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Nixon and Mao: The Week That Changed the…
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Nixon and Mao: The Week That Changed the World

by Margaret MacMillan

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the author provides all the necessary background information--mini biographies of all the key players involved, the historical context, a brief history of U.S. involvements in East Asia (namely Korea, Vietnam, and the support of Taiwan), a brief history of Communist China under Mao, stories of Kissinger's secret trips and the diplomatic backchannels over the years that made the trip possible, the details of every part of the week-long trip, the world's reaction, etc.

If you're looking for a book that will give you all of the above, you've found it. It's quite readable. The only dry parts are the biographical information about the various government ministry folks from both countries, but even those are sometimes intriguing.

I read this book because I wanted to know more about China, and particularly Mao. This book gives excellent insights into what can be known of The Chairman. I enjoyed the author's attention to detail, often quoting from memoirs, collected letters, Nixon's secret tapes, etc. A fascinating look at diplomacy.
( )
  justindtapp | Jun 3, 2015 |
Lots of fascinating behind-the-scenes details here about the planning and events that led up to Richard Nixon's historic trip to China in 1972. However, the book is marred by its extremely non-chronological story telling. MacMillan wants to pass it off as the story of Nixon and Mao, when really it is more or less a history of China and its leaders from 1949 to the 1970s. So she keeps returning to Nixon's week-long trip to Beijing, Hangzhou, and Shanghai in between chapters that cover everything from mini-bios of the key players (Nixon, Kissinger, Mao, Zhou) to digressions into the minute details of other nations' paths to establishing relations with China. The book pretty much ends in 1972, with brief descriptions of the fate of all the key players since then and a superficial review of American-Chinese relations ever since. If it was truly the week that changed the world, and I don't disagree with that, then she needs to spend a lot more time on how the world has changed and less time on the Americans taking all the candy from their hotel rooms! Despite the seemingly exhaustive research on display, there are enough key gaps in the story to make me doubt whether MacMillan really understands what she is talking about. Still, it is fascinating, particularly its central character, Richard Nixon. For all his grievous faults, it seems he truly did want to establish some sort of relationship that could contribute to world peace. I personally, am grateful for his vision, every time I look at my Chinese wife, whom I met while working in Shanghai, and our wonderful daughter. ( )
  datrappert | Aug 16, 2010 |
Like the author's superlative Paris 1919 which I read Apr 3, 2003, this book tells in clear and engaging prose the story of the visit of Nixon to China in February 1972. There are good chapters on the events leading up to the visit and explanatory sketches of Mao, Chou, and Kissinger as well as Nixon, together with succinct words on events since that historic visit. I found reading this book was a joy, and my confidnce that Margaret MacMillan is a great history writer was fully justified. ( )
  Schmerguls | Jul 29, 2009 |
I concur with the reviewer who thought that the Macmillan's structure of moving back and forth between 1972 and the past was a distraction. Perhaps because I listened to it on CD, it seemed particularly disjointed. I thought this was an inherently interesting story and the writing chapter-by-chapter was good, but wish the author had more narrative coherence. Her depictions of Nixon, Kissinger, and Chou En-lai were well-penned. Interestingly, Macmillan states that Nixon was the best prepared of modern presidents upon taking office to cope with foreign policy until Bill Clinton. It's an unexpected judgment (you'd think that at least GHW Bush would be a competitor as a former ambassador), and I wish the author had explained her opinion on what made Clinton so well-prepared on foreign policy. I wouldn't expect the governorship of Arkansas to be that much of a stepping stone, and his role as an international leader seemed to be one that Clinton grew into, as opposed to being impressive at the start. ( )
1 vote Plantyfinn | Jul 11, 2009 |
Nixon and Mao audiobook.
This book was written by the author of Paris 1919 which I enjoyed very much. It is the story of Nixon's first visit with Mao. That was quite an event at the time and did mark America's acceptance in 1972 of the victory of the Chinese Communists in 1949. I remember before this happened I thought it was downright silly that the American government pretended that the Chinese Communists didn't exist. The author points out that prior to this trip all of the American government spokespeople would refer to Beijing as Peking in imitation of the government of Taiwan.
The author begins the book with the first meeting between Mao and Nixon. Mao had been very sick and there was medical equipment just outside his study in case he had a relapse. This is followed by a brief synopsis of the Chinese Revolution and the relations between America and China since 1949.
One event that is highlighted occurred in 1954. At the meeting of a conference in Geneva, John Foster Dulles, then American Secretary of State, walked past the outstretched hand of Zhou Enlai, the Premier of China, snubbing his proffered handshake. That led to some very prolonged handshakes between the parties at the 1972 meeting.
The author narrates the events leading up to the meeting from the American side in great detail. Unfortunately she had no access to Chinese sources to be able to tell their side of the events.
The story of the first banquet ending with numerous toasts using mao-tai, Chinese white lightning, is told with journalistic detail. The other event that I found significant was the negotiations on the communique that was announced at the end of the week long visit.
Each of the primary parties is then followed to the end of their career and their death. I had forgotten that long after resigning in disgrace Nixon appeared once again on the cover of Time magazine.
The style of the book is "popular history" somewhat akin to Barbara Tuchman. Although in my opinion not as good as Tuchman. It is a well written narrative with interesting details that I found enjoyable. I recommend it for anyone with an interest in this event. ( )
1 vote wildbill | May 29, 2009 |
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Same book, three titles:
(Can) Nixon in China : the week that changed the world
(US) Nixon and Mao : the week that changed the world
(UK) Seize the Hour: When Nixon Met Mao
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 140006127X, Hardcover)

