“No one can lay claim to so much influence on the shaping of foreign policy over the past 50 years as Henry Kissinger.” —The Financial Times
In this sweeping and insightful history, Henry Kissinger turns for the first time at book length to a country he has known intimately for decades and whose modern relations with the West he helped shape. On China illuminates the inner workings of Chinese diplomacy during such pivotal events as the initial encounters between China and tight line modern European powers, the formation and breakdown of the Sino-Soviet alliance, the Korean War, and Richard Nixon’s historic trip to Beijing. With a new final chapter on the emerging superpower’s twenty-first-century role in global politics and economics, On China provides historical perspective on Chinese foreign affairs from one of the premier statesmen of our time.
|Publisher:||Penguin Publishing Group|
|Product dimensions:||5.40(w) x 8.40(h) x 1.50(d)|
|Age Range:||18 Years|
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The Singularity of China
SOCIETIES AND NATIONS tend to think of themselves as eternal. They also cherish a tale of their origin. A special feature of Chi-nese civilization is that it seems to have no beginning. It appears in history less as a conventional nation-state than a permanent natural phenomenon. In the tale of the Yellow Emperor, revered by many Chinese as the legendary founding ruler, China seems already to exist. When the Yellow Emperor appears in myth, Chinese civilization has fallen into chaos. Competing princes harass each other and the people, yet an enfeebled ruler fails to maintain order. Levying an army, the new hero pacifies the realm and is acclaimed as emperor.1
The Yellow Emperor has gone down in history as a founding hero; yet in the founding myth, he is reestablishing, not creating, an empire. China predated him; it strides into the historical consciousness as an established state requiring only restoration, not creation. This paradox of Chinese history recurs with the ancient sage Confucius: again, he is seen as the “founder” of a culture although he stressed that he had invented nothing, that he was merely trying to reinvigorate the prin- ciples of harmony which had once existed in the golden age but had been lost in Confucius’s own era of political chaos.
Reflecting on the paradox of China’s origins, the nineteenth-century missionary and traveler, the Abbé Régis-Evariste Huc, observed:
Chinese civilization originates in an antiquity so remote that we vainly endeavor to discover its commencement. There are no traces of the state of infancy among this people. This is a very peculiar fact respecting China. We are accustomed in the history of nations to find some well-defined point of depar- ture, and the historic documents, traditions, and monuments that remain to us generally permit us to follow, almost step by step, the progress of civilization, to be present at its birth, to watch its development, its onward march, and in many cases, its subsequent decay and fall. But it is not thus with the Chi- nese. They seem to have been always living in the same stage of advancement as in the present day; and the data of antiquity are such as to confirm that opinion.2
When Chinese written characters first evolved, during the Shang Dynasty in the second millennium B.C., ancient Egypt was at the height of its glory. The great city-states of classical Greece had not yet emerged, and Rome was millennia away. Yet the direct descendant of the Shang writing system is still used by well over a billion people today. Chinese today can understand inscriptions written in the age of Confucius; con- temporary Chinese books and conversations are enriched by centuries- old aphorisms citing ancient battles and court intrigues.
At the same time, Chinese history featured many periods of civil war, interregnum, and chaos. After each collapse, the Chinese state reconstituted itself as if by some immutable law of nature. At each stage, a new uniting figure emerged, following essentially the prece- dent of the Yellow Emperor, to subdue his rivals and reunify China (and sometimes enlarge its bounds). The famous opening of The Ro- mance of the Three Kingdoms, a fourteenth-century epic novel treasured by centuries of Chinese (including Mao, who is said to have pored over it almost obsessively in his youth), evokes this continuous rhythm: “The empire, long divided, must unite; long united, must divide. Thus it has
ever been.”3 Each period of disunity was viewed as an aberration. Each new dynasty reached back to the previous dynasty’s principles of gov- ernance in order to reestablish continuity. The fundamental precepts of Chinese culture endured, tested by the strain of periodic calamity.
Before the seminal event of Chinese unification in 221 B.C., there had been a millennium of dynastic rule that gradually disintegrated as the feudal subdivisions evolved from autonomy to independence. The culmination was two and a half centuries of turmoil recorded in his- tory as the Warring States period (475–221 B.C.). Its European equiva- lent would be the interregnum between the Treaty of Westphalia in 1648 and the end of the Second World War, when a multiplicity of European states was struggling for preeminence within the framework of the balance of power. After 221 B.C., China maintained the ideal of empire and unity but followed the practice of fracturing, then reunit- ing, in cycles sometimes lasting several hundred years.
When the state fractured, wars between the various components were fought savagely. Mao once claimed that the population of China declined from fifty million to ten million during the so-called Three Kingdoms period (A.D. 220–80),4 and the conflict among the contend- ing groups between the two world wars of the twentieth century was extremely bloody as well.
