Living with China: Review ‘On China’ by Henry Kissinger and ‘When China Rules the World,’ by Martin Jacques
It is impossible to do justice to and analyze in depth both these lengthy books, each of well over 500 pages, within the limited space provided here. Three main topics common to both books therefore form the focus of this review: differences in strategic thinking between China and the West; cultural differences; and predictions and proposals posed the by authors on the future of China’s position in the world and relations with the West.
Both Jacques’s and Kissinger’s books are excellent in their own way, and even readers without much prior knowledge of China will have no problem following them. Missing points are there, but when dealing with a country of such size and history, obviously many things will have to pass unmentioned. A reader might wonder why, for example, Kissinger says little about Chinese sovereign wealth fund investments in the US or cyber security, and why Jacques seems to be almost inviting and applauding the demise of the West and the rise of multiple modernities. Further, the reader reading both books consecutively will not be able to sideline a not-so-explicit message: At times it seems that neither Jacques nor Kissinger are totally certain, if it is indeed possible to be so, of the internal cohesion and the stability of China. How will, for example, China deal with Muslim-populated Xinjiang province? And what about social cohesion in the event class differences and differences between the urban and rural populations in Chinese society turn out to be too big a problem to deal with? These and other questions will have to answered by other books, but these volumes from Jacques and Kissinger are excellent places to start inquiring about the great country and a society that is China.