Tuesday, May 31, 2011

On China by Henry Kissinger

Part of Synopsis From TLC Book Tours:

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 forty years, Kissinger examines how China has approached diplomacy, strategy, and negotiation throughout its history and reflects on the consequences for the global balance of power in the twenty-first-century.

I am not by any stretch of the imagination a foreign policy genius.  I'm not an Asian studies major, nor am I a history or political science scholar.  What I am though, is a political junkie who chose to read this book so I could, maybe, get a better grasp on our relationship with China.  I was hoping to gain a little bit of insight into the U.S.-China relationship.  By doing so, I was hoping to understand, even a tad, why both countries act they way they do where the other one is concerned.  China is going to be major player for years to come, a player the U.S., especially it's citizens, will have to learn more about.

Now because of my limited knowledge of U.S. policy toward China, I'm pretty sure I'm not going to be able to give you an in depth review of this book and all it has to say.  Instead I'm going to give you my reaction to the book, all of this in pretty layman's terms.  I would strongly suggest visiting the TLC Book Tour Page for this book and checking out some of the wonderful, fully fleshed out reviews to get a better grasp of everything Secretary Kissinger had to say on our history with China.

I'll be the first one to admit that despite my love of history, I've never really read all that much about what took place on the Asian continent.  I couldn't have told you the different empires and countries that have risen and fallen since the dawn of mankind.  I couldn't have discussed the wars and the inevitable treaties that came after them.  I couldn't even have told you the names of the ruling monarchs in history, at least not the way most American kids can do with European royal families.  What I appreciated about this book is that it did give me a basic understanding of ancient China and how they viewed themselves in the grand scheme of things.  It was very interesting to learn about their creation mythology and how that myth dictated how they viewed everyone else.  I learned more about China's history in the first few chapters of this book, then I have for my entire life.  For that I'm grateful.  What I do wish this book had done more of, and I do understand this is a foreign policy book, is give me a better insight into other aspects of Chinese culture and how that influenced their history and modern lives.  For that I will have to go elsewhere, but this book gave me the desire to do so.

I'm afraid that when it came time for Secretary Kissinger to discuss the U.S. history with China in modern times, with heavy emphasis on the Nixon administration, I found myself checking out.  This was the whole reason I wanted to read this book, and maybe it's because of the Secretary's ego, I just could not convince myself that I should pay attention.  I finished the book, but by the end I was wishing I had chosen another one to read instead.  This could be my own personal political biases at work, I'm not really sure about that.  What I do know is that while the subject material was fascinating, the voice was annoying.  I have every intention to read more about China, and I'm pretty sure I will find myself going back to this book for clarification, it just won't be my first choice.

I would like to thank Trish of TLC Book Tours for the opportunity to read/review this book.


bermudaonion said...

I admire you for even giving this book a try! I'm old enough to remember Kissinger and I figured this book would be WAY over my head.

Anonymous said...

Good job on not giving up. I also found this book difficult to read although I thought it was very interesting.


Yvette said...

I am not a fan of Henry Kissinger so I probably wouldn't read this book anyway. But I like your review, Ryan. It's honest and intriguing. (We probably have similar political views.)

Anonymous said...

I absolutely agree that China will and I think already is a major player. Think of how much of our debt they hold (can you imagine if they came calling for that tab?) Chinese history is simply fascinating so I can see you wanting more of it. Kissiner, perhaps, wasn't the best, most objective person to tell the story of US-Chinese relations.

Anonymous said...

It is difficult to get into a book when you don't like the voice of the author, especially when it comes to non-fiction. I'm glad you stuck with it though, and I'm also glad that you found the earlier historical sections to be interesting.

Thanks for being on the tour.

Lisa said...

I really did prefer the history prior to Kissinger/Nixon's involvement. Maybe because that part was so much less one dimensional and unbiased.