At its ultimate extent, the Chinese cultural sphere stretched over a continental area much larger than any European state, indeed about the size of continental Europe. Chinese language and culture, and the Emperor’s political writ, expanded to every known terrain: from the steppelands and pine forests in the north shading into Siberia, to the tropical jungles and terraced rice farms in the south; from the east coast with its canals, ports, and fishing villages, to the stark deserts of Central Asia and the ice-capped peaks of the Himalayan frontier. The extent and variety of this territory bolstered the sense that China was a world unto itself. It supported a conception of the Emperor as a figure of universal consequence, presiding over tian xia, or “All Under Heaven.”
The Era of Chinese Preeminence Through many millennia of Chinese civilization, China was never obliged to deal with other countries or civilizations that were compa- rable to it in scale and sophistication. India was known to the Chinese, as Mao later noted, but for much of history it was divided into separate kingdoms. The two civilizations exchanged goods and Buddhist influ- ences along the Silk Road but were elsewhere walled off from casual contact by the almost impenetrable Himalayas and the Tibetan Pla- teau. The massive and forbidding deserts of Central Asia separated China from the Near Eastern cultures of Persia and Babylonia and even more from the Roman Empire. Trade caravans undertook intermittent journeys, but China as a society did not engage societies of comparable scale and achievement. Though China and Japan shared a number of core cultural and political institutions, neither was prepared to recog- nize the other’s superiority; their solution was to curtail contact for cen- turies at a time. Europe was even further away in what the Chinese considered the Western Oceans, by definition inaccessible to Chinese culture and pitiably incapable of acquiring it—as the Emperor told a British envoy in 1793.
The territorial claims of the Chinese Empire stopped at the water’s edge. As early as the Song Dynasty (960–1279), China led the world in nautical technology; its fleets could have carried the empire into an era of conquest and exploration.5 Yet China acquired no overseas colonies and showed relatively little interest in the countries beyond its coast. It developed no rationale for venturing abroad to convert the barbarians to Confucian principles or Buddhist virtues. When the conquering Mongols commandeered the Song fleet and its experienced captains, they mounted two attempted invasions of Japan. Both were turned back by inclement weather—the kamikaze (or “Divine Wind”) of Jap- anese lore.6 Yet when the Mongol Dynasty collapsed, the expeditions, though technically feasible, were never again attempted. No Chinese
leader ever articulated a rationale for why China would want to control the Japanese archipelago.
But in the early years of the Ming Dynasty, between 1405 and 1433, China launched one of history’s most remarkable and mysterious naval enterprises: Admiral Zheng He set out in fleets of technologically un- paralleled “treasure ships” to destinations as far as Java, India, the Horn of Africa, and the Strait of Hormuz. At the time of Zheng’s voyages, the European age of exploration had not yet begun. China’s fleet pos- sessed what would have seemed an unbridgeable technological advan- tage: in the size, sophistication, and number of its vessels, it dwarfed the Spanish Armada (which was still 150 years away).
Historians still debate the actual purpose of these missions. Zheng He was a singular figure in the age of exploration: a Chinese Muslim eunuch conscripted into imperial service as a child, he fits no obvious historical precedent. At each stop on his journeys, he formally pro- claimed the magnificence of China’s new Emperor, bestowed lavish gifts on the rulers he encountered, and invited them to travel in person or send envoys to China. There, they were to acknowledge their place in the Sinocentric world order by performing the ritual “kowtow” to acknowledge the Emperor’s superiority. Yet beyond declaring China’s greatness and issuing invitations to portentous ritual, Zheng He dis- played no territorial ambition. He brought back only gifts, or “tribute”; he claimed no colonies or resources for China beyond the metaphysical bounty of extending the limits of All Under Heaven. At most he can be said to have created favorable conditions for Chinese merchants, through a kind of early exercise of Chinese “soft power.”7
Zheng He’s expeditions stopped abruptly in 1433, coincident with the recurrence of threats along China’s northern land frontier. The next Emperor ordered the fleet dismantled and the records of Zheng He’s voyages destroyed. The expeditions were never repeated. Though Chinese traders continued to ply the routes Zheng He sailed, China’s naval abilities faded—so much so that the Ming rulers’ response to the
subsequent menace of piracy off China’s southeast coast was to attempt a forced migration of the coastal population ten miles inland. China’s naval history was thus a hinge that failed to swing: technically capable of dominance, China retired voluntarily from the field of naval explo- ration just as Western interest was beginning to take hold.
China’s splendid isolation nurtured a particular Chinese self- perception. Chinese elites grew accustomed to the notion that China was unique—not just “a great civilization” among others, but civiliza- tion itself. A British translator wrote in 1850:
An intelligent European, accustomed to reflect on the state of a number of countries enjoying a variety of different advan- tages, and laboring each under peculiar disadvantages, could, by a few well directed questions, and from very little data, form a tolerably correct notion of the state of a people hitherto unknown to him; but it would be a great error to suppose that this is the case with the Chinese. Their exclusion of foreigners and confinement to their own country has, by depriving them of all opportunities of making comparisons, sadly circum- scribed their ideas; they are thus totally unable to free them- selves from the dominion of association, and judge everything by rules of purely Chinese convention.8
China knew, of course, of different societies around its periphery in Korea, Vietnam, Thailand, Burma; but in the Chinese perception, China was considered the center of the world, the “Middle Kingdom,” and other societies were assessed as gradations from it. As the Chinese saw it, a host of lesser states that imbibed Chinese culture and paid tribute to China’s greatness constituted the natural order of the uni- verse. The borders between China and the surrounding peoples were not so much political and territorial demarcations as cultural differen- tiations. The outward radiance of Chinese culture throughout East
Asia led the American political scientist Lucian Pye to comment fa- mously that, in the modern age, China remains a “civilization pretend- ing to be a nation-state.”9
The pretensions underlying this traditional Chinese world order endured well into the modern era. As late as 1863, China’s Emperor (himself a member of a “foreign” Manchu Dynasty that had conquered China two centuries earlier) dispatched a letter informing Abraham Lincoln of China’s commitment to good relations with the United States. The Emperor based his communication on the grandiloquent assurance that, “[h]aving, with reverence, received the commission from Heaven to rule the universe, we regard both the middle empire [China] and the outside countries as constituting one family, without any distinction.”10 When the letter was dispatched, China had already lost two wars with the Western powers, which were busy staking out spheres of interest in Chinese territory. The Emperor seems to have treated these catastrophes as similar to other barbarian invasions that were overcome, in the end, by China’s endurance and superior culture. For most of history, there was, in fact, nothing particularly fanciful about Chinese claims. With each generation, the Han Chinese had expanded from their original base in the Yellow River valley, gradually drawing neighboring societies into various stages of approximation of Chinese patterns. Chinese scientific and technological achievements equaled, and frequently outstripped, those of their Western European,
Indian, and Arab counterparts.11
Not only was the scale of China traditionally far beyond that of the European states in population and in territory; until the Industrial Revolution, China was far richer. United by a vast system of canals connecting the great rivers and population centers, China was for cen- turies the world’s most productive economy and most populous trading area.12 But since it was largely self-sufficient, other regions had only peripheral comprehension of its vastness and its wealth. In fact, China produced a greater share of total world GDP than any Western society
in eighteen of the last twenty centuries. As late as 1820, it produced over 30 percent of world GDP—an amount exceeding the GDP of Western Europe, Eastern Europe, and the United States combined.13
Western observers encountering China in the early modern era were stunned by its vitality and material prosperity. Writing in 1736, the French Jesuit Jean-Baptiste Du Halde summed up the awestruck reactions of Western visitors to China:
The riches peculiar to each province, and the facility of convey- ing merchandise, by means of rivers and canals, have rendered the domestic trade of the empire always very flourishing. . . .
The inland trade of China is so great that the commerce of all Europe is not to be compared therewith; the provinces being like so many kingdoms, which communicate to each other their respective productions.14
Thirty years later, the French political economist François Quesnay went even further:
[N]o one can deny that this state is the most beautiful in the world, the most densely populated, and the most flourishing kingdom known. Such an empire as that of China is equal to what all Europe would be if the latter were united under a single sovereign.15
China traded with foreigners and occasionally adopted ideas and inventions from abroad. But more often the Chinese believed that the most valuable possessions and intellectual achievements were to be found within China. Trade with China was so prized that it was with only partial exaggeration that Chinese elites described it not as ordi- nary economic exchange but as “tribute” to China’s superiority.
Confucianism Almost all empires were created by force, but none can be sustained by it. Universal rule, to last, needs to translate force into obligation. Otherwise, the energies of the rulers will be exhausted in maintaining their dominance at the expense of their ability to shape the future, which is the ultimate task of statesmanship. Empires persist if repres- sion gives way to consensus.
