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“On China”

by Henry Kissinger

Reviewed by Glenn Kaufman on Sep. 29, 2011 in Biz Lit

Before I finally bought this book I thought, “here’s another former politician who will use this space to aggrandize himself and have history prove him right.”  To my utmost surprise, I was completely wrong.  As it turns out, “On China” is a must-read for anyone who does business in or with China, or anyone who wants to understand the Chinese ethos that has developed over centuries where cycles of stability and turmoil, insularity and “openness” have had a profound impact on the psyche of a people.  Neither a history text nor personal memoir, Kissinger’s book is much more.  Yes, he does contextualize events by putting them in historical perspective, and he does use the power of anecdotes to illustrate recent history from having been at the negotiating table with Chinese leaders since the ‘60’s.  What is most appealing, however, is Kissinger’s deep respect and understanding of cultural nuance, and the remarkable ability to set aside his own world view to portray the Chinese perspective.  He walks the reader through the psychology of the key leadership figures in modern Chinese history, and shows how each has impacted the culture of a nation as vast and complex as the world has ever seen.  This is definitely a book on leadership, and refreshingly, it is devoid of prescriptions and models that we can all do without.  Kissinger glides us through the formation and execution of national strategies, and how the competitive landscape on a geopolitical scale has altered the world forever.  Anyone who has to formulate a strategy, plan to implement it, and finally set it in motion will learn a lot from this book.


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