Leaders Count

Three decades of Sino-American relations: the view from the Oval Office.

Issue: Winter 1999-2000

Patrick Tyler, A Great Wall: Six Presidents and China, An Investigative History (New York: Public Affairs, 1999).

My largely favorable assessment of A Great Wall is not one to which I was initially predisposed, having first read excerpts of the book's chapter on the Carter administration in Foreign Affairs. But those excerpts left out the more substantive and balanced portions of that chapter, choosing instead to concentrate almost exclusively on the well-known conflict between Secretary of State Cyrus Vance (aided by his assistant secretary, Richard Holbrooke) and National Security Adviser Zbigniew Brzezinski. While it is true that Tyler does greatly overemphasize the significance of the Vance-Brzezinski friction in the normalization of relations between China and the United States, the book's treatment is more balanced than the truncated Foreign Affairs presentation conveys. Indeed, parts of it--such as the portions that deal with the role of Leonard Woodcock as American ambassador to Beijing--are excellent.

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