"On China" by Henry Kissinger (2011)
"MAO: [T]here are now some newspaper reports that describe relations between us two as being very bad. Perhaps you should let them in on the story a bit and maybe brief them.
KISSINGER: On both sides. They hear some of it in Peking.
MAO: But that is not from us. Those foreigners give that briefing."
In case you're either very young or have been living under a rock for the past few decades, Henry Kissinger served as National Security Adviser and later Secretary of State under the Nixon and Ford administrations. After Ford he served as an adviser to more recent Presidents. One of the great achievements of his time with Nixon was the US policy of "rapprochement" with China, which was part of a larger geopolitical strategy to isolate the Soviet Union.
In On China Kissinger discusses the later imperial history of China, it's opening to the West, and the challenge communist China poses to both the United States and the world order in the early years of the 21st century. This book ends with the Obama administration and the uncertainty triggered by the financial crisis of 2008.
As someone who's read my share of books on China, I feel confident in saying that Kissinger offers a number of timely insights on the topic of US-China relations, and in the concluding chapters he goes some distance toward outlining the future of this relationship. Are the two superpowers destined to clash? Are the political systems and the ideologies driving these political systems inherently incompatible? Can they give each other enough breathing room to coexist? The possible answers to these questions are essentially Kissinger's reason for writing On China, and I'd have to say that he does a masterful job of combining specific cultural traits, historical animosities, and geopolitical realities into an overarching narrative that somehow arrives - almost seamlessly - at its destination.
And really, who better to write such a book? The guy had decades of experience dealing with China, most of it operating at very high levels of diplomacy. He knew Chairmans Mao, Jhou, Deng, Jiang and Hu personally, and this book is peppered with interesting descriptions of their personalities. He even manages to simplify the Korean War to some extent - to the point where it almost makes sense.
I think any student of US-China relations should read this book. Be warned, however, that it's dense. I'm certain that by the end you'll have a much fuller understanding of current events, not just in China but in the world at large.
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