About Face: A History of America's Curious Relationship with China, from Nixon to Clinton
Brookes, Peter T. R., Naval War College Review
Mann, James. About Face: A History of America's Curious Relationship with China, from Nixon to Clinton. New York: Knopf, 1999. 433pp. $30
THE PEOPLE'S REPUBLIC OF CHINA, the world's most populous nation, and the United States have become regional and global competitors-states whose national interests often clash and whose security concepts are seemingly contradictory. They will likely encounter more turbulent times hereafter. Many are concerned that the United States and China may be slowly embarking on their own version of cold war in the Pacific. Beijing's emerging economic, military, and political power have the potential to challenge U.S. national interests on a broad range of issues and to destabilize long-standing pillars of regional security. The relationship between Beijing and Washington will have profound implications for the region and, perhaps, the world. This is what makes Jim Mann's book on U.S.-Chinese relations from Richard M. Nixon to Bill Clinton so important for followers of international affairs broadly, and of Asia specifically. Most of all, it should be read by those in the next administration who will inherit the legacy of Clinton's troubled China policy.
Mann is currently a diplomatic correspondent and foreign affairs columnist for the Washington bureau of the Los Angeles Times and was the Beijing bureau chief for the paper. He has filled an important gap in current literature on U.S.-Chinese relations by bringing readers up to date with insightful writing on the formation of China policy through the terms of six American presidents. He provides a prism through which the current contentious debate over America's China policy can be viewed. Mann adeptly covers the insider's story, disclosing a plethora of new information on such important issues as the opening of relations with China by Nixon and Henry Kissinger; the derivation of the "China Card" against the Soviet Union; the evolution of Taiwan policy; the secret intelligence sharing and military-to-military relationship; the normalization of relations under President Carter; U.S.-Chinese cooperation in Afghanistan and Cambodia; the 1989 Tiananmen Square crackdown and its aftermath; and the Taiwan Strait crisis of 1996. However, perhaps the most fascinating aspect of the book is how skillfully "backward" China has manipulated American policy makers and how poorly American administrations-right up to the present-have managed the relationship. …