Academic journal article Military Review

NIXON AND MAO: The Week That Changed the World

Academic journal article Military Review

NIXON AND MAO: The Week That Changed the World

Article excerpt

NIXON AND MAO: The Week that Changed the World, Margaret MacMillan, Random House, New York, 2007, 404 pages, $27.95

For the American military, China is an old story reaching back to Treaty Port days and the Boxer Rebellion, and yet today Pentagon planners ponder the perplexing problem of China rising-friend, ally, or enemy? In Nixon and Mao: The Week that Changed the World, Margaret MacMillan describes an important chapter in the story of China-U.S. relations: the February 1972 meeting between President Richard Nixon and Chairman Mao Tse-tung. Perhaps MacMillan claims too much by stating that Nixon's meeting with Mao wobbled the world, but certainly it was a risky ventare that propelled the United States and China in a new direction, ushering in a protracted state of wary cooperation.

MacMillan 's profile of Chiang Kai-shek is refreshing as she credits the generalissimo with successes and argues that had it not been for the Great Depression, he might have prevailed over Mao in the Chinese civil war. Her description of the rise of the Communist Party includes incisive portraits of Chou En-lai, Mao, and Mao's vituperative wife, Jiang Qing. Mao is shown to be indifferent to others, including his own family. He is a crafty, amoral, womanizing, power-driven individual who effectively used murder to advance his career. How Mao and Chou survived the Byzantine world of communist politics is an enthralling story. How the unflappable Chou survived Mao by becoming the sophisticated sycophant and an indispensable master of foreign affairs in a largely insular China is a convincing tale of political deftness. …

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