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Cassidian
APRIL-2013 ISSUE
Force Magazine

 

From January 2013, FORCE has started a Reading List. These are the books, which we may or may not review but still believe that they need to be read by everyone interested in issues of national security. In addition to FORCE recommended reading list, we invite readers to share with us what books they feel must be read. The books need not be new or best-sellers. You could send in your recommendations to ghazala@forceindia.net. Please make sure that your recommendations do not exceed 300 words

Know Thy Neighbour

On China In July 1971, the US President Richard Nixon sent his secretary of state Henry Kissinger on a secret visit to China, assisted by Chinese all-weather friend Pakistan. The US wanted to re-establish contact with the country which seemed central to the world and yet was unknown to it.

Kissinger’s first visit had mixed outcome, but it certainly opened China to the US and subsequently to the world. Since then Kissinger visited China nearly 50 times, learning not only about its history, thinking, culture and cuisine, but also about where China sees itself in the world. Kissinger put his understanding and views on China in his 2011 book, simply called On China. There are innumerable books on Chinese history, politics, military and economics and so on. But it is rare to find all of this in one compendium enriched by the writer’s first-hand experience and observations.

China has been one of the rare countries in the world which believed, even at its weakest moment, that it was the most culturally refined and superior country in the world. The term ‘Middle Kingdom’ was a conviction and not merely as assertion. Writes Kissinger, “A special feature of Chinese civilisation is that it seems to have no beginning. It appears in history less as a conventional nation-state than a permanent natural phenomenon.”

As a result, the Chinese have consistently believed that the world needs China more than it needs the world. Different variations of this thinking govern Chinese foreign policy even today.

On China draws brilliant portraits of Mao Zedong, Zhou Enlai, Deng Xiaoping and several other Chinese leaders whom Kissinger interacted with. Relying extensively in his notes, Kissinger reproduces his conversations with the people he met in China. It is a ring-side view of how American and Chinese pursued diplomacy overcoming decades of distrust and suspicion. For this reason alone, On China is a must read.


On China
Henry Kissinger
Allen Lane, an imprint of Penguin Books
GBP 30, Pg 575
 
 
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