Kissinger - On China

xiaophil
October 07, 2011, 01:57 AM posted in General Discussion

Hey, I'm thinking about buying Kissinger's On China. I'm wondering if anyone has read it and would suggest I do the same? 

Thanks!

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xiaophil
October 10, 2011, 05:31 PM

Update: I found this book at my local library. It's a fascinating and illuminating read so far. Highly recommended!

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RJ

Hey Phil,

Thanks. I have been debating whether to buy the book or not. Kissinger can be so boring at times, but on the other hand, he should know things nobody else was privy to. I heard him interviewed about the book on the radio and I still wasnt sure. He sounds terrible. And.... any friend of Nixon is well, questionable. hehe. Let me know if you still feel that way in a couple more chapters and I will push the amazon button. It has been sitting in my shopping cart for some time now. Or maybe I should also check out the local library. Nobody around here will take the book out. Should be easy to find.

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archieoo7

我有这本书的pdf的版本,建议你可以网上下载电子版本的看看,再决定要不要买 (PS:外国为了保护版权,网上下载电子书是犯法的吗?)

I have this e-book of Kissinger's On China,downloaded from internet.May be you can download the book from internet and decide whether to buy or not (I do not know if it is illegal to download the book from internet in foreign counties)

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bodawei

Hi rj

This discussion here has made me think .. is there any book written by an Australian politician that I would spend money on, even an e-book? Is there a book I can think of written by an Australian politician? I'm still thinking but I think the answer is no and no. Another difference in our cultures? Our best known sinophile politician writes, but lots of people are grateful that it hasn't yet stretched to book length. He is parodied for speaking in sentences that no-one understands one wonders if the parodies are necessary.

So what am I saying .. I think we like our politicians funny (Opposition Leader in Speedos, Prime Minister with broad accent) .. we find it hard to take any politician seriously. :)

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xiaophil

Hey RJ

Yeah, I'll come back after I'm further. I might be the wrong guy to determine if it is a boring read or not. I can be very tolerant of boring historical books. But what strikes me is that he can clearly explain the events in China's history without saying too much or too little. I've never seen Mao and his comrades' thinking explained so well. Anyway, as I said, I'll report back.

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xiaophil

Baba,

I think a lot of Americans would have trouble buying a book by Kissinger because, as RJ said, he was a member of Nixon's administration. I guess that's why Rudd wouldn't be a popular author too--he is associated with politics that people would rather forget. But I imagine ol' Rudd would could write a good book about China. (Maybe that's what he should have done in the first place.) Perhaps we should just wait ten, twenty years to forget his mistakes?

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bababardwan

?Baba...you mean Bodawei mate, hehe :)

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RJ

you guys do look alike .... :-)

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xiaophil

Gosh, that was silly. I was in a hurry. But baba, nihao!

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bababardwan

yeah, our avatars are identical in fact as is yours 哥们儿. The question is, what makes phil so special, having a personalised avatar, 那个帅哥?

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bababardwan

Yo bro, ni hao right back at ya. :)

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RJ

you will figure it out detective.

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bodawei

Hey xiaophil

Which policies do you think everyone wants to forget? His fall from grace is generally attributed to his proposed resources super profits tax and the proposed carbon tax (which passed through Parliament today.) Both policies get the good government tick of approval - he was beaten by a powerful mining lobby funded by the richest Australian.

Elsewhere this is what Wikipaedia says about his policy achievements:

'The Rudd government's first acts included signing the Kyoto Protocol and delivering an apology to Indigenous Australians for the stolen generations. The previous government's industrial relations legislation, WorkChoices, was largely dismantled, Australia's remaining Iraq War combat personnel were withdrawn, and the "Australia 2020 Summit" was held. In response to the Global Financial Crisis, the government provided economic stimulus packages, and Australia was one of the few western countries to avoid the late-2000s recession.'

He doesn't have too much to apologise for - certainly that would be his view. His downsides may be his terse treatment of airline stewards, and his annoying way of speaking like a bureaucrat.

Anyway, you might see him back as Prime Minister ..

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bodawei

Hi rj

'you guys do look alike .... :-)'

I never knew that .. or do you mean that all Australians look the same? :)

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RJ

babadawei,

It was a joke, on several levels, including the fact that all avatars are now alike, but I was careful not to say exactly what you are implying, simply because I feared some would not understand my sarcasm. The term "look" also takes on a different meaning when dealing with folks across the internet only. We "see" each other every day but never really see each other. You are that Aussie guy, oh, and baba is also that Aussie guy, with different features, so I can see how someone might make the mistake when hurriedly sending a response. You two are the only Aussies I "know". That is know well enough to chat with and learn from, well enough to joke with and tease relentlessly (in fact, I may have overstepped my bounds in that area at times, but know that I only tease folks I admire). So both of you are stored in a similar place in my brain, right next to my limited knowledge of all things Australian (which is a pretty small group of brain cells btw) so I can see making the same mistake as Phil, well maybe not, I do see you as two very distinct personalities, but I can see how it might happen. I kind of thought it was funny, "knowing" Phil as I do, and sure that he is not guilty of any sin here other than being in a hurry, I just grabbed the opportunity to wind you up a bit and to make a small commentary regarding the fact that cpod has managed to lose everyone's avatar. So please dont read too much into it my friend. Its all good on my end.