So it was with China. The methods by which it was unified, and periodically overturned and reunified again, were occasionally brutal. Chinese history witnessed its share of sanguinary rebellions and dynas- tic tyrants. Yet China owed its millennial survival far less to the punish- ments meted out by its Emperors than to the community of values fostered among its population and its government of scholar-officials. Not the least exceptional aspect of Chinese culture is that these val- ues were essentially secular in nature. At the time when Buddhism ap- peared in Indian culture stressing contemplation and inner peace, and monotheism was proclaimed by the Jewish—and, later, Christian and Islamic—prophets with an evocation of a life after death, China pro- duced no religious themes in the Western sense at all. The Chinese never generated a myth of cosmic creation. Their universe was created by the Chinese themselves, whose values, even when declared of uni-
versal applicability, were conceived of as Chinese in origin.
The predominant values of Chinese society were derived from the prescriptions of an ancient philosopher known to posterity as Kong Fu-zi (or “Confucius” in the Latinized version). Confucius (551–479 B.C.) lived at the end of the so-called Spring and Autumn period (770– 476 B.C.), a time of political upheaval that led to the brutal struggles of the Warring States period (475–221 B.C.). The ruling House of Zhou was in decline, unable to exert its authority over rebellious princes com- peting for political power. Greed and violence went unchecked. All Under Heaven was again in disarray.
Like Machiavelli, Confucius was an itinerant in his country, hoping to be retained as an advisor to one of the princes then contending for survival. But unlike Machiavelli, Confucius was concerned more with the cultivation of social harmony than with the machinations of power. His themes were the principles of compassionate rule, the performance of correct rituals, and the inculcation of filial piety. Perhaps because he offered his prospective employers no short-term route to wealth or power, Confucius died without achieving his goal: he never found a prince to implement his maxims, and China continued its slide toward political collapse and war.16
But Confucius’s teachings, recorded by his disciples, survived. When the bloodletting ended and China again stood unified, the Han Dy- nasty (206 B.C.–A.D. 220) adopted Confucian thought as an official state philosophy. Compiled into a central collection of Confucius’s sayings (the Analects) and subsequent books of learned commentary, the Con- fucian canon would evolve into something akin to China’s Bible and its Constitution combined. Expertise in these texts became the central qualification for service in China’s imperial bureaucracy—a priesthood of literary scholar-officials selected by nationwide competitive examina- tions and charged with maintaining harmony in the Emperor’s vast realms.
Confucius’s answer to the chaos of his era was the “Way” of the just and harmonious society, which, he taught, had once been realized before—in a distant Chinese golden age. Mankind’s central spiritual task was to re-create this proper order already on the verge of being lost. Spiritual fulfillment was a task not so much of revelation or lib- eration but patient recovery of forgotten principles of self-restraint. The goal was rectification, not progress.17 Learning was the key to advance- ment in a Confucian society. Thus Confucius taught that
[l]ove of kindness, without a love to learn, finds itself obscured by foolishness. Love of knowledge, without a love to learn,
finds itself obscured by loose speculation. Love of hon- esty, without a love to learn, finds itself obscured by harmful candour. Love of straightforwardness, without a love to learn, finds itself obscured by misdirected judgment. Love of dar- ing, without a love to learn, finds itself obscured by insubor- dination. And love for strength of character, without a love to learn, finds itself obscured by intractability.18
Confucius preached a hierarchical social creed: the fundamental duty was to “Know thy place.” To its adherents the Confucian order offered the inspiration of service in pursuit of a greater harmony. Un- like the prophets of monotheistic religions, Confucius preached no teleology of history pointing mankind to personal redemption. His philosophy sought the redemption of the state through righteous indi- vidual behavior. Oriented toward this world, his thinking affirmed a code of social conduct, not a roadmap to the afterlife.
At the pinnacle of the Chinese order stood the Emperor, a figure with no parallels in the Western experience. He combined the spiritual as well as the secular claims of the social order. The Chinese Emperor was both a political ruler and a metaphysical concept. In his political role, the Emperor was conceived as mankind’s supreme sovereign—the Emperor of Humanity, standing atop a world political hierarchy that mirrored China’s hierarchical Confucian social structure. Chinese pro- tocol insisted on recognizing his overlordship via the kowtow—the act of complete prostration, with the forehead touching the ground three times on each prostration.
The Emperor’s second, metaphysical, role was his status as the “Son of Heaven,” the symbolic intermediary between Heaven, Earth, and humanity. This role also implied moral obligation on the Em- peror’s part. Through humane conduct, performance of correct rituals, and occasional stern punishments, the Emperor was perceived as the linchpin of the “Great Harmony” of all things great and small. If the
Emperor strayed from the path of virtue, All Under Heaven would fall into chaos. Even natural catastrophes might signify that disharmony had beset the universe. The existing dynasty would be seen to have lost the “Mandate of Heaven” by which it possessed the right to govern: rebellions would break out, and a new dynasty would restore the Great Harmony of the universe.19
Concepts of International Relations: Impartiality or Equality? Just as there are no great cathedrals in China, there are no Blenheim Palaces. Aristocratic political grandees like the Duke of Marlborough, who built Blenheim, did not come into being. Europe entered the mod- ern age a welter of political diversity—independent princes and dukes and counts, cities that governed themselves, the Roman Catholic Church, which claimed an authority outside of state purview, and Prot- estant groups, which aspired to building their own self-governing civil societies. By contrast, when it entered the modern period, China had for well over one thousand years a fully formed imperial bureaucracy recruited by competitive examination, permeating and regulating all aspects of the economy and society.
