Kissinger On China

May 30, 2011



Kissinger has been making the rounds to promote his book “On China.” I linked to a few notable quotes from a WSJ interview with Henry Kissinger, where he implies that he sees escalating tension with China and zero faith in leaders to end it.   China Beat has compiled reviews of the book and I’ll pick out a few lines to get people a gist and my impressions.

  • Kissinger implies “China’s history is that of a once and destined-to-be-again great power.”
  • “China’s leaders are wise and strategic, and the Chinese people are patient and resilient.”
  • “Don’t pick up the book to gain insight into the dramatic political, social, and economic trends that are shaping the country today.”

HistorySquared: Kissinger’s assumption that China is poised to dominate the world feels akin to the sentiment at the pinnacle of Japan’s rise, right before it entered a long stagnation. Kissinger does not mention the very challenging economic situation China faces and the political implications as I have alluded too (rise in nationalism and increasing odds of social unrest), nor the problems created by corruption and the centrally planned economy.


  • Chinese strategists think like players of wei qi or Go, which means that, in the long term, they wish to avoid encirclement.
  • Westerners are chess-players, tacticians aiming to get rid of their opponents’ pieces “in a series of head-on clashes”, he writes.
  • “Chess produces single-mindedness; wei qi generates strategic flexibility.”

HistorySquared : On China is a history book on US Chinese relations and may be worth a read to anticipate how Chinese leaders may react in similar situations going forward. For example, examining how China reacted during the Taiwan Strait crises of the 1950s may foretell how they will react under a similar situation should tension in the South Sea continue to escalate.

Further Reading :

China’s Princelings To Usher in New Era of Brutality, says Wang Deng

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