Kaplan reviews Kissinger’s China book

Robert Kaplan
Best Defense officemate

Henry Kissinger’s On China really gets rolling on page 90, when we get to the Communist period in Chinese history. Then, for the next 440 pages, the reader is riveted. Kissinger, it is often forgotten, has always been adroit at drawing historical portraits, whether of Metternich and Castlereagh in his graduate school days, or of Chinese communist leaders in his most recent book, written in his mid- to late-’80s. Kissinger has made over 50 trips to China, and this book sparkles precisely because it is in large part a memoir. Here is just a taste of what’s in store for the reader:

"Having grown accustomed to Mao’s philosophical disquisitions and indirect allusions and to Zhou’s elegant professionalism, I needed some time to adjust to Deng’s acerbic, no-nonsense style, his occasional sarcastic interjections, and his disdain of the philosophical in favor of the eminently practical. Compact and wiry, he entered a room as if propelled by some invisible force, ready for business. Deng [Xiaoping] rarely wasted time on pleasantries, nor did he feel it necessary to soften his remarks by swaddling them in parables as Mao [Zedong] was wont to do. He did not envelope one with solicitude as Zhou [Enlai] did…" 

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