The Chinese approach to world order was thus vastly different from the system that took hold in the West. The modern Western conception of international relations emerged in the sixteenth and seventeenth cen- turies, when the medieval structure of Europe dissolved into a group of states of approximately equal strength, and the Catholic Church split into various denominations. Balance-of-power diplomacy was less a choice than an inevitability. No state was strong enough to impose its will; no religion retained sufficient authority to sustain universality. The concept of sovereignty and the legal equality of states became the basis of international law and diplomacy.
China, by contrast, was never engaged in sustained contact with
another country on the basis of equality for the simple reason that it never encountered societies of comparable culture or magnitude. That the Chinese Empire should tower over its geographical sphere was taken virtually as a law of nature, an expression of the Mandate of Heaven. For Chinese Emperors, the mandate did not necessarily imply an adversarial relationship with neighboring peoples; preferably it did not. Like the United States, China thought of itself as playing a special role. But it never espoused the American notion of universalism to spread its values around the world. It confined itself to controlling the barbarians immediately at its doorstep. It strove for tributary states like Korea to recognize China’s special status, and in return, it conferred benefits such as trading rights. As for the remote barbarians such as Europeans, about whom they knew little, the Chinese maintained a friendly, if condescending, aloofness. They had little interest in convert- ing them to Chinese ways. The founding Emperor of the Ming Dy- nasty expressed this view in 1372: “Countries of the western ocean are rightly called distant regions. They come [to us] across the seas. And it is difficult for them to calculate the year and month [of arrival]. Re- gardless of their numbers, we treat them [on the principle of] ‘those who come modestly are sent off generously.’”20
The Chinese Emperors felt it was impractical to contemplate influ- encing countries that nature had given the misfortune of locating at such a great distance from China. In the Chinese version of exception- alism, China did not export its ideas but let others come to seek them. Neighboring peoples, the Chinese believed, benefited from contact with China and civilization so long as they acknowledged the suzer- ainty of the Chinese government. Those who did not were barbarian. Subservience to the Emperor and observance of imperial rituals was the core of culture.21 When the empire was strong, this cultural sphere expanded: All Under Heaven was a multinational entity comprising the ethnic Han Chinese majority and numerous non-Han Chinese eth- nic groups.
In official Chinese records, foreign envoys did not come to the im- perial court to engage in negotiations or affairs of state; they “came to be transformed” by the Emperor’s civilizing influence. The Emperor did not hold “summit meetings” with other heads of state; instead, audiences with him represented the “tender cherishing of men from afar,” who brought tribute to recognize his overlordship. When the Chinese court deigned to send envoys abroad, they were not diplomats, but “Heavenly Envoys” from the Celestial Court.
The organization of the Chinese government reflected the hierar- chical approach to world order. China handled ties with tribute-paying states such as Korea, Thailand, and Vietnam through the Ministry of Rituals, implying that diplomacy with these peoples was but one aspect of the larger metaphysical task of administering the Great Harmony. With less Sinicized mounted tribes to the north and west, China came to rely on a “Court of Dependencies,” analogous to a colonial office, whose mission was to invest vassal princes with titles and maintain peace on the frontier.22
Only under the pressure of Western incursions in the nineteenth century did China establish something analogous to a foreign ministry to manage diplomacy as an independent function of government, in 1861 after the defeat in two wars with the Western powers. It was con- sidered a temporary necessity, to be abolished once the immediate crisis subsided. The new ministry was deliberately located in an old and undistinguished building previously used by the Department of Iron Coins, to convey, in the words of the leading Qing Dynasty statesman, Prince Gong, “the hidden meaning that it cannot have a standing equal to that of other traditional government offices, thus preserving the dis- tinction between China and foreign countries.”23
European-style ideas of interstate politics and diplomacy were not unknown in the Chinese experience; rather, they existed as a kind of countertradition taking place within China in times of disunity. But as
if by some unwritten law, these periods of division ended with the re- unification of All Under Heaven, and the reassertion of Chinese centrality by a new dynasty.
In its imperial role, China offered surrounding foreign peoples im- partiality, not equality: it would treat them humanely and compas- sionately in proportion to their attainment of Chinese culture and their observance of rituals connoting submission to China.
