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The Beautiful Country and the Middle Kingdom: America and China, 1776 to…

by John Pomfret

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948218,951 (4.38)7
"A narrative account of the relationship between the U.S. and China from the Revolutionary War to the present day. Our relationship with China remains one of the most complex and rapidly evolving, and is perhaps one of the most important to our nation's future. Here, John Pomfret, the author of the bestselling Chinese Lessons, takes us deep into these two countries' shared history, and illuminates in vibrant, stunning detail every major event, relationship, and ongoing development that has affected diplomacy between these two booming, influential nations. We meet early American missionaries and chart their influence in China, and follow a group of young Chinese students who enroll in American universities, eager to soak up Western traditions. We witness firsthand major and devastating events like the Boxer Rebellion, and the rise of Mao. We examine both nations' involvement in world events, such as World War I and II. Pomfret takes the myriad historical milestones of two of the world's most powerful nations and turns them into one fluid, fascinating story, leaving us with a nuanced understanding of where these two nations stand in relation to one another, and the rest of the world"--"From the clipper ships that ventured to Canton hauling cargos of American ginseng to swap for Chinese tea to the US warships facing off against China's growing navy in the South China Sea, from the Yankee missionaries who brought Christianity and education to China to the Chinese who built the American West, the United States and China have always been dramatically intertwined. For more than two centuries, American and Chinese statesmen, merchants, missionaries, and adventurers, men and women, have profoundly influenced the fate of these nations. While we tend to think of America's ties with China as starting in 1972 with the visit of President Richard Nixon to China, the patterns--rapturous enchantment followed by angry disillusionment--were set in motion hundreds of years earlier. Drawing on personal letters, diaries, memoirs, government documents, and contemporary news reports, John Pomfret reconstructs the surprising, tragic, and marvelous ways Americans and Chinese have engaged with one another through the centuries. A fascinating and thrilling account, The Beautiful Country and the Middle Kingdom is also an indispensable book for understanding the most important--and often the most perplexing--relationship between any two countries in the world."--Dust jacket.… (more)

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Showing 1-5 of 10 (next | show all)
This was a fascinating look at the difficult and complicated relationship the US and China have had over the past few centuries. Today trade with China is often in the headlines and there is a strong sentiment in the US that China 'cheats' the US by stealing trade secrets or through currency manipulation. But reading this book has given me a hint of how complex this issue is. There is quite a bit of history of China being cheated by both the British and the US and where allies allowed events like the invasion by Japan to occur without consequences. The book also describes the campaigns that both the US and Chinese governments have waged over the years trying to influence public opinion against the other country. Really interesting and very well researched! ( )
  jmoncton | Apr 5, 2019 |
I received this book via the Early Reviewers program here on LibraryThing.

This book is a detailed history of the relationship between citizens of the United States and China. It is not a history of the two nations as much, that sort of history is just the backdrop of what is in this book. As such, it is a very different viewpoint on China. However, this book does seem to focus a bit too much on missionary activities by various Protestant denominations. While that activity was very prominent, there's clearly a bit of a bias. There is also a bit of a problem with repeated topics, as sometimes the same period of time is covered from the perspective of different people.

I found this interesting, but a bit limited in scope. However, I believe that most readers will find almost all of the content of this book to be something they hadn't read before and as such is useful. ( )
  Karlstar | Jun 4, 2018 |
This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
America has woven an intricate relationship with China since the dawn of American Independence. We have admired, cajoled, abused, protected, proselytized and betrayed our shifting relationships with the Middle Kingdom more times than can be accurately stated. And not surprisingly, China has done the same. It is probably fair to say that much that China has become was learned first from America and Americans.

John Pomfret’s brilliant history, The Beautiful Country and the Middle Kingdom, takes a slow, thoughtful look at all the machinations that have driven the relationship of these two superpowers over the past 250 years. Drawn by the lure of trade and religion, America has constantly tried to mold the Middle Kingdom into a democracy that would be stable and profitable. At the same time, the Nationalist Chinese, followed by Mao and the PRC have shopped America for weapons, technology and intellectual property, building themselves up to be a world-dominating superpower while ignoring calls for human rights and democratic ideals.

The Beautiful Country and the Middle Kingdom is a long, fascinating history that is hard to put down and important to understand in the coming years. ( )
  abealy | Aug 30, 2017 |
Five stars all the way. This is the single best political history of China I have read that flows and keeps you turning the pages. The research is excellent (do not under any circumstances skip the end notes) and the stories add some of the most insightful lessons. But the one that keeps chasing me and keeping me awake in the middle of the night was the comment by a Communist Party official (p. 457): "We're going to make America think we're their friends." ( )
  pbjwelch | Jul 25, 2017 |
This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
The Beautiful Country and the Middle Kingdom offers a detailed account of the intertwined history of the United States and China over the last 200+ years.
While at times the volume of Chinese names are difficult to keep track of for an American reader, the depth of research is evident.
Excellent historical context is provided that allows the reader to have a more complete picture of the relationship of these two countries.
Not recommended for those looking for a brief accounting. ( )
  ewanas01 | Mar 12, 2017 |
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"A narrative account of the relationship between the U.S. and China from the Revolutionary War to the present day. Our relationship with China remains one of the most complex and rapidly evolving, and is perhaps one of the most important to our nation's future. Here, John Pomfret, the author of the bestselling Chinese Lessons, takes us deep into these two countries' shared history, and illuminates in vibrant, stunning detail every major event, relationship, and ongoing development that has affected diplomacy between these two booming, influential nations. We meet early American missionaries and chart their influence in China, and follow a group of young Chinese students who enroll in American universities, eager to soak up Western traditions. We witness firsthand major and devastating events like the Boxer Rebellion, and the rise of Mao. We examine both nations' involvement in world events, such as World War I and II. Pomfret takes the myriad historical milestones of two of the world's most powerful nations and turns them into one fluid, fascinating story, leaving us with a nuanced understanding of where these two nations stand in relation to one another, and the rest of the world"--"From the clipper ships that ventured to Canton hauling cargos of American ginseng to swap for Chinese tea to the US warships facing off against China's growing navy in the South China Sea, from the Yankee missionaries who brought Christianity and education to China to the Chinese who built the American West, the United States and China have always been dramatically intertwined. For more than two centuries, American and Chinese statesmen, merchants, missionaries, and adventurers, men and women, have profoundly influenced the fate of these nations. While we tend to think of America's ties with China as starting in 1972 with the visit of President Richard Nixon to China, the patterns--rapturous enchantment followed by angry disillusionment--were set in motion hundreds of years earlier. Drawing on personal letters, diaries, memoirs, government documents, and contemporary news reports, John Pomfret reconstructs the surprising, tragic, and marvelous ways Americans and Chinese have engaged with one another through the centuries. A fascinating and thrilling account, The Beautiful Country and the Middle Kingdom is also an indispensable book for understanding the most important--and often the most perplexing--relationship between any two countries in the world."--Dust jacket.

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