David Mytton

Book Review (4/5) – On China (Henry Kissinger)

Published in Book Reviews.

Originally published on Goodreads.

The structure of “On China” is well thought through. The first part of the book is a historical account of how China developed and got to the point where Kissinger himself enters the scene. This provides the context needed to understand what then becomes more of a political memoir. Kissinger details accounts of his meetings with the main Chinese leaders and how the diplomatic relationship changes over multiple US administrations.

All this serves to build up an understanding of the cultural, historical and philosophical mindset of China and the Chinese which is crucial to understanding what I think is the most important final chapter on what this means for the future. The popular narrative is that a conflict with China and the US is likely, but Kissinger doesn’t agree, so long as certain steps are taken. It’s interesting to consider this analysis alongside Destined for War: Can America and China Escape Thucydides’s Trap?

This book is incredibly dense. It took me a long time to read and I found some chapters, like the political narrative, more compelling than others. But it will certainly give the reader a good understanding of China, past, present and future.