Henry Kissinger ‘On China’

Matt K. Lewis Senior Contributor
Font Size:

Having helped President Richard Nixon reestablish contact with China forty years ago (and having visited it more than fifty times since) former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger knows China — its history, its approach to foreign policy and its place in the global economy. And if you read his new book, “On China,” you can, too.

China, Dr. Kissinger writes, “seems to have no beginning. It appears in history less as a conventional nation-state than a permanent natural phenomenon.”

Today, China is clearly a major player in contemporary foreign policy. And during a recent briefing with a small cadre of writers and journalists last week, Kissinger explained that China’s approach to foreign policy stems from their history as one of the world’s largest countries. “They have never in their history had to deal with a country of equal magnitude,” he said.

In explaining why Americans sometimes have a hard time comprehending China’s actions, Kissinger cited the seemingly enigmatic example of the 1962 border skirmish between China and India. After defeating India and gaining extra territory, the Chinese army returned all of the equipment they had captured from the Indian army. “They taught the Indians a lesson and they had quieted the frontier, which was the objective, it was not the territory,” Kissinger said. “The purpose was to teach them respect.”

Kissinger also commented on how the economic crisis may have harmed China’s perception of the U.S. “I am not surprised that they think we’re in decline,” he said, “and one element that contributed to that perception is the financial crisis.”

Ultimately, Kissinger believes the future of the Sino-American relationship will be what he defines as “co-evolution.” As Kissinger writes: “Each is too big to be dominated by the other.”

Matt K. Lewis