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bababardwan

"babadawei"

haha, very good mate.

"you will figure it out detective"

...well aren't you special with your own personalised avatar? too good to look like the rest of us. hehe, actually I'm in a very heimao mood so, I'm enjoying the clandestine/blend in with the crowd nature of the current avatar. Sure, it's no doubt a matter of just reuploading the old avatar, but I have some CO to pump out first......

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bababardwan

hey phil,

you may find an episode or two of the China history podcast by Lazlo Montgomery interesting. He discusses Nixon's visit to China. I found it very interesting. The whole series is pretty cool.

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bodawei

' cpod has managed to lose everyone's avatar'

In that case I may have to let loose the heimao, put him on the case.

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xiaophil

baba,

Thanks for the tip!

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RJ

bodawei,

If you are implying, or asking, do I, or we Americans, automatically think a book has value just because it was written by one of our politicians, or do we respect our politicians, the answer is no. Kissinger was more of an egg-head intellectual in my opinion, drafted by Nixon to do foreign policy. I wouldn't want to see him in a speedo, and I find him arrogant, aloof, and behind the times now, but the simple fact is, at a time when China was a mystery, and closed to the rest of us, he was actually there, and was there talking directly to the leaders as great things were happening. As an eye witness and a guy privy to negotiations between governments, I thought he might be able to tell of some interesting interactions, his interpretation of which I can either accept or reject. His politics do not interest me. Now that I think about it, I dont think I have ever read a book by one our politicians before. I might be inclined to read the memoirs of Dominique Strauss Kahn however. :-)

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bodawei

Hi rj

No, I wan't implying that Americans automatically think a book has value because it was written by a politician, but I was wondering if there is more respect for politicians in general in the US, but you have indicated little respect (thanks) and, if anything, any respect for Kissinger might be there because he is considered a bit of a ring-in. And of course as you say he was here in China at an interesting time. There is nothing like face to face experience.

We don't have a tradition of co-opting people into government at the height of their game -- I think it could have value but it would also raise special challenges in the Australian system. I think Malcolm Turnbull (who I have referred to before) is the closest we get to that, entering after a successful career elsewhere.

The trouble with reading anything by politicians is essentially one of credibility - in Australia anyway most are considered to be truth-deprived. We've had a couple of interesting people in Parliament admired for their truth-telling.

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zhenlijiang

Guess I've never thought of Kissinger as a politician either. When I became aware of him as a child he was this "major figure in international affairs", so major even a Japanese kid like myself in the pre-CNN, pre-internet age knew--or come to think of it, probably precisely because media was limited and we accepted a world view dominated by America--that he was involved in stuff that mattered. Politicians to me are people who have to spend a lot of time thinking about elections.

Japanese politicians are (mostly) men who frequent 料亭 ryoutei, exclusive Japanese-style restaurants, brokering deals and forming tenuous alliances behind the sliding doors.

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he2xu4
October 13, 2011, 05:02 PM

The first section of the book, 300 pages or so, is a pretty good condensed quick history of China, not so much about him or his policies. Then when it gets more autobiographical, one's opinion will depend on one's politics.

Nonetheless the first section is especially good for China history newbies.

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xiaophil

Ah, so I was wondering what would happen when it got to the "Kissinger era". I wonder if I'll like it after then. It's a toss up.

The history so far is nothing that I am unfamiliar with in the broad sense. But I like how he emphasizes what is happening behind the scenes versus what was reported. I also like that he shows that Mao wasn't just crazy when he did 'some' apparently crazy things. Not to say that I am a Mao fan, but he wasn't crazy 24/7. Some of his decisions were effective.

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he2xu4

Are you on Google+? I can share you my copy of the book.

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RJ

Phil,

Have you ever read Paul Johnson? "Modern Times" (history of the 20th century) and "The birth of the Modern" (1800's) are both good reads. I think you would like him.Very insightful guy.

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xiaophil

he2xu4

I am not. I have the book as a library loan. That probably is good enough. But how can Google+ do this? Just curious.

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xiaophil

RJ

He sounds familiar, but then again, that name is not all that uncommon sounding. I will see if the library has a copy of them next time. Thanks!

