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 Want to understand China better?

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Natch

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Age : 66
Location : foothills of the Ozarks
Registration date : 2007-12-21

PostSubject: Want to understand China better?   Sun Jun 12, 2011 6:30 pm

I know this should be in the book section below, and I'm not trying to open up an argument on the pros or cons of our political systems or such, but this book is the best informational text on the subject that I've ever read. I teach a course on China and East Asia, and have been conducting a fair amount of research for a while now. No, I'm not a world renowned expert on the region, but I believe I have better than average knowledge of East Asia. This book gave more insight and information (especially behind the scenes negotiations and such) and more succinctly synopses Chinese history, culture, perspectives on the world and how they fit in than any ten books I've read on the subject. On China by Henry Kissinger.

As National Security Adviser and Secretary of State for two presidents and particularly as Nixon's Secretary of State, I always thought him more honest and credible than most in those administrations. But this book puts him (and I must admit, Nixon) in a new light. We (or at least "I") was so wrapped up in the downside of the Vietnam War and Nixon's quirks that I never saw him as a very capable statesman. But in international affairs, and especially at that time in the Cold War, Nixon did a good job of establishing contacts with China after two decades of no contact of any kind, fighting a war over Korea, major ideological differences and numerous other conflicts. This book may give you a better insight into what really went on behind the scenes and what is still happening/evolving to this day.

Not a cheap paperback (about $40) but a great read. A few bits of very generalized info. I've gleaned from it:

-China thinks in terms of centuries and millenniums, not just decades, they may make concessions or actions that seem odd or unproductive at the time, but two hundred years later pan out the way they hoped, understanding Confucius' thought is essential in understanding many of their perspectives;

-China seems concerned with what's going in internally or on their borders, but seldom ventured beyond their own borders or adjoining countries, they never felt that their culture and governmental systems were applicable to others, so they never tried to export them around the world; quite different than our perspectives on politics, government, religion, or related thought that we believe are applicable to all humanity;

-From the early 1960s through the mid-1970s, while we saw communism as a world wide, connected monolith, China was actually much more afraid of the Soviets than they were were of us, and just when Nixon wanted to try to make contact with them (in an effort to see if they could be used to isolate the USSR) Mao wanted to contact and perhaps develop relations with the U.S. (in an effort to keep the USSR at bay);

-For much of this time, the Soviets had more troops along the Sino-Soviet border than they had facing the NATO countries in the West;

-Mao's concept of "continuous revolution" was almost the opposite of the Soviet perspective of "peaceful coexistence" and they were irreconcilable to each other;

-Mao much preferred to work with right wing (Republican) governments in the U.S. than Democratic, he joked with Nixon that he "voted" for him;

As it's apparent that they will be a major player in our world for some time to come, I would recommend this book. It's also the best expose on the rules of protocol and the behind the scenes meetings and agreements that surround almost every international meeting or announcement we see today.

Natch

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z-fog

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Age : 33
Location : Wareham, Mass
Registration date : 2011-06-03

PostSubject: Re: Want to understand China better?   Sun Jun 12, 2011 7:40 pm

Interesting post, thanks I will have to check this book out.
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PostSubject: Re: Want to understand China better?   Sun Jun 12, 2011 9:44 pm

Natch wrote:
China thinks in terms of centuries and millenniums, not just decades,

Forward thinking, unlike being the new kids on the block with only a couple hundred years years under our belt.

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hobie1dog

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Location : Cornelius, NC
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PostSubject: Re: Want to understand China better?   Sun Jun 12, 2011 11:25 pm

my son has made 2 trips over there on business the past 2 years. Always interesting to hear how differently they live.
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Carlos
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PostSubject: Re: Want to understand China better?   Mon Jun 13, 2011 10:02 am

A book that I enjoyed years ago about China is Broken Earth: the rural Chinese by Steven W. Mosher. Today, I suspect that China is a bit different than it was in the late 1970' and early 1980's. But this was an important time in their history. China took great pains to vilify this author. They have never taken criticism well. It's quite affordable, and available for Kindle.

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sand18f

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Age : 67
Location : Southern Appalachia
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PostSubject: Re: Want to understand China better?   Wed Jun 15, 2011 8:18 am

One can see how "The Art of War" by Sun Tzu is very much part of their political philosophy.
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Natch

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Age : 66
Location : foothills of the Ozarks
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PostSubject: Re: Want to understand China better?   Wed Jun 15, 2011 11:43 pm

sand18f wrote:
One can see how "The Art of War" by Sun Tzu is very much part of their political philosophy.

Kissinger references Sun Tzu's writings and influence on Chinese political thought at least a dozen times in the book, several times as examples to understand actions that seem odd to us, (such as kicking the snot out of the Indian troops during their border conflict, Aksai Chin, in 1962 while taking virtually all of the disputed terrain, then returning the captured solders and withdrawing to their original outposts). He even gives a few pages of his poetry/advice as examples.

Natch
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