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Book Review: On China, By Henry Kissinger

Two weeks ago, Henry Kissinger’s new book “On China” went on the shelf. I have the honor of being asked recently to review the book. Henry Kissinger – preeminent American political scientist, diplomat, National Security Advisor and later concurrently Secretary of State in the administrations of Presidents Richard Nixon and Gerald Ford – requires no introduction. So I’ll go straight to the book.

In my opinion, “On China” is destined to become a best seller and an important resource on China – on the level of Jonathan Spence’s “In Search of Modern China” – for English readers. The book provides fascinating angles to so many chapters of Sino-American diplomatic history and has the character of an elder statesman telling not only a good story, but of imparting wisdom on a next generation of political leaders.

While focusing on 20th century Chinese history, the book also gave sufficient background on Chinese history to give context to current events – as well as a vision of what can be possible. Kissinger masterfully (but coolly) tells the story of China’s struggles through its centuries of humiliation, starting with the Opium War and its attempts to resist colonialism and foreign invasions. The book traces the story of the Communist rise to power, and the immediate turmoils – both domestic and international – that put the nascent state and the Chinese people immediately to the test.

One of my favorite aspects about the book is the way it tells – with wit, insight and cogency – the hair-triggering geopolitical games the Soviet Union, U.S., and China played.

For example, regarding the Vietnam War of 1979 and the Sino-Soviet split, Kissinger wrote (it’s a long excerpt, but it gives a small sense of Kissinger’s insight, breadth of knowledge, and writing style):

The Soviet Union would never be bound by agreements, Deng warned; it understood only the language of countervailing force….

Deng’s analysis of the strategic situation included a notification to the White House that China intended to go to war with Vietnam because it had concluded that Vietnam would not stop at Cambodia. “[T]he so-called Indochinese Federation is to included more than three states,” Deng warned. “Ho Chi Minh cherished this idea. The three states is only the first step. Then Thailand is to be included.” China had an obligation to act, Deng declared. It could not wait developments; once they had occurred, it would be too late.

Deng confronted Carter with a challenge to both principle and public attitude. In principle, Carter did not approve preemptive strategies, especially since they involved military movements across sovereign borders. At the same time, he took seriously, even when he did not fully share, National Security Advisor Zbigniew Brzezinski’s view of the strategic implications of the Vietnamese occupation of Cambodia, which was parallel to Deng’s. … [Carter] called attention to the favorable moral position that Beijing would forfeit by attacking Vietnam. China, now widely considered a peaceful country, would run the risk of being accused of aggression:

This is a serious issue. Not only do you face a military threat from the North, but also a change in international attitude. China is now seen as a peaceful country that is against aggression. The ASEAN countries, as well as the UN, have condemned the Soviet Union, Vietnam, and Cuba. I do not need to know the punitive action being contemplated, but it could result in escalation of violence and a change in the world posture from being against Vietnam to partial support for Vietnam.

It would be difficult for us to encourage violence. We can give you intelligence briefings. We know of no recent movements of Soviet troops towards your borders.

I have no other answer for you….

The next day, Carter and Deng met alone, and Carter handed Deng a note (as yet unpublished) summarizing the American position. According to Brzezinski: “The President himself drafted by hand a letter to Deng, moderate in tone and sober in content, stressing the importance of restraint and summarizing the likely adverse international consequences. I felt that this was the right approach, for we could not collude formally with the Chinese in sponsoring what was tantamount to overt military aggression.” Informal collusion was another matter.

On February 17, China mounted a multipronged invasion of northern Vietnam from southern China’s Guangxi and Yunnan provinces. … One historian has concluded that the invasion force, which included “regular ground forces, militia, and naval and air force units … was similar in scale to the assault with which China made such an impact on its entry into the Korean War in November 1950.” …

The Target of China’s military was a fellow Communist country, recent ally, and longtime beneficiary of Chinese economic and military support. The goal was to preserve the strategic equilibrium in Asia, as China saw it. Further, China undertook the campaign with the moral support, diplomatic backing and intelligence cooperation of the United States – the same “imperialist power” that Beijing had helped eject from Indochina five years earlier.

As in the Sino-Indian War, China executed a limited “punitive” strike followed immediately by a retreat. It was over in twenty-nine days. Shortly after the PLA captured (and reportedly laid waste to) the capitals of the three Vietnamese provinces along the border, Beijing announced that Chinese forces would withdraw from Vietnam, save for several disputed pieces of territory. Beijing made no attempt to overthrow the Hanoi government or to enter Cambodia in any overt capacity.

A month after the Chinese troops had withdrawn, Deng explained the Chinese strategy to me on a visit to Beijing:

DENG: After I cam back [from the U.S.], we immediately fought a war. But we asked you for your opinion beforehand. I talked it over with President Carter and then he replied in a very formal and solemn way. He read a written text to me. I said to him: China will handle this question independently and if there is any risk, China will take on the risk alone. In retrospect, we think if we had driven deeper into Vietnam in our punitive action, it would have been even better.

KISSENGER: It could be.

DENG: Because our forces were sufficient to drive all the way to Hanoi. But it wouldn’t be advisable to go that far.

KISSINGER: No, it would probably have gone beyond the limits of calculation.

DENG: Yes, you’re right. But we could have driven 30 kilometers deeper into Vietnam. WE occupied all the defensive areas of fortification. There wasn’t a defense line left all the way to Hanoi.

The conventional wisdom among historians is that the war was a costly Chinese failure. The effects of the PLA’s politicization during the Cultural Revolution became apparent during the campaign: hampered by outdated equipment, logistical problems, personnel shortages, and inflexible tactics, Chinese forces advanced slowly and at great cost. By some analyst’s estimates, the PLA suffered as many killed in action in one month of fighting the Third Vietnam War as the United States suffered in the most costly years of the second one.

Convention wisdom is based, however, on a misapprehension of the Chinese strategy. Whatever the shortcomings of its executions, the Chinese campaign reflected a serious long-term strategic analysis.

In the end, China was not able to rescue … or force Hanoi to withdraw its troops from Cambodia for another decade…. However, Beijing did impose heavy costs on Vietnam. Chinese diplomacy in Southeast Asia before, during, and after the war worked with great determination and skill to isolate Hanoi. China maintained a heavy military presence along the border, retained several disputed pieces of territory, and continued to hold out the threat of a “second lesson” to Hanoi. For years afterward, Vietnam was forced to support considerable forces on its northern border….

Ultimately over a time period more difficult to sustain for democratic societies, China achieved a considerable part of its strategic objectives in Southeast Asia. Deng achieved sufficient maneuvering room to meet his objective of thwarting Soviet domination of Southeast Asia and the Malacca Strait.

The ultimate loser in the conflict was the Soviet Union, whose global ambitions had caused alarm around the world….

Equanimity in the face of materially superior forces has been deeply ingrained in Chinese strategic thinking – as is apparent from the parallels with China’s decision to intervene in the Korean War. Both Chinese decisions were directed against what Beijing perceived to be a gathering danger – a hostile power’s consolidation of bases a multiple points along the Chinese periphery. In both cases, Beijing believed that if the hostile power were allowed to complete its design, China would be encircled and thus remain in a permanent state of vulnerability. The adversary would be in a position to launch a war at a time of its choosing, and knowledge of this advantage would allow it to act … “without scruples.” …

These were not elegant affairs: China threw troops into immensely costly battles and sustained causalities on a scale that would have been unacceptable in the Western world. … But both interventions achieved noteworthy strategic goals. At two key moments in the Cold War, Beijing applied its doctrine of offensive deterrence successfully. …

Singapore’s Prime Minster Lee Kuan Yew has summed up the ultimate result of the war: “The Western press wrote off the Chinese punitive action as a failure. I believe it changed the history of East Asia.”

The greatest tribute I can personally pay Kissinger as an ambassador between China and the West is to say that he is both a humanist and realist.

It is clear from the book that Kissinger has a keen ability to view the world as is, rather than falling into the ideological trap of seeing the world in moralistic terms. Kissinger, in my view, truly respects China, and through respect is able to intuitively grasp the political, cultural, and historical context through which Chinese leaders and the Chinese people view the world – and in particular the West.

To be sure, Kissinger also pays tribute and articulates the importance of democracy and human rights throughout the book. But rather than using it to wage a crusade against others – to discredit or slight Chinese culture or to conveniently apply ideology to advance national interests at the expense of others – Kissinger is keen to leverage it to build bridges.

The attempt to alter the domestic structure of a country of the magnitude of China form the outside is likely to involve vast unintended consequences. American society should never abandon its commitment to human dignity. It does not diminish the importance of that commitment to acknowledge that Western concepts of human rights and individual liberties may not be directly translatable, in a finite period of time geared to Western political and news cycles, to a civilization for millennia ordered around different concepts. Nor can the traditional Chinese fear of political chaos be dismissed as an anachronistic irrelevancy needing only “correction” by Western enlightenment. Chinese history, especially in the last two centuries, provides numerous examples in which a splintering of political authority – sometimes inaugurated with high expectations of increased liberties – tempted social and ethnic upheaval….

By the same principle, countries dealing with America need to understand that the basic values of our country include an inalienable concept of human rights and that American judgements can never be separated from America’s perceptions of the practice of democracy. There are abuses bound to evoke an American reaction, even a the cost of an overall relationship. Such events can drive American foreign policy beyond national interests. No American President can ignore them, but he must be careful to define the and be aware of the principle of unintended consequences. No foreign leader should dismiss them. How to define and how to establish the balance will determine the nature of America’s relationship to China and perhaps the peace of the world.

Perhaps the most important theme to come across from the book is the notion that while ideology and one’s sense of history is important, it is not the foundation of diplomacy. Peace is. Just as China has a right to her view of history and role in that history, so does the U.S. (and West in general) to its view of history and role in that history. But both should respect each for what each other is. The trick is to find common grounds and to de-emphasize conflicts. Whatever moral imperatives one might personally believe in, working for a just, prosperous, and enduring peace ranks amongst the highest of moral imperative. Such a value is embedded in the traditional Chinese sense of a just and harmonious society – and I believe – Kissinger’s bold vision for the future as well.

Kissinger recounts in the final chapter how Asia today finds itself in a time of peace but also with a political order that is in many ways reminiscent of Europe before WWI. Would a game for balance of power force sovereign states to join alliances pitting one group of nations against another? Will the process of balancing lead to conflict?

Strategic trust between the U.S. and China by itself may not be enough to ensure peace. In the last chapter, Kissinger lays out his vision why China and U.S. should not just be partners, but be a co-architect of a new order, and through the building of that order, co-evolve with each other.

As Kissinger concluded in his book:

The future of Asian will be shaped to a significant degree by how China and America envision [their role with each other], and by the extent to which each nation is able to achieve some congruence with the other’s historic regional role. Through its history, the United States has often been motivated by visions of the universal relevance of its ideals and of a proclaimed duty to spread them. China has acted on the basis of its singularity; it expanded by cultural osmosis, not missionary zeal.

For these two societies representing different versions of exceptionalisms, the road to cooperation is inherently complex. The mood of the moment is less relevant than the ability to develop a pattern of actions capable of surviving inevitable changes of circumstances. The leaders on both sides of the Pacific have an obligation to establish a tradition of consultation and mutual respect so that, for their successors, jointly building a shared world order becomes an expression of parallel national aspirations.

When China and the United States first restored relations forty years ago, the most significant contribution of the leaders of the time was their willingness to raise their sights beyond the immediate issues of the day. … This enabled the leaders of a generation ago to deal with their future, not their immediate pressures, and to lay the basis for a world unimaginable then but unachievable without Sino-American cooperation.

In pursuit of understanding the nature of peace, I have studied the construction and operation of international orders ever since I was a graduate student well over half a century ago. On the basis of these studies, I am aware that the cultural, historic, and strategic gaps in perception that I have described will pose formidable challenges for even the best-intentioned and most far-sighted leadership on both sides. On the other hand, … [e]very great achievement was a vision before it became a reality. …

In his essay “Perpetual Peace,” the philosopher Immanuel Kant argued that perpetual peace would eventually come to world in one of two ways: by human insight or by conflicts and catastrophes of a magnitude that left humanity no other choice. We are at such a juncture.

When Premier Zhou Enlai and I agreed on the communique that announced the secret visit, he said: “This will shake the world.” What a culmination if, forty years later, the United and China could merge their efforts not to shake the world, but to build it.

My overall view of the book is very favorable. I commend Kissinger for writing an interesting, important, and visionary book. In my personal opinion though, I believe Kissinger’s vision to consist of one glaring deficiency.

I believe that as long as the West views the world through its moralist lens, the world will be inherently unstable. China does not ask the West to change itself. But if China – while justly feeling aggrieved – does not advocate any doctrine of revenge and has recalibrated its moral compass when dealing on the International Stage, why should not the West also do similar when it deals with an increasingly multi-polar world?

Perhaps Kissinger is wise not to directly confront this question. Ideology, national interests, international circumstances – these are all things that are dynamic and that can change. The focus between China and U.S. should be on continually exploring shared common interests, ideological differences not withstanding.

But, in my view, mutual respect is such a key pillar to the notion of shared partnership and co-evolution that Kissinger ought to have paid more attention to the question whether the West truly respects China, whether its forward ideological thrust is compatible with mutual respect, and whether world peace can be achieved without true, equal, reciprocating respect.

This review was organized as part of a virtual book tour on Kissinger’s new book from TLC Book Tours.


Kissinger’s Tour Stops

Wednesday, May 11th: Man of La Book

Thursday, May 12th: Mark’s China Blog

Tuesday, May 17th: Inside-Out China

Wednesday, May 18th: Lisa Graas

Sunday, May 22nd: Rhapsody In Books

Tuesday, May 24th: Bookworm’s Dinner

Wednesday, May 25th: Pacific Rim Shots

Thursday, May 26th: Asia Unbound

Monday, May 30th: Hidden Harmonies China Blog

Tuesday, May 31st: Wordsmithonia

Wednesday, June 1st: Lit and Life

Thursday, June 2nd: ChinaGeeks

Friday, June 3rd: Divided We Stand United We Fall

Tuesday, June 7th: booker rising

Wednesday, June 8th: Power and Control

Thursday, June 9th: Marathon Pundit

Friday, June 10th: Rundpinne


  1. zack
    May 30th, 2011 at 21:43 | #1

    very good post, excellent points made by kissinger

  2. JJ
    May 30th, 2011 at 22:53 | #2

    Excellent review! I’m definitely going to add this book to my reading list. It’s refreshing to see an English-language book on China be so unbiased and insightful!

  3. silentvoice
    May 31st, 2011 at 10:37 | #3

    There is a chapter in Lee Kuan Yew’s memoir, I think his 2nd one (From Third World to First) where he described meeting Deng before the war, Deng sounding out Singapore’s reaction, Deng’s visit to Thailand prior to landing in Singapore, and other events during his visit. Taken together with Kissenger’s book it throws more light on events leading up to the Sino-Vietnamese War.

    Alot of Americans today don’t know this, or won’t acknowledge it, but many people in Southeast Asia are thankful that China intervened and stopped Vietnam at the doorstep of Thailand. This was a war of necessity. In one fell swoop, it liberated Cambodia, prevented Thailand from being attacked, taught Vietnam a lesson, and warned the Soviet Union.

    It’s very unfortunate that today many western revisionists are using this as an example of China’s aggression.

  4. raventhorn2000
    May 31st, 2011 at 11:54 | #4


    I agree.

    I think a strong China is an anchor of stability in Asia. (even if every now and then, the smaller Asian nations feel like they have some common complaints about China. Well, if you point to any one Asian nation, its neighbors probably all share some common complaints about it.)

    I think if we look back at the era of Western Colonialism in Eastern Asia, a weakened China is merely the 1st step toward exploitation of the rest of Eastern Asia.

    If we look back at the 20th century, it would be a century where a resurgent China blunted much of Western powers’ efforts in controlling Eastern Asia (or sometimes blunting USSR’s efforts).

    (In contrast, elsewhere, the Western powers had free reign to exploit and play nations against each other, or factions against factions, etc.)

    *Re: Vietnam. I do not mean to condescend to the Vietnamese on their knowledge of history.

    I merely ask a simple question:

    US’s “solution” to Vietnam was to use force to split Vietnam into North and South (classic playing factions against factions).

    China may have had its historical differences with Vietnam and fought wars, but did China decide to scheme to split up Vietnam into pieces?


    That should be enough example to show the potential consequences of dealing with the West vs. dealing with China.

  5. May 31st, 2011 at 12:20 | #5

    @raventhorn2000 #4,

    I will disagree a little – but not completely. I can see people might counter your argument by saying China was engaged precisely in divide and conquer in SE Asia – preventing Vietnam from “uniting” Indochina. Or someone might note Korea. I know it was Soviet Union and U.S. that partitioned Korea, but some might argue that today it is China and U.S. that is keeping it partitioned.

    In any case, partition or not, I think those in Asia need to ask this question. How well have they done during colonialism? Has it been worse or better than previous.

    Now many societies in Asia – in the current form – may only have 2 century or so of history – so my question might be irrelevant. Many might actually think things are swell now. If that’s the case, the only thing we can do is to look to the future. If some decide to fear China simply because they do not know China, there is not much we can do. But looking to the future, I don’t think balance of power will be inherently stable. To the extent countries need a power big enough to provide ballast, I’d ask who do you think has more stake in a peaceful and prosperous Asia – an Asian power or a non-Asian power. I’d argue an Asian power. Because of China’s location alone, China will inherently care about the stability, peace, and prosperity of the continent. U.S. may, too, but if Asia should fall into turmoil – there will be only limited consequences. It’s like the Korean peninsula, if the Koreas should wipe themselves out, the U.S. will lose an ally but not much more. Not so with China, it will have to deal with a people, social, economic catastrophe that will touch directly upon China.

    So looking to the future, provided China does keep developing, the natural power Asian countries should look to for leadership should be China. Chinese interests will be integrated with the rest of Asia to such an extent that in many ways China will be more Asian than purely Chinese. Rather than playing balance of power games, given the historic opportunity of peace we currently enjoy, Asia should develop a Pan-Asian political, economical and cultural block.

    Raventhorn2000, I think you mentioned once that China should be world-centric, not Chinese-centric. I’m coming around to seeing you point of view more and more! 😉

  6. Wahaha
    May 31st, 2011 at 13:49 | #6

    Absolute democracy is against human right.

    Absolute human right is against democracy.

    Absolulte democracy and absolute human right are against science. (!!!!!)

    Absolute freedom is against humanity.

    One day, westerners like Kissinger will wake up and realize that their media has been brainwashing people, like Chinese government brainwashed Chinese till 35 years ago.

    I pray that China and US will not get into war with each other, not in my life time at least.

  7. Wahaha
    May 31st, 2011 at 13:55 | #7

    You can argue that the truth is in the hand of people.

    But, but, very unfortunately, Science is always for very very very few people.

    If the resource of a country can not be managed scientifically, the country will go weaker and weaker, like now US is becoming India in west.

    How come intelligent like Kissinger still not realize that ?

  8. June 1st, 2011 at 10:09 | #8

    “But both should respect each for what each other is.” This is, perhaps, the key to ALL interactions between both nations and people … or at least it SHOULD be.

    I’m glad that you enjoyed the book. Thanks for taking the time to read it and post such a detailed review.

  9. Wahaha
    June 1st, 2011 at 13:42 | #9

    “But both should respect each for what each other is.” This is, perhaps, the key to ALL interactions between both nations and people … or at least it SHOULD be.


    That is impossible for westerners (at least most of them) to respest what other people believe, because they already be brainwashed to believe that their understanding is “universal values”.

    If you believe yourself 100% right, will you listen to others ? you may try your best to act politely and patiently, but you wont listen.

    As long as their asinine media controling ALL the information, westerners will never realize the flaws of their believes. Do anyone think Chinese people would think differently than 40 years ago had CCP controled all the information like Mao’s time ?

    Note : when I call west media “asinine”, I was not talking about their reports on China. A master piece by them is that they convince people that the role of a government is being a poor little girl, standing among bunch of rapists, waiting to be raped.

    And the mouth-bigger-than-butt media blame government for everything. How the heck would that “girl” be able to help people ?

  10. Wahaha
    June 1st, 2011 at 13:52 | #10

    What I mean is that it is impossible to 为中国说句公道话.

    The only way to do that is to shake their believe of their “universal” values. (see #6)

    Didnt you guys have enough of responses like “you dont understand human right” ?

    It is outrageously funny when a gold fish who spent all its life in a fish tank trys to teach other fishes how to live in a pond.

    BTW, how do I start a new thread ?

  11. June 1st, 2011 at 14:57 | #11

    @Wahaha #9,

    I understand your passion. But I think there is a middle way. I think it’s perfectly fine for Americans (Westerners in general) to firmly hold dear their notion of “universal values.” If they can apply it uniformly – to both friends and foe, I’ll be ok. The only I ask is that they still treat others as equals and with respect.

    A Christian who believes that Jesus is the one and only God can be a friend with me as an equal and as a human being even if I don’t believe what he believes. He can still treat me with respect, and without pushing on me his notion of God. Our relationship is based on other secular notions – friendship, compassion, love, whatever – not religion.

    Same can be the relationship among nations. Even if we don’t believe in the same values, we can still draw relationship from notions of harmony, peace, justice (defined to be a subset of morals that every one as human beings can agree on).

    Wahaha #10,

    If you want to start new threads, do a post, contact YinYang or me. We usually invite people to post and do check what is written before pushing the post out.

  12. June 2nd, 2011 at 00:45 | #12

    @Heather J. @ TLC Book Tours

    Congratulations for getting such an important book out. Based on Allen’s review, I am now looking forward to reading it. Especially of Dr. Kissinger’s anecdotes from China’s key leaders.

  13. Wahaha
    June 3rd, 2011 at 06:02 | #13

    The only I ask is that they still treat others as equals and with respect.



    This is possible ONLY if there is no conflict of interest.

    I said before that vast majority of people are not driven by rationality, but by greediness, fear, hate, love, envy, most time for most people, thinking reasonably is possible only when he has nothing to worry about.

    Why do we have to be on defense all the time ? the CURRENT understanding of democracy, human right and freedom defined by asinine media, journalists and activitists sucks as hell, BECAUSE THEY DONT EVEN HAVE THE ABILITY OF THINKING LOGICALLY.

    I said this not only for China, but also for America. I love lot of things in USA, especially the fair opportunities for each individuals : as long as you work hard, with some talent, you have good chance to succeed as anyone.

    But the AUTHORITARIAN MEDIA is messing up with American people, they never try to think “How” (most likely because they are too stupid), which is the key to solve problem, they never think of helping government solve the problems. Their F!@#ing “greatness” is talking about “should” and “shouldnt”, guided by their interpretation of “universal” values, which makes them feel like masturbation and orgasm.

    You know what ? No body DARE to say something differently, even Kissinger. This, is power, the thing that media and journalists will hold and pretect at any cost, even the future of their countries.

    I believe that the reason Kissinger mentioned “mutual understanding” is that he already saw the problems, but HE DARE NOT SPEAK OUT.

  14. raventhorn2000
    June 4th, 2011 at 15:31 | #14

    Democracy exists because of popularity of myths, lies, and superstitions.

    Effective Democracy, like effective lies, must at least have the appearance of Truth and Freedom, when in reality, destroys and corrupts both, because a Democratic government is still a government, out to control.

    Thus, Democratic system of governance is an oxymoron in nature, out to control and manage the very thing that would bring the system into chaos.

    If a shop promises to sell you the cake that you can have and eat it too, the “Have it and Eat it Cake” shop, would you buy it?

    If a shop that would sell you money $1 for $1, would you wonder how it stays in business?

    Better yet, is there such a thing as “free money”, “free lunch”, or money that grows on trees?

    If there is, I would trade you my bridge in Brooklyn.

  15. wwww1234
    June 4th, 2011 at 19:15 | #15

    “especially the fair opportunities for each individuals : as long as you work hard, with some talent, you have good chance to succeed as anyone.”

