China is known as a great nation. However, it is also well recognized for tormenting people, which does not stop it from having good partnership with the United States despite some of its unacceptable actions to its citizens. Henry Kissinger’s book On China is an attempt of an explanation of the Chinese diplomacy to the American audience. The author aimed to review the U.S.-China course and relations while, at the same time, addressing the challenge involved in sustaining the mutually beneficial interaction in a brief and yet incisively way. Kissinger’s purpose in his argument about the U.S.-China relationship is of great appropriateness as he tries to articulate the reality experienced. He has a deep concern for the current relationship, projecting that it may drift back to a zero-sum game in the future, only this time, there would be greater risks involved. The author is a former U.S. Secretary of State. Therefore, he has the expertise in the subject he talks about, having served in the government with authority for a long time. Based on other assignments from the class, this paper is a detailed critical review of the book On China since the relationship status of the two countries must be critically examined to forecast the future of this relationship.
The view of Henry Kissinger on China has been reflected back beyond the period where people were proud of the ancient civilization that was humiliated by the West and that now considered to be rising again. China is the main country in the Asian continent with rich resources to the population, making its situation different from other superpowers (Matlock, 2004). The building of the Great Wall in China made it not only the world’s largest community, but also gave it the ability to protect itself from neighbors that were out of their elimination ability. Kissinger suggests that the diplomacy manifested by the Chinese Republic shows the game of Wei Qi, which can also be referred to as the game of ‘go’, whereby the players try to circle each other, rather than a strategic chess game, in which the anticipated goal is checkmate.
Kissinger’s explanation of the invasion by China to Vietnam in 1979 shows that the main aim has been to give a lesson to the neighboring country. Here, Kissinger brings out the superiority of China showing that it could invade a country just for this purpose (Kissinger, 2011). He also suggests that the decline of the Soviet Union has been among the very first symptoms of Moscow’s relative passivity, wondering about the decision of the Soviet to begin intervention in Afghanistan one year later and thinking whether it was a prompt of trying to cover for its decline to the China-Vietnam clashes (Kissinger, 2011). Accordingly, Kissinger (2011) asserts that the 1979 clash can be described as a critical point in the Cold War, although it was not understood like that back then. This shows how Kissinger portraits the superiority of China having its background back in ancient periods.
More significantly, Kissinger (2011) argues that there exist four aspects in the attempt of understanding the Chinese mind and the overall thinking of how China operates. The first one is Confucianism – a single general truth that applies to a standard of conduct among individuals and their social cohesion (Quimet, 2003). Secondly, Sun Tzu is another element that involves outsmarting – being good and smart over the others posing a direct conflict to other parties, which results in more chaotic and barbarian articulates. As a third aspect to their thinking, a board game used in the past, known as the Wei Qi, gives stress to the projected campaign and the humiliation in China, experienced between 1800 and 1900 (Rubenstein, 2016). It can be seen that all these aspects create a basis for the establishment of the Barbarian management that was the core of Mao’s diplomacy with the USA and the Soviet Union (Alexievich, 2016). Based on these elements and aspects, Kissinger (2011) suggests that China can as well change its name from the current one to a more revealing of its mindset, as the Office of Barbarian Management.
As a diplomat, Kissinger focuses on the external relations of China, but he also provides a full explanation of the Qing Dynasty realities as the world being controlled by the West. This gives a view of the period when the Chinese communists had victory having minor attention to the past of the revolutionary gestation. It is clear that Kissinger does not appreciate the domestic politics in China as he sympathizes more with the diplomacy of Mao. His final focus is on the challenges that existed and still exist in China (Pipes, 1997). Kissinger (2011) asserts that the perception the United States has of China as an opportunity and threats is shown by the perception that China has over the USA as a model. While the two governments give great emphasis on cooperation, Kissinger addresses the question of a clash that is inevitable between the two countries.
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Although the book provides insight into the relationship between China and the USA, Kissinger is not optimistic about the future relations between them. In fact, he introduces a martial spirit that projects conflicts between China and the USA as an inevitable result of the rise of China. He compared it to Kaiser’s naval buildup that had led to the start of World War I. Relating this to China, America is not like Mao’s “paper tiger”, but Kissinger goes right ahead and compares them as an old cucumber painted green.
Kissinger has shown his expertise on the reviewed issues involving China and the United States since he had been involved in the two parties and their relationship from the 50 visits he had in the past. This experience allows him to be well informed professionally as well as personally. He manages to provide a detailed argument on his subject, based on the experiences and occurring events, connecting them to the near past, thus giving the argument strong and well-stated evidence. More so, the words, events, and facts are well stated within their right contexts, thereby making the case more structured and based on perspective. Kissinger’s case gives a convincing basis, thus making the counter argument well considered. Although he is pessimistic about the future of the relationship of the two countries, Kissinger defines and argues the nature of the relationship involved and provides a basic urge for strengthening them.
China has been known for its rich past full of good and bad things. Nevertheless, the country still has strong ties with the USA. Kissinger’s On China dwells on the relationship between the countries as the author tries to bring out whether the two can be considered friends or not. The author bases his argument on the experiences of the past, involving China and other states, which helps in understanding the way China thinks. The author has been successful in bringing out the purpose of his argument to consider China as a friend. The book can be seen as a useful contribution to the literary world as it gives concrete reasoning on the argument, providing the audience with the insight about the relationship between the two countries.
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