Reading 1.4: On China (Henry Kissinger)

Richard Nixon’s famous trip to China 1972 likely would not have been possible without two more inconspicuous trips to China made by Henry Kissinger in 1971. Kissinger met with then Premier Zhou Enlai and began what was thought to be an impossible (and ill-advised) dialogue with a rising Communist power. 44 years after Kissinger’s visits, the economic and geo-political implications of this opening to China are seen in the now highly interdependent (an mutually beneficial) economies of the US and China.

Moving from the last reading’s highly academic examination of Chinese concepts of the indirect approach, Henry Kissinger’s On China offers a very practical view of China’s interactions with the West since the PRC’s founding in 1949. While Kissinger obviously approaches the subject from the perspective of a US diplomat, his over 40 years of strategic-level interaction with and 50 visits to China lend considerable weight to his arguments. On China is really a work of history from an inside perspective at the highest level. The work is very readable and contains a great deal of insight not only into Chinese politics but also sheds light on the massive time and energy commitment required to achieve positive interaction between two great powers.