With the publication of her landmark bestseller Paris 1919, Margaret MacMillan was praised as “a superb writer who can bring history to life” (The Philadelphia Inquirer). Now she brings her extraordinary gifts to one of the most important subjects today–the relationship between the United States and China–and one of the most significant moments in modern history. In February 1972, Richard Nixon, the first American president ever to visit China, and Mao Tse-tung, the enigmatic Communist dictator, met for an hour in Beijing. Their meeting changed the course of history and ultimately laid the groundwork for the complex relationship between China and the United States that we see today.

That monumental meeting in 1972–during what Nixon called “the week that changed the world”–could have been brought about only by powerful leaders: Nixon himself, a great strategist and a flawed human being, and Mao, willful and ruthless. They were assisted by two brilliant and complex statesmen, Henry Kissinger and Chou En-lai. Surrounding them were fascinating people with unusual roles to play, including the enormously disciplined and unhappy Pat Nixon and a small-time Shanghai actress turned monstrous empress, Jiang Qing. And behind all of them lay the complex history of two countries, two great and equally confident civilizations: China, ancient and contemptuous yet fearful of barbarians beyond the Middle Kingdom, and the United States, forward-looking and confident, seeing itself as the beacon for the world.

Nixon thought China could help him get out of Vietnam. Mao needed American technology and expertise to repair the damage of the Cultural Revolution. Both men wanted an ally against an aggressive Soviet Union. Did they get what they wanted? Did Mao betray his own revolutionary ideals? How did the people of China react to this apparent change in attitude toward the imperialist Americans? Did Nixon make a mistake in coming to China as a supplicant? And what has been the impact of the visit on the United States ever since?

Weaving together fascinating anecdotes and insights, an understanding of Chinese and American history, and the momentous events of an extraordinary time, this brilliantly written book looks at one of the transformative moments of the twentieth century and casts new light on a key relationship for the world of the twenty-first century.


Margaret MacMillan is the author of Women of the Raj and Paris 1919: Six Months That Changed the World, which won the Duff Cooper Prize, the Samuel Johnson Prize for Non-Fiction, the Hessell-Tiltman Prize for History, a Silver Medal for the Arthur Ross Book Award of the Council on Foreign Relations, and the Governor General’s Literary Award for nonfiction. It was selected by the editors of The New York Times as one of the best books of 2002. Currently the provost of Trinity College and a professor of history at the University of Toronto, MacMillan takes up the position of warden of St. Antony’s College, Oxford, in July 2007. She is an officer of the Order of Canada, a fellow of the Royal Society of Literature, and a senior fellow of Massey College at the University of Toronto.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:18:22 -0400)

(see all 2 descriptions)

"This book looks at one of the transformative moments of the twentieth century: In February 1972, Richard Nixon, the first American president ever to visit China, and Mao Tse-tung, the enigmatic Communist dictator, met for an hour in Beijing. Their meeting changed the course of history and ultimately laid the groundwork for today's complex relationship between the countries. That monumental meeting--during what Nixon called "the week that changed the world"--could have been brought about only by powerful leaders: Nixon, a great strategist and a flawed human being, and Mao, willful and ruthless; assisted by two brilliant and complex statesmen, Henry Kissinger and Chou En-lai. And behind them lay the complex history of two great and equally confident civilizations: China, ancient and contemptuous yet fearful of barbarians beyond the Middle Kingdom, and the United States, forward-looking and confident, seeing itself as the beacon for the world.--From publisher description."--From source other than the Library of Congress… (more)

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