What was most remarkable about the Chinese approach to interna- tional affairs was less its monumental formal pretensions than its un- derlying strategic acumen and longevity. For during most of Chinese history, the numerous “lesser” peoples along China’s long and shifting frontiers were often better armed and more mobile than the Chinese. To China’s north and west were seminomadic peoples—the Manchus, Mongols, Uighurs, Tibetans, and eventually the expansionist Russian Empire—whose mounted cavalry could launch raids across its extended frontiers on China’s agricultural heartland with relative impunity. Re- taliatory expeditions faced inhospitable terrain and extended supply lines. To China’s south and east were peoples who, though nominally subordinate in the Chinese cosmology, possessed significant martial traditions and national identities. The most tenacious of them, the Viet- namese, had fiercely resisted Chinese claims of superiority and could claim to have bested China in battle.
China was in no position to conquer all of its neighbors. Its popu- lation consisted mainly of farmers bound to their ancestral plots. Its mandarin elite earned their positions not through displays of martial valor but by way of mastery of the Confucian classics and refined arts such as calligraphy and poetry. Individually, neighboring peoples could pose formidable threats; with any degree of unity, they would be over- whelming. The historian Owen Lattimore wrote, “Barbarian invasion therefore hung over China as a permanent threat Any barbarian nation that could guard its own rear and flanks against the other
barbarians could set out confidently to invade China.”24 China’s vaunted centrality and material wealth would turn on itself and into an invita- tion for invasion from all sides.
The Great Wall, so prominent in Western iconography of China, was a reflection of this basic vulnerability, though rarely a successful solution to it. Instead, Chinese statesmen relied on a rich array of dip- lomatic and economic instruments to draw potentially hostile foreign- ers into relationships the Chinese could manage. The highest aspiration was less to conquer (though China occasionally mounted major mili- tary campaigns) than to deter invasion and prevent the formation of barbarian coalitions.
Through trade incentives and skillful use of political theater, China coaxed neighboring peoples into observing the norms of Chinese cen- trality while projecting an image of awesome majesty to deter potential invaders from testing China’s strength. Its goal was not to conquer and subjugate the barbarians but to “rule [them] with a loose rein” ( ji mi). For those who would not obey, China would exploit divisions among them, famously “using barbarians to check barbarians” and, when nec- essary, “using barbarians to attack barbarians.”25 For as a Ming Dy- nasty official wrote of the potentially threatening tribes on China’s northeastern frontier:
[I]f the tribes are divided among themselves they [will remain] weak and [it will be] easy to hold them in subjection; if the tribes are separated they shun each other and readily obey. We favor one or other [of their chieftains] and permit them to fight each other. This is a principle of political action which asserts: “Wars between the ‘barbarians’ are auspicious for China.”26
The goal of this system was essentially defensive: to prevent the formation of coalitions on China’s borders. The principles of barbarian management became so ingrained in Chinese official thought that
when the European “barbarians” arrived on China’s shores in force in the nineteenth century, Chinese officials described their challenge with the same phrases used by their dynastic predecessors: they would “use barbarians against barbarians” until they could be soothed and sub- dued. And they applied a traditional strategy to answer the initial Brit- ish attack. They invited other European countries in for the purpose of first stimulating and then manipulating their rivalry.
In pursuit of these aims, the Chinese court was remarkably prag- matic about the means it employed. The Chinese bribed the barbarians, or used Han demographic superiority to dilute them; when defeated, they submitted to them, as in the beginning of the Yuan and Qing Dynasties, as a prelude to Sinicizing them. The Chinese court regularly practiced what in other contexts would be considered appeasement, albeit through an elaborate filter of protocol that allowed the Chinese elites to claim it was an assertion of benevolent superiority. Thus a Han Dynasty minister described the “five baits” with which he pro- posed to manage the mounted Xiongnu tribes to China’s northwestern frontier:
To give them . . . elaborate clothes and carriages in order to corrupt their eyes; to give them fine food in order to corrupt their mouth; to give them music and women in order to cor- rupt their ears; to provide them with lofty buildings, granaries and slaves in order to corrupt their stomach . . . and, as for those who come to surrender, the emperor [should] show them favor by honoring them with an imperial reception party in which the emperor should personally serve them wine and food so as to corrupt their mind. These are what may be called the five baits.27
In periods of strength, the diplomacy of the Middle Kingdom was an ideological rationalization for imperial power. During periods of
decline, it served to mask weakness and helped China manipulate con- tending forces.
In comparison to more recent regional contenders for power, China was a satisfied empire with limited territorial ambition. As a scholar during the Han Dynasty (A.D. 25–220) put it, “the emperor does not govern the barbarians. Those who come to him will not be rejected, and those who leave will not be pursued.”28 The objective was a compliant, divided periphery, rather than one directly under Chinese control.
The most remarkable expression of China’s fundamental pragma- tism was its reaction to conquerors. When foreign dynasts prevailed in battle, the Chinese bureaucratic elite would offer their services and ap- peal to their conquerors on the premise that so vast and unique a land as they had just overrun could be ruled only by use of Chinese meth- ods, Chinese language, and the existing Chinese bureaucracy. With each generation, the conquerors would find themselves increasingly assimilated into the order they had sought to dominate. Eventually their own home territories—the launching points for their invasions— would come to be regarded as part of China itself. They would find themselves pursuing traditional Chinese national interests, with the project of conquest effectively turned on its head.29
Chinese Realpolitik and Sun Tzu’s Art of War
The Chinese have been shrewd practitioners of Realpolitik and stu- dents of a strategic doctrine distinctly different from the strategy and diplomacy that found favor in the West. A turbulent history has taught Chinese leaders that not every problem has a solution and that too great an emphasis on total mastery over specific events could upset the har- mony of the universe. There were too many potential enemies for the empire ever to live in total security. If China’s fate was relative security, it also implied relative insecurity—the need to learn the grammar of over a dozen neighboring states with significantly different histories
and aspirations. Rarely did Chinese statesmen risk the outcome of a conflict on a single all-or-nothing clash; elaborate multiyear maneuvers were closer to their style. Where the Western tradition prized the de- cisive clash of forces emphasizing feats of heroism, the Chinese ideal stressed subtlety, indirection, and the patient accumulation of relative advantage.
This contrast is reflected in the respective intellectual games favored by each civilization. China’s most enduring game is wei qi (pronounced roughly “way chee,” and often known in the West by a variation of its Japanese name, go). Wei qi translates as “a game of surrounding pieces”; it implies a concept of strategic encirclement. The board, a grid of nineteen-by-nineteen lines, begins empty. Each player has 180 pieces, or stones, at his disposal, each of equal value with the others. The play- ers take turns placing stones at any point on the board, building up positions of strength while working to encircle and capture the oppo- nent’s stones. Multiple contests take place simultaneously in different regions of the board. The balance of forces shifts incrementally with each move, as the players implement strategic plans and react to each other’s initiatives. At the end of a well-played game, the board is filled by partially interlocking areas of strength. The margin of advantage is often slim, and to the untrained eye, the identity of the winner is not always immediately obvious.30
Chess, on the other hand, is about total victory. The purpose of the game is checkmate, to put the opposing king into a position where he cannot move without being destroyed. The vast majority of games end in total victory achieved by attrition or, more rarely, a dramatic, skillful maneuver. The only other possible outcome is a draw, meaning the abandonment of the hope for victory by both parties.
If chess is about the decisive battle, wei qi is about the protracted campaign. The chess player aims for total victory. The wei qi player seeks relative advantage. In chess, the player always has the capability of the adversary in front of him; all the pieces are always fully deployed.
Table of Contents
Note on Chinese Spellings xix
Chapter 1 The Singularity of China 5
The Era of Chinese Preeminence 8
Concepts of International Relations: Impartiality or Equality? 16
Chinese Realpolitik and Sun Tzu's Art of War 22
Chapter 2 The Kowtow Question and the Opium War 33
The Macartney Mission 35
The Clash of Two World Orders: The Opium War 45
Qiying's Diplomacy: Soothing the Barbarians 51
Chapter 3 From Preeminence to Decline 57
Wei Yuan's Blueprint: "Using Barbarians Against Barbarians," Learning Their Techniques 60
The Erosion of Authority: Domestic Upheavals and the Challenge of Foreign Encroachments 64
Managing Decline 69
The Challenge of Japan 77
The Boxer Uprising and the New Era of Warring States 86
Chapter 4 Mao's Continuous Revolution 91
Mao and the Great Harmony 92
Mao and International Relations: The Empty City Stratagem, Chinese Deterrence, and the Quest for Psychological Advantage 97
The Continuous Revolution and the Chinese People 106
Chapter 5 Triangular Diplomacy and the Korean War 113
Acheson and the Lure of Chinese Titoism 118
Kim Il-sung and the Outbreak of War 122
American Intervention: Resisting Aggression 129
Chinese Reactions: Another Approach to Deterrence 133
Sino-American Confrontation 143
Chapter 6 China Confronts Both Superpowers 148
