“On China” is a curious mixture of history, geopolitical analysis and self-serving memoir (concentrating mostly on the last two elements). Kissinger reviews some of the highlights of Chinese history; ancient and medieval China is covered quickly and superficially and the material is pretty much standard issue, but the level of detail increases after greatly from the opium war onwards and the book becomes much more interesting at that point. Kissinger makes the case that the Qing bureaucrats, in dire straits thanks to internal revolts, financial crisis and administrative decay, were not completely clueless or apathetic. Faced with determined, ruthless and far more technologically advanced European powers who had already overcome or overawed other great non-Western empires, Qing diplomats did their best to play European powers against one another and try to use (very limited) breathing space to try some fitful reforms, but the court was too far gone and the situation could not be salvaged, which led to 100 years of defeat, disorder, revolutions, famines and other disasters. Continue reading Review: On China
I attended a round table discussion on CPEC (I believe it stands for China Pakistan Economic Corridor).
A few salient points I gathered from the talk:
(1) there seem to be two routes for CPEC; one via West Punjab, Sindh and the other via KPK/Baluchistan.
(2) the Brits historically conceived as India ending West of the Indus and the start of Central Asia. British strategic planning in what was to become West Pakistan (West of the Indus) was essentially security related; to prevent incursions from the North West. Hence the discordance of railways in inner India and the lack of connectivity in Outer India (West of Indus). British approaches to West Pakistan would later formulate colonial approach to much of Africa (mitigation & mining as opposed to management; as the academic used the shorthand “diamond & slaves approach).
(3.) CPEC is a “black box” at the moment; very little information available on it at the moment. Criticism is also very muted and in fact there are reports of Pakistan societies in the UK being coerced to “shut up” by governmental authorities.
(4.) I raised the point that CPEC could never really be an economic endeavour but is a masquerade for PAK foreign policy. Lahore-Delhi and/or Bombay/Khi Links would generate tremendous eco-cultural several orders of magnitude to CPEC.
“The Man on Mao’s Right” is the memoir of Ji Chaozhu, a Chinese diplomat who worked as an interpreter for several decades before being promoted to more substantive positions, ending his career as China’s ambassador to Great Britain and a stint as undersecretary general of the UN. His personal story in intertwined with many important events in modern Chinese history, from the Japanese invasion and a peripheral role in the communist’s rise to power (his older brother was a confidant of Zhu Enlai and more or less a Chinese communist agent in the United States), to the Korean war, the early decades of Chinese communism, the Great Leap Forward, the Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution, the fall of the Gang of Four and the rise of post-Maoist China under Deng Xiaoping.
Ji went to school in Manhattan and was a scholarship student at Harvard before most of the family moved back to China to help Chairman Mao build the new China. He is a Chinese patriot and a thoroughgoing Confucian Mandarin at heart, who managed to retain these ideals through decades of purges and ideological twists and turns in China, so he is not inclined to kick up controversy and cross the party’s red lines even in his old age. The memoir seems honest and frank enough when it comes to his personal life, but the politics and political commentary are filtered through a lifetime of extreme care and awareness of what words can mean and what limits are to be kept in mind. He may have exactly these beliefs and attitudes, or he may think these are the beliefs and attitudes he considers safe to share. Either way, opinions that the CCP now considers safe are freely shared, those that could upset the CCP apparently never entered Ji’s head. That’s just how it is in this book.