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Publisher's Summary

The eminent historian and strategist reflects on how China's past illuminates its 21st-century trajectory, drawing on 40 years of intimate acquaintance with the country and its leaders.

In On China, Henry Kissinger turns for the first time at book length to the country he has known intimately for decades and whose modern relations with the West he helped shape. Drawing on historical records as well as on his conversations with Chinese leaders over the past 40 years, Kissinger examines how China has approached diplomacy, strategy, and negotiation throughout its history and reflects on the consequences for the 21st-century world.

As Kissinger underscores, the unique conditions under which China developed continue to shape its policies and attitudes toward the outside world. For centuries, China rarely encountered other societies of comparable size and sophistication. China was the "Middle Kingdom", treating the peoples on its periphery as vassal states. At the same time, Chinese statesmen - facing threats of invasion from without and the contests of competing factions within - developed a canon of strategic thought that prized the virtues of subtlety, patience, and indirection over feats of martial prowess.

On China examines key episodes in Chinese foreign policy, from the earliest days through the 20th century, with a particular emphasis on the modern era. Kissinger illuminates the inner workings of Chinese diplomacy during such events as the initial encounters between China and modern European powers, the formation and breakdown of the Sino-Soviet alliance, the Korean War, the opening of relations with the United States, the Tiananmen Square crackdown, and China's accession to the World Trade Organization.

With a final chapter on China's 21st-century world role, On China provides a sweeping historical perspective on Chinese foreign policy from one of the premier statesmen of the 20th century.

©2011 Henry Kissinger (P)2011 Penguin

Critic Reviews

"From the eminent elder statesman, an astute appraisal on Chinese diplomacy from ancient times to the fraught present 'strategic trust' with the United States. Former Secretary of State Kissinger brings his considerable scholarly knowledge and professional expertise to this chronicle of the complicated evolution and precarious future of Chinese diplomacy with the West.... Sage words and critical perspective lent by a significant participant in historical events." ( Kirkus Reviews)

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  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
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    3 out of 5 stars

Long, academic, bland - AN ABSOLUTE MUST READ!

Would you recommend this audiobook to a friend? If so, why?

Put this book on double speed playback. It's long. It's very dry and somewhat repetitive at points. It's clearly the bias opinion of one person who has been criticized for his role in world affairs. Nonetheless, the historical perspective on China and the specific insights into the Chinese/American dynamic should not be foregone by anyone interested in political policy or business relationships with China. I came away with a more empathetic understanding of China than I had before, and while I do not think I am qualified to set American policy on China just from reading one book, I no longer view the issue of Taiwan or the Communist party in the same way. America must learn to engage China in a positive way, and informed American voters should read this book.

5 of 5 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars

The best book on understanding China

The way the book was laid out to explin the world as the Chinese see it from a historical and a modern view point goes a long way to understand the Korean war and other flash points. It also explain how they will tend to react in the future.

If you are going to do business in China read this book first.

3 of 3 people found this review helpful

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  • Michael
  • CHERRY HILL, NJ, United States
  • 08-07-11

Fantastic

Great book, great read for understanding the history and culture of the Chinese people written in a way that Westerners can understand.

3 of 3 people found this review helpful

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understanding of Chinese singularity

I have been doing business in China for a number of years. I continue to read and learn what I can in a futile attempt to understand the Chinese and their business practices. Each book I read makes me feel a little smarter and better armed but none have ever given me an “AH HAA” moment, that is until I read “Henry Kissinger on China.” This book is an autobiography of Dr. Kissinger’s work over the years in China. He starts with a history lesson that is complete and comprehensive. Importantly, this history lesson helps to set the stage for a much more complete understanding of the Chinese values and mindset that so often loses me. After Dr. Kissinger sets the stage he has left the reader with a complete understanding of Chinese singularity, and the historical path to modern China.

The reader is then treated to a rare insider’s look at the how the Chinese and the American’s approached each other, worked through many difficulties and misunderstandings to become economic bedmates. Dr. Kissinger’s insight helps to outline the how and why of Chinese policy. The reader can formulate an understanding of the Chinese approach through this lens provided in the book. For me, historically significant events are now understandable. I would never say that I could understand Chinese politics, or would never presume to attempt to predict Chinese political response to an event, I will say that I can now understand the Chinese point of view and I can now formulate better analysis of tact I wish to take in business and I am better equipped to understand Chinese reactions to those events.

The book is logically broken down, chronologically, into neat blocks that stack on one another. Dr. Kissinger closes the book with two thought provoking chapters, “The New Millennium” and “Does History Repeat Itself?” In these two chapters Dr. Kissinger lays out a myriad of possible events and typifies American responses. Then we are asked if we learned anything from the book. I found the book to be extremely interesting and highly educational. I thank my friend for giving this to me as a gift.

6 of 7 people found this review helpful

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Fantastic

Well written and researched. Very enlightening. The book has magnificent flow and transition. Narration is also fantastic.

6 of 7 people found this review helpful

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  • Elton
  • Los Angeles, CA, United States
  • 09-23-11

Another History of China

I wrote my MA thesis on China's politics, economics, and history, so I was expecting more of an in depth look at the US China relationship with this book. I was quite surprised and disappointed with this offering. Unfortunately Jonathan Spence's Making of Modern China covers the historical aspects of China exponentially better than Kissinger.
Where I looked for this book to excel and really pay for itself was in the political mindset of China from the opening of Sino-U.S. relations on. This did not begin to take form until the later half of the book and I could have read the NYTs to get the perspective Mr. Kissinger provides. There are a lot of histories on China that are better than this book and Kissinger just does not provide enough meat for me to recommend this volume.

18 of 23 people found this review helpful

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Best book on China

This book tops all other books that I have ever read about China, whether it was a non-fiction or a fiction, whether it was written by Chinese, American, or Chinese-American. My view on this, though not authoritative, has some validities. For after all, I have lived 45% of my life in China and the other 55% here in the West.

The book provided no earth-shaking views of any kind, rather it showed Kissinger’s deep understanding of China. What is an understanding? It is knowing, the knowledge of something that transcends the barriers of language. Kissinger articulated complex, subtle and delicate topics at such an ease, that one was made to feel as if s/he was visiting an old friend. Every word was something one already knew, but only now being spoken out aloud. It was ingenious.

5 of 6 people found this review helpful

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  • Hugh
  • Woodbridge, VA, United States
  • 10-29-12

Excellent - Provides a truly broad scope of China

Would you listen to On China again? Why?

Provides a truly broad scope of China and how it perceives itself and it's place in the world. (And why ! )

I will listen to the book again because all of it is worthy of total understanding.

What did you like best about this story?

The broad scope and the first person detail that is not apparent to the media "entertainers".

Which scene was your favorite?

Insight into meetings, conferences, understandings, misunderstandings, and ambiguities.

What’s the most interesting tidbit you’ve picked up from this book?

How diplomacy is really conducted out of the public view and how it can be made to work for the mutual benefit of the various parties at different times, place and geopolitical balancing.

Any additional comments?

An excellent presentation of China / US / and world geopolitics.

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

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Great HIstory of China

Great insight into the Chinese people and their history. I very much enjoyed the ancient history, then medieval history and then the modern history. It was a good chance to see the Chinese point of view in WWII, Korea, Vietnam and now the present times. The last chapter is an excellent look into potential futures.

4 of 5 people found this review helpful

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Great book.

Although not the most thrilling of books I found it a truly fascinating dissection of a country that still remains a large conundrum for Americans.

I found the book to be very informative, well-written and wise.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful