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On China

4.15  ·  Rating details ·  6,618 ratings  ·  547 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 g…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 18, 2011 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
Jun 03, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Kissinger is such a good writer it makes you forget he may have committed war crimes
Jul 10, 2011 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
Jinsong Zhang
Mar 15, 2014 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
On China, by Henry Kissinger, is an examination of Chinese history and diplomacy, coupled with the recent opening up of Chinese society to global forces and China's subsequent engagement with the global community. The book looks at Chinese history, politics, diplomacy and culture, while coupling these topics with China's geopolitical position. Kissinger offers insight into this topic due to first hand negotiations and experience during China's initial foray into diplomatic outreach, during the f ...more
Feb 18, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: china, politics
This book on China-US foreign relations by America's iconic 20th century diplomat Henry Kissinger is as revealing as it is self indulgent. Kiss~ is a proclaimed proponent of realpolitik, the pragmatic approach pioneered in the "Art of War". Steeped in ancient lore and modern myth he is seemingly a a sinophile as well. Invested in his personal legacy he is drawn by historical gravity towards the inevitable return of the Middle Kingdom. From Three Kingdoms he quotes: "The empire long divided must ...more
Jun 03, 2016 rated it it was amazing
I've always been interested in Kissinger's perspective on U.S-China relations since he had a front-row seat to its main events. This book really exceeded my expectations. Instead of just being a blow-by-blow of events (although it has that too) it offers a philosophical examination of China's history and how this shapes the worldview of its contemporary leaders.

Some of the most interesting parts of the book are at the beginning when he discusses the approach that Chinese leaders first took towa
Bob Gustafson
Apr 03, 2014 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
May 16, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I am amazed by how deep an American could understand about China. This understanding was based on history and culture in addition to the current leaders that he was talking to, i.e., Mao, Deng, Jiang, and Hu. The book started with an impressive comparison between American and Chinese culture in two metaphors:

1. American exceptionalism is missionary. It holds that the United States has an obligation to spread its values to every part of the world. China’s exceptionalism is cultural. China does no
Oct 13, 2015 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
Omar Ali
Nov 29, 2017 rated it liked it
“On China” is a curious mixture of history, geopolitical analysis and self-serving memoir (concentrating mostly on the last two elements). Kissinger reviews some of the highlights of Chinese history; ancient and medieval China is covered quickly and superficially and the material is pretty much standard issue, but the level of detail increases after greatly from the opium war onwards and the book becomes much more interesting at that point. Kissinger makes the case that the Qing bureaucrats, in ...more
Jun 09, 2011 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
Masatoshi Nishimura
Oct 28, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: history
The atrocity committed by Mao and his proceeding communist party is well-covered topics by journalists and historians. Henry Kissinger adds valuable insight. It was really interesting to go through the dialog of Kissinger had with top Chinese politicians. He shows us a glimpse of the human side behind those Chinese leaders.

Kissinger has lots of historical insights and well-read. And as someone who has experienced the horror of Nazi Germany, I can see his passion behind his job as a diplomat. As
Aarish Khan
Aug 25, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
From China’s long historical continuity and glory, to its centuries-old tradition of introverted foreign policy, to the trials and tribulations of the communist revolution, The Great Leap Forward, and the Cultural Revolution, to the rather cautious move toward capitalism, the book covers a lot of aspects of Chinese history.