The First Taiwan Strait Crisis 151
Diplomatic Interlude with the United States 158
Mao, Khrushchev, and the Sino-Soviet Split 161
The Second Taiwan Strait Crisis 172
Chapter 7 A Decade of Crises 181
The Great Leap Forward 181
The Himalayan Border Dispute and the 1962 Sino-Indian War 184
The Cultural Revolution 192
Was There a Lost Opportunity? 197
Chapter 8 The Road to Reconciliation 202
The Chinese Strategy 203
The American Strategy 213
First Steps-Clashes at the Ussuri River 215
Chapter 9 Resumption of Relations: First Encounters with Mao and Zhou 236
Zhou Enlai 241
Nixon in China: The Meeting with Mao 255
The Nixon-Zhou Dialogue 262
The Shanghai Communiqué 267
The Aftermath 273
Chapter 10 The Quasi-Alliance: Conversations with Mao 275
The "Horizontal Line": Chinese Approaches to Containment 277
The Impact of Watergate 292
Chapter 11 The End of the Mao Era 294
The Succession Crisis 294
The Fall of Zhou Enlai 297
Final Meetings with Mao: The Swallows and the Coming of the Storm 303
Chapter 12 The Indestructible Deng 321
Deng's First Return to Power 322
The Death of Leaders-Hua Guofeng 327
Deng's Ascendance-"Reform and Opening Up" 329
Chapter 13 "Touching the Tiger's Buttocks": The Third Vietnam War 340
Vietnam: Confounder of Great Powers 341
Deng's Foreign Policy-Dialogue with America and Normalization 348
Deng's Journeys 356
Deng's Visit to America and the New Definition of Alliance 360
The Third Vietnam War 367
Chapter 14 Reagan and the Advent of Normalcy 377
Taiwan Arms Sales and the Third Communiqué 381
China and the Superpowers-The New Equilibrium 387
Deng's Reform Program 396
Chapter 15 Tiananmen 405
American Dilemmas 411
The Fang Lizhi Controversy 428
The 12- and 24-Character Statements 437
Chapter 16 What Kind of Reform? Deng's Southern Tour 440
Chapter 17 A Roller Coaster Ride Toward Another Reconciliation: The Jiang Zemin Era 447
China and the Disintegrating Soviet Union 456
The Clinton Administration and China Policy 461
The Third Taiwan Strait Crisis 471
China's Resurgence and Jiang's Reflections 478
Chapter 18 The New Millennium 487
Differences in Perspective 493
How to Define Strategic Opportunity 497
The National Destiny Debate-The Triumphalist View 503
Dai Bingguo-A Reaffirmation of Peaceful Rise 508
Epilogue: Does History Repeat Itself? The Crowe Memorandum 514
Toward a Pacific Community? 527
Afterword to the paperback edition 531
What People are Saying About This
Praise for Henry Kissinger's On China
“Fascinating, shrewd… [The book’s] portrait of China is informed by Mr. Kissinger’s intimate firsthand knowledge of several generations of Chinese leaders. The book deftly traces the rhythms and patterns in Chinese history…even as it explicates the philosophical differences that separate it from the United States.”—Michiko Kakutani, The New York Times
“Nobody living can claim greater credit than Mr. Kissinger for America's 1971 opening to Beijing, after more than two decades of estrangement, and for China's subsequent opening to the world. So it's fitting that Mr. Kissinger has now written On China, a fluent, fascinating…book that is part history, part memoir and above all an examination of the premises, methods and aims of Chinese foreign policy.”—The Wall Street Journal
“Fascinating… In On China, statesman Henry Kissinger draws on historical records and 40 years of direct interaction with four generations of Chinese leaders to analyze the link between China’s ancient past and its present day trajectory. In doing so, the man who helped shape modern East-West relations presents an often unsettling, occasionally hopeful and always compelling accounting of what we’re up against.”—The Chicago Sun-Times
“Fascinating… No living American has played a more important role than Henry Kissinger, the former national security adviser and secretary of state, in bringing about the historic rapprochement between the United States and China. … [Kissinger] draw[s] deep insights into China's traumatic encounter with much stronger Western powers.”—The San Francisco Chronicle
“On China, Kissinger's 13th book, blends an incisive strategic analysis of the moves and countermoves of China, the United States and the former Soviet Union with telling vignettes about his meetings with Chinese Communist Party leaders… entertaining.”—The Los Angeles Times
“No one can lay claim to so much influence on the shaping of foreign policy over the past 50 years as Henry Kissinger.”—The Financial Times
“From the eminent elder statesman, an astute appraisal on Chinese diplomacy from ancient times to the fraught present “strategic trust” with the United States. Former Secretary of State Kissinger brings his considerable scholarly knowledge and professional expertise to this chronicle of the complicated evolution and precarious future of Chinese diplomacy with the West. … Sage words and critical perspective lent by a significant participant in historical events.”—Kirkus Reviews