixon and Kissinger planned the visit. Kissinger had stressed secrecy during his preliminary visit, which b
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.

If you're looking for a book
Jan 08, 2012 Brian rated it it was amazing

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
Oct 30, 2008 Lucas rated it liked it
Shelves: audio, history
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
Sep 08, 2009 Terry Earley rated it liked it
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
Jul 22, 2013 Louise rated it really liked it
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
Apr 30, 2008 Billy rated it liked it
Shelves: 20th-century-u-s
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

Aug 20, 2008 Tiffany rated it really liked it
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
Nov 28, 2010 Sandy rated it really liked it
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
James G.
Dec 07, 2015 James G. rated it really liked it
Really, this is a five-star book, but i have a tough time doing that for historical writing too often; and, as an audiobook, Barbara Caruso makes for a terrific reader. I am preparing for a trip to China in 2016 and this is a terrific way to think about how we got to where we are - summarizing the 20th century's great historical arcs and whats changed since 1972. I must now certainly also reconsider how I think about Nixon, who I think I'd known more through Dan Aykroyd's impersonation than anyt ...more
Babak Fakhamzadeh
Jun 11, 2014 Babak Fakhamzadeh rated it really liked it
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
Aug 09, 2011 Douglas Graney rated it really liked it
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 liked it
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
Jul 17, 2015 Steve rated it it was amazing
I love her style of writing history. She interweaves the plot of history with the biographical stories of the key characters (including nations) in a way that is informative and fascinating, rather than only one or the other. And her references are very helpful. I'd recommend the book, for sure. (I prefer it's organization and approach much more than I did Keegan's way of writing history).
Ryan Curell
May 31, 2007 Ryan Curell rated it liked it
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
Jul 18, 2007 Peter-john rated it liked it
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
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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.


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