On China, Henry Kissinger


A in-depth write up of American Chinese relationship spanning from the period of the opium war to the Obama administration

Chinese leaders

Mao Zedong

seeks to displace Chinese largely inward looking Confucianist mentality through a mechanism of never ending revolution

Deng XiaoPing

Adopts a pragmatic approach with the primary focus on economic growth. Revolution is now done at the individual level as opposed to the systems level. Open up China with the belief foreign infusion of technology and knowledge is necessary for progress. Use profit motive as a means to drive continued reforms at all levels. Provided the foundational framework for modern China’s development.

China’s mindset

Employs meticulous analysis of long-term trends, careful study of tactical options, and detached exploration of operational decisions.

Sees and operates as in playing an ongoing game of WeiQi, strategic encirclement, using Sun Tze’s art of war as a frame. What matters is less the immediate outcome but the underlying Shi.

Relies heavily on the analytical abilities of its diplomats and the endurance and cultural confidence of it’s people for the implementation of its policies.

Points of contention

Following the fall of the USSR and winning of the Cold War, belief that democracy and human rights are inherently universal and should be upheld as the world order becomes a hardline one. 2008 financial crisis was a slap in the face of that belief.

The chaos ensuing after the opium war is ever on the mind of Chinese leaders. China cannot be pressured by external powers. It will forge its path forward on the basis of what it finds to work for itself.

The fall of the USSR presented a scenario where both countries not longer have a common enemy to deal with.

As China’s economy grows in size, its exchange rate increasingly becomes an issue. It’s rise will cause domestic companies to collapse causing chaos. It’s fall will cause a downward pressure on foreign manufacturing. The path to bringing the remaining 130 million Chinese out of poverty is a challenging one.

The reunification of the Chinese territories that have two governments both of which claim legitimacy over the entire region.

Moving forward

Both countries are too big to be ignored, isolated or pressured to change. The series of US administrations see the value and has actively seek to continue relationships despite ongoing challenges.

China’s aging population with workforce projected to half from 2015 to 2030 will present a challenge for its continued growth as more companies shift production to lower cost base territories with younger workforce.

As China continues its economic growth, overt expression of intent for non-hegemony will drive skepticism.

Both sides will continue to pursue principles they agree upon with no explicitly stated deadlines.

Related readings

  • Romance of the three kingdoms
  • Analects by Confucist
  • Sun Tze’s art of war


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