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On China

4.13  ·  Rating details ·  5,659 ratings  ·  472 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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4.13  · 
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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
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
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
Hartley Wise
Jun 03, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Kissinger is such a good writer it makes you forget he may have committed war crimes
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
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
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
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
Aug 27, 2012 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: china, history
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 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
Mike Orszag
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
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
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
Jun 18, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: educational
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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.
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
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
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
Jul 30, 2012 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
Sep 01, 2011 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
Zohar -
May 03, 2011 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
Leopold Benedict
Aug 08, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: china-se-asia
Kissinger is such an erudite and interesting writer. I enjoyed the part on China's history more than the history of the 60s and 70s when Kissinger entered the picture. I can understand that he focuses on his personal experiences, but it was a bit too detailed for me.
Scriptor Ignotus
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
May 21, 2013 rated it liked it
This was an excellent book. The comprehensive title “On China” is perhaps a deceptive title as this book was definitely not a general treatise on China. A more accurate title would be something like “Sino-American relations” or something like that. I am especially happy that I read Sun Tzu’s The Art of War shortly before reading this book. It definitely gave me important context and insight into the book.

Like I’ve said before, I think that Kissinger is an excellent guide to International Relati
Lilian Kong
Nov 05, 2016 rated it really liked it
A fascinating look into diplomatic relations between the China and the United States. At times, there was a bit too much information to absorb and the language got dry, but I loved the nuance Kissinger gave to China-US Relations.
Chapters on Nixon-Mao relations (including real interview transcripts!) and Tiananmen Square Incident (the issue of morality and human rights) were my favorite. However, I think Kissinger really nailed the first two chapters, where he outlined China's "Middle Kingdom" m
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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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“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.” 21 likes
“It is one of history's ironies that Communism, advertised as a classless society, tended to breed a privileged class of feudal proportions.” 18 likes
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