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he2xu4

xiaophil,

I photograph my print books and upload them to Picasa so I can read them on different devices - notebook and tablet mainly, I don't want to pay again for the digital version. Once you have an album set up, you can share it or not with anyone. I literally have a whole library of books from my collection I can instantly access electronically.

The first 50 or so pages of "On China" is on Amazon or Google Books if you want to read it from a computer.

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jennyzhu
October 16, 2011, 03:15 PM

There is a new and what seems to be a good book out on Deng Xiaoping. HK's last governor Chris Patten wrote a nuanced review on it. BTW, when I was little, I always thought Kissignger's name (基辛格/jīxīngé) was related to "chicken heart". 

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RJ

Jen,

the link does not work for me for some reason but I assume you are talking about "Deng Xiaoping and the transformation of china" by Ezra Vogel. I actually have that one reserved at the local library {along with the Kissinger book), so I will let you know. Love the Chicken Heart reference. I will never think of Kissinger again without also thinking chicken heart. Bodawei should be pleased. Kissinger may not be. :-)

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jondesousa

A local radio station in Boston (USA) www.wbur.org did an interview with Ezra Vogel just a few weeks ago about this book. The interview was fascinating and I enjoyed listening to it. I also am planning to read the book but have not yet downloaded it on my Kindle. I guess I should get busy with that.

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xiaophil
October 24, 2011, 10:19 PM

Update: I have gotten through much of the part where Kissinger helps establish contact with the PRC. What I think is odd is that the impression I get is that Mao and the other Chinese are much more thoughtful and clever in their employment of politics than the American sid. I wonder if this is because he is trying to focus on 'China' or perhaps he doesn't want to reveal too much about how Americans conduct diplomacy? Or maybe Mao was a genius (albeit also ruthless and crazy)!

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hkboy
October 25, 2011, 02:54 AM

I hadn't seen he had written another book.  I've read a lot of his others and I'd be interested in this one too.  The Hong Kong libraries only have a few in the system and they are all loaned out and there is a waiting list for them.  Also, I wonder why the Kindle version is so expensive? 

btw:  How is your daughter doing?  Is she speaking Chinese yet? 

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xiaophil

Hey there! Thanks for inquiring about my daughter. I almost forgot that thread. She is saying lots of mamas when she is unhappy. She says dadda during seemingly random times. Sometimes she almost seems to say nainai, so I guess that is the extent of her Chinese, that and mama. You must've been a father for a while, no? Boy or girl? Did you ever figure out what language you'll teach her?

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hkboy

It's a girl. She is only about 6 weeks old. I think her Cantonese will be great as my wife's cousin is helping us to look after her. It will be interesting to see how her English develops. Good luck to you.

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xiaophil

Good luck to you too, and congrats! 6 weeks is a good age--cute, movement, but not able to walk and grab everything in sight : )

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xiaophil
November 10, 2011, 02:02 AM

Well, I finished reading On China. I feel it was well worth the read. Yes, you have to remember that the author was deeply involved with many of the events mentioned in the book, so objectivity should be questioned. But of course getting such a thorough explanation by someone who actually was there at the capacity he was is rare and therefore desirable. I'm kinda ready for the next read. I paid so much attention to studying Chinese and just plain observing that I didn't read books loke this. Perhaps I should read that book Jenny was talking about? If anyone reads this, got any suggestions?

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bodawei

I've just read 边城 Border Town by 沈从文 (Shen Congwen), recommended.

It's a 中篇小说 (novella) quite famous for being banned in Taiwan many years after it was available in China. I read it in English now I've started reading it in Chinese. Also 'Ai Weiwei speaks' (he's in the foreign news a lot at present.)

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RJ

Phil,

I am currently reading "On China" but like any trip to the library, I seldom leave with only one book. I just finished another that I found myself drawn to finish first. "The Private Life of Chairman Mao" by Dr. Li Zhisui. Dr Li was Mao's personal physician for 22 years and was privy to much that happened within the inner circle. I wont make any commentary, you can draw your own conclusions, but I think you would enjoy the book.

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xiaophil

Hi Bodawei,

I have heard of 'Ai Weiwei Speaks', but I had almost forgotten it. I'm glad you mentioned it. I 'll have to see if I can locate it. The others I will keep in memory for when I try to read Chinese again.

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xiaophil

Hey RJ

Thanks for the suggestion. I have heard of that. I am going to check if the library has it right now. Thanks!

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bodawei

Hey rj

I read the Philip Short biography of Mao and the Li Zhisui book in tandem - I started them and finished both about the same time, sort of chapter about. It worked for me - although quite different books they shed light on each other.

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Mingmao

I loved the Li Zhisui book. I kept trying to post quotes from it in my Livejournal feed (back when that was a thing).

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Mingmao
June 24, 2013, 03:33 AM

I enjoy reading people's book reviews here. Does anyone know if there is another thread of China book reviews generally? I'm always interested in finding new good China books.