    I suggest you read up on studies (statistics based) on social mobility and see if you would like to modify your statement.

    And then the income/wealth distribution as well.

  16. raventhorn2000
    June 6th, 2011 at 06:24 | #16


    I must disagree a little more,

    “I will disagree a little – but not completely. I can see people might counter your argument by saying China was engaged precisely in divide and conquer in SE Asia – preventing Vietnam from “uniting” Indochina. Or someone might note Korea. I know it was Soviet Union and U.S. that partitioned Korea, but some might argue that today it is China and U.S. that is keeping it partitioned.”

    (1) maintaining a status quo of SE Asia borders is far different from actively seeking to split Vietnam into a North and South. Again, even when China had differences with Vietnam, China did not try to weaken Vietnam by using force to split up Vietnam.

    (2) Re: Korea. I would argue that China is not keeping Korea partitioned (since especially, when China has no military force to keep the partition). Indeed, China reached out to South Korea, partly for its own economic interests, and partly to serve as middle man between North and South, to help keep the dialogue open for unification of Korea. (No other nation, US, NATO nations, Japan, can claim that they reached out to North Korea directly. Indeed, their policies have always been to keep North isolated).

    South Korea sometimes blame China for keeping North Korea afloat, but that is a convenient excuse, since South Korea has no desire to “unify” with (or cleanup the mess) of a North Korea that would be left in the event of a collapse. (South Korea itself continues to pay aid to North Korea to help keep it afloat).

    China had even recently negotiated, in the wake of the Chonan sinking, with South Korea on the eventual collapse of North Korea and unification of Koreas, and made it perfectly clear that China will not stand in the way (China might not want to help the clean up afterwards, but that’s a different matter).

    China is ambivalent about Korea Reunification. It has no preference for either Regimes.

    In comparison, US has actively used force and sanctions to express its preferences.

    One should question whether US really want to see Democracy reign over Korea, or merely see Korea in perpetual split and weakened state.

    (Afterall, I had argued before that an United Korea, even democratic, may be drawn closer to China, present a threat to Japan and US interests in Asia).

  17. raventhorn2000
    June 6th, 2011 at 06:37 | #17

    The classic colonial policy to establish a foot hold in a foreign country is not merely “divide and conquer”, but “divide, pit 1 side against others, support 1 side, even if they win, they become your dependent”.

    The colonial policy is not necessarily to “conquer”, (indeed conquest would be too costly), but to weaken the target so that it becomes a virtual slave “client”.

    Look at Libya. The objective in Libya for the West, is indeed, NOT to win the war as quickly as it can, but to prolong the conflict between 2 sides. Support for the Rebels is slow and uneven. If the Rebels do win quickly, there is disincentive for the Rebels to rely upon the West for support.

  18. raventhorn2000
    June 6th, 2011 at 15:57 | #18

    One current example of US neo-colonial policies:


    US continues to support “rebel” groups within Vietnam, even as Vietnam asks for US help and signals US for potential alliance.

    Now, if China really wanted to, China can certainly aid these groups in Vietnam, Hmongs are in NW Vietnam.

    *All I can say is, Vietnam plays friendship with US at its own peril. If US has no qualms about causing revolutions in China, Vietnam would be no more than a footnote of US neo-colonialism in Asia.

  19. Wahaha
    June 7th, 2011 at 11:09 | #19


    I believe that in China, Government controls lot of things, which left for LESS space for individuals, COMPARED TO WEST, OR EVEN INDIA.

    Just like the education systems in US and China, each has its own merits and flaws. and FLAWS COMES WITH MERITS, you simply cant just have merits but no flaws.

  20. June 9th, 2011 at 05:57 | #20

    Changes happen gradually. When it is too fast, it will create chaos. It is too slow from my Hong Kong background. Compared to China 10, 20, or 30 years ago, Chinese have far more freedom.

  21. July 10th, 2011 at 10:54 | #21

    This op-ed from Doug Bandow also resonates with me. Again, Doug is not espousing a Chinese perspective, just a rational perspective focused on peace, based on an objective understanding of the world, not a message of war, based on a zealous ideological view of the world.


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