Book Review: On China by Henry Kissinger

May 11, 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. Mr. Kissinger is a American diplomat who served as National Security Advisor, and Secretary of State to the Richard Nixon and Gerald Ford administrations.

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One of the things which always fascinates me when it comes to political books is how decisions are made behind closed doors, the diplomacy, arm twisting and walking on tight wires which are the bane of foreign policy makes around the world. In his book “On China”, Dr. Kissinger explains some of this process which I find so fascinating.

The book, which draws extensively from Dr. Kissinger’s personal experience, starts with an introduction to ancient Chinese culture and foreign policy. Chinese culture has a lot of bearing on the Chinese diplomats’ way of thinking and statecraft. As Dr. Kissinger found out, that was the key to understanding and negotiating with the Chinese.

I enjoyed reading this book and getting, what seems to me, insightful and insider’s information. However, this is one tough book to read. Lots of information is thrown the reader’s way, many nuances and names are being recalled, all the while referencing thousands of years of Chinese history which culminates at the negotiations table.

Dr. Kissinger writes about the Chinese institutions and the thinking of Chinese diplomats when creating policy from earlier encounters with European powers, the rise of communism in the Soviet Union and to the breakdown of that alliance. Mr. Kissinger manages to tackle sensitive subject like the Korean War and the Tiananmen Square crackdown through elegant writing explaining US-Chino relations. As an added bonus, Dr. Kissinger analyzes Mao Zedong and Deng Xiaoping, two of the People’s Republic most engaging figures and compares their vision for China’s future.

The book follows the diplomacy trials, errors and success while breaking many myths which until now only privileged diplomats were aware of. A fascinating book which I felt privileged to read.

So tell me, have you ever felt that you were privileged to read a certain book?


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.

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TLC Book Tour for “On China”:

Wednesday, May 11th: Man of La Book
Thursday, May 12th: Mark’s China Blog
Monday, May 16th: Hidden Harmonies China Blog
Tuesday, May 17th: Inside-Out China
Wednesday, May 18th: Lisa Graas
Monday, May 23rd: Divided We Stand United We Fall
Tuesday, May 24th: Bookworm’s Dinner
Wednesday, May 25th: Pacific Rim Shots
Thursday, May 26th: Asia Unbound
Tuesday, May 31st: Wordsmithonia
Wednesday, June 1st: Lit and Life
Thursday, June 2nd: ChinaGeeks
Tuesday, June 7th: booker rising
Wednesday, June 8th: Power and Control
Thursday, June 9th: Marathon Pundit
Friday, June 10th: Rundpinne
Date TBD: Rhapsody In Books

Zohar — Man of la Book
Dis­claimer: I got this book for free from TLC Book Tours
*Ama­zon links point to an affil­i­ate account, the money is usually spent on books

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Wrap Up

On China by Henry Kissinger


  • Alex BaughMay 11, 2011 at 7:39 am

    This sounds like an interesting book. As far as I am concerned, the one and only thing Nixon did that was good was make China more accessible to the US. Kissenger is not a favorite diplomat, either, but I think he is intelligent and was good at his job. Thanks for the great review.

    • zoharMay 11, 2011 at 8:57 am

      Thanks for the comment Alex. Nixon also created the Environmental Protection Agency and passed the Clean Water Act and the Clean Air Act.

  • RyanMay 11, 2011 at 5:42 pm

    I’m almost ready to get started on this one. After reading your review, I’m looking forward to it a bit more than I was to start off with. Kissinger isn’t my favorite either, but I’m always interested in reading from another perspective.

    As a side not, it’s too bad that Nixon’s party are now the ones calling for the end of the EPA and the Clean Water and Air Acts.

    • zoharMay 12, 2011 at 8:42 am

      <sarcasm >

      Ryan, are you actually saying that hypocrites hold elected offices?
      Are you trying to imply that they put the good of the “party” ahead of what’s good for the country?

      For shame, I say.

      </sarcasm >

  • Alex BaughMay 12, 2011 at 7:14 am

    I stand corrected, I forgot about those things. I think I am blinded by my incredible dislike of Nixon. But as Ryan above say, there is now a certain bit of irony as the Republicans try to eliminate those important agencies.

    • zoharMay 12, 2011 at 8:40 am

      While I dislike Nixon the man (as of what I know of him) I thought he wasn’t a bad President, quite the opposite. He certainly wasn’t as charming as many of those who held office, but he was a very capable statesman and a lot more honest than most of them.

  • Heather J. @ TLC Book ToursMay 12, 2011 at 5:01 pm

    I can imagine how complex this book must be, what with all the many years of Chinese history Kissinger incorporates into it. I’m glad that you found it readable (if heavy at times). Thanks for being on the tour!

  • PeteMay 13, 2011 at 8:33 pm

    This looks like it a fascinating book. The whole opening of China in Mao’s last days was such a monumental event, especially as it was instigated by such an ardent anti-communist. I’ve read a lot on the subject but haven’t read this one. Thanks for the review.

  • LisaMay 14, 2011 at 10:24 pm

    Oh, my–I knew this one was going to take some concentration but I’d definitely better get started on it soon! I’m really looking forward to it now more than ever.

  • Gently MadOctober 2, 2011 at 10:25 pm

    Another book to put on my TBR pile.

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