Kissinger tackles Chinese diplomacy in new book


AP Photo/Keystone, Steffen Schmidt

Seven months later, in February 1972, Nixon became the first president to visit China while in office.

Kissinger writes that he has visited China “more than fifty times” in the past four decades. Sprawling in scope, “On China” (Penguin Press, coming May 17) is his analysis of the country’s foreign policy, from its ancient origins to its status today as an economic superpower. Kissinger writes that his goal is “to explain the conceptual way the Chinese think about problems of peace and war and international order, and its relationship to the more pragmatic, case-by-case American approach.”

This is the prolific former secretary of state’s first work dedicated solely to examining China. (One minor observation: It’s dedicated to the fashion designer Oscar de la Renta and his wife, Annette. “I started the book in their home in Punta Cana and finished it there. Their hospitality has been only one facet of a friendship that has added joy and depth to my life,” Kissinger writes in the preface.)

Much of the book relies on Kissinger’s high-level conversations to set the scene. Especially in its second half, “On China” is peppered with actual dialogue Kissinger shared with Chinese leaders.

“Our announcement will shake the world,” Chinese premier Zhou Enlai tells Kissinger after they agree that Nixon would visit China and meet with president Mao Zedong.

It is becoming more and more obvious, writes Kissinger, that “China’s quest for equal partnership” with the United States “is increasingly a reality backed by financial and economic capacities.” While they diverge on economics and North Korea, Kissinger believes the two countries are working in “a largely cooperative manner.”

There is little criticism of the Obama administration’s dealing with China. Kissinger seems less interested in day-to-day diplomacy than broader questions about the role the two countries play in the world.

“What remains to be dealt with is to move from crisis management to a definition of common goals,” Kissinger writes at the end of the book. “Is it possible to evolve a genuine partnership and world order based on cooperation? Can China and the United States develop genuine strategic trust?” he asks.

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