Most of the book, however, is dedicated to the diplomatic relations between China and the U.S. The author is well-placed to analyze critical junctures in the history of Sino-U
Aug 27, 2012 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
Darcy French
Aug 02, 2019 rated it really liked it
So in the end, I think this was a very insightful book, particularly as I have a (shamefully) limited knoweldge about Chinese political culture and doctrine. I think Kissinger finds a nuanced line between an honest appraisel of Chinese foreign policy and a narrative of US-Sino relations and his role in them. It is obviously a book about China written by an American, but that is not a weakness, as it enables Kissinger to articulate to a Western audience what China is like in ways that are perhaps ...more
Feb 27, 2012 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
Jun 04, 2011 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
Mike Michaels
Dec 12, 2015 rated it did not like it
Shelves: unethical
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
May 21, 2016 rated it it was amazing
A brilliant analytical outlook on the political strategies incorporated by China throughout it's long history. Henry Kissinger may be the greatest American political statesmen to have a firm grasp on Chinese history, sensitivities, political insights, and firm position it wants to claim in the world. While not everybody respects Kissinger himself, it should be recognized that he has a keen political mind and insight that must be fully considered. I challenge students, whatever their political le ...more
Jun 26, 2019 rated it really liked it
Henry Kissinger's On China benefits from his half century of experience in international diplomacy, much of that time spent engaged with China and its multiple generations of leaders. It is a fascinating ring-side view of history in the making, as well as of the art of diplomacy as practiced at the highest levels. However, the presentation is partial -- first, it is primarily an exposition of China's foreign relations, with domestic developments covered only to the extent they impinge on interna ...more
Sep 19, 2017 rated it it was amazing
It is redundant to applaud Kissinger's apt writing and acute observations, but what excited me the most is his reading on Chinese leaders: his descriptions of Mao, both Zhou's, Deng and Jiang are entertaining and enlightening, and he somehow makes it all click when he puts China's domestic and foreign challenges in conjunction with leaders' personalities. This is a must-read on Sino-Western diplomacy foremost, but it will leave you with a much more complex understanding of the country and its le ...more
Chad Manske
Jan 02, 2018 rated it really liked it
Kissinger’s mastery of China’s history and its road to 1st world status, including exceptional analysis and first-hand knowledge, is expertly captured in this must-read volume for anyone aspiring to understand Chinese politics. Kissinger takes us through the rise and fall, and current rise, of China on the world stage, helping the western world to better understand why it has pursued the path it seeks.
GLinh Tran
Jul 09, 2018 rated it it was amazing
I read a translation version into Vietnamese, but not the original one. As a person who has always been interested in China in general, I found this book interesting and informative enough since it explained a lot about the diplomat period, the history and the culture. Honestly I will read this book for the 2nd time since I found the information is incredibly overwhelming and that you need a solid knowledge foundation before reading this one.
Dec 13, 2019 rated it liked it
This is a solid book on China, their strategic culture, and a history of their foreign policy. However, after a series of exciting chapters in which Kissinger analyzes Chinese thinking and strategic philosophy, the book becomes a narrative of major event to major event in foreign policy that feels lackluster. But, it was still a good read.
Konrad von Pless
May 31, 2020 rated it it was amazing
If like me, you ever stopped reading this book due to its preponderance of detailed and minuscule descriptions, especially of the times when the author himself was involved in US-China policy, do give it another try, as it will reward beyond any travails.
Barack Liu
Aug 30, 2020 rated it really liked it

268-On China-Henry Kissinger-Politics-2011

"On China" was first published in the United States in 2011. Political books. It uses an international and world perspective to interpret China's past, present, and future.

Henry Kissinger was born in Fürth, Bavaria, Germany in 1923. Studied at City College of New York, City College, Harvard University. He served as the eighth national security adviser of the United States from 1969 to 1975. He served as the 56th Secretary of State of the
Andrew Contreras
Sep 19, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I approached this book like I would’ve approached a history textbook in high school, expecting to have to grind my teeth through the grit of historical figures, dates, and events. Because that’s how you “learn stuff”. I was wrong. “Great mouthfeel” comes to mind. The writing is that good. I was entertained and engaged throughout. I could’ve gone to Harvard if Kissinger had written my high school textbooks. “Necessity did occasionally abort principle.”...there’s the dagger reference to his allege ...more
Jun 12, 2017 rated it really liked it
This is a surprisingly approachable look at China's relationship with the United States and other western countries. Kissinger provides a necessarily brief history of China in an effort to help the reader better understand the differences between Chinese and U.S. thinking on various issues. I learned a great deal, and I was impressed by his ability to keep the book interesting for me. The verbal portraits he provides of the men with whom he negotiated during the '70s are fascinating indeed.
Umair Khan
Mar 06, 2013 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
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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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