An occasionally too-dense but impressively wide-ranging history demonstrating that the U.S.–China relationship began decades...




An in-depth look at the historically deep and mutually influential relationship between the United States and China.

Since the American Revolution, the Middle Kingdom (China) and Meiguo, the “Beautiful Country” (America), have enjoyed both a rich exchange of culture and trade and bitter enmity, especially during the early communist era. In this thoroughgoing study that moves from the revolutionary era to the present, former Washington Post foreign correspondent Pomfret (Chinese Lessons: Five Classmates and the Story of the New China, 2006), who was recently a Fulbright Senior Scholar in Beijing, delves into the historical relations between the two and offers a fresh appraisal of each nation’s contributions to the other. The author asserts that the U.S. has had a significant role in China’s rise, reaching back to when the U.S. provided China an early market for its coveted “china,” tea, and drapery. On the other hand, in China, many Americans, such as John Perkins Cushing and Franklin Roosevelt’s grandfather Warren Delano, made their fortunes in pelts, silks, tea, opium, and other commodities. By the mid-19th century, missionaries had a huge influence on the Chinese, as China represented the big prize in missionary work during the series of Great Awakenings that swept America. Pomfret credits the early missionaries, especially women like Adele Fielde, with bringing Western medicine, education, and law to China and helping to outlaw infanticide and foot binding. The building of the First Transcontinental Railroad required enormous labor, and the Chinese stepped in where Americans would not; however, after the Civil War and the demobilization of soldiers moving West in search of work, the tables turned on the Chinese in the form of pogroms and anti-Chinese immigration legislation. In this highly detailed narrative, Pomfret moves chronologically through these developments, ably fleshing out the characters involved. Regarding recent events, he is not uncritical of China’s cyberspying and aggression in the South China Sea.

An occasionally too-dense but impressively wide-ranging history demonstrating that the U.S.–China relationship began decades before Richard Nixon arrived on the scene.

Pub Date: Nov. 29, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-8050-9250-9

Page Count: 704

Publisher: Henry Holt

Review Posted Online: Sept. 8, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2016

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A declaration worth hearing out in a time of growing inequality—and indignity.


Noted number cruncher Sperling delivers an economist’s rejoinder to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.

Former director of the National Economic Council in the administrations of Presidents Bill Clinton and Barack Obama, the author has long taken a view of the dismal science that takes economic justice fully into account. Alongside all the metrics and estimates and reckonings of GDP, inflation, and the supply curve, he holds the great goal of economic policy to be the advancement of human dignity, a concept intangible enough to chase the econometricians away. Growth, the sacred mantra of most economic policy, “should never be considered an appropriate ultimate end goal” for it, he counsels. Though 4% is the magic number for annual growth to be considered healthy, it is healthy only if everyone is getting the benefits and not just the ultrawealthy who are making away with the spoils today. Defining dignity, admits Sperling, can be a kind of “I know it when I see it” problem, but it does not exist where people are a paycheck away from homelessness; the fact, however, that people widely share a view of indignity suggests the “intuitive universality” of its opposite. That said, the author identifies three qualifications, one of them the “ability to meaningfully participate in the economy with respect, not domination and humiliation.” Though these latter terms are also essentially unquantifiable, Sperling holds that this respect—lack of abuse, in another phrasing—can be obtained through a tight labor market and monetary and fiscal policy that pushes for full employment. In other words, where management needs to come looking for workers, workers are likely to be better treated than when the opposite holds. In still other words, writes the author, dignity is in part a function of “ ‘take this job and shove it’ power,” which is a power worth fighting for.

A declaration worth hearing out in a time of growing inequality—and indignity.

Pub Date: May 5, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-9848-7987-5

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Penguin Press

Review Posted Online: Feb. 26, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2020

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No one’s mind will be changed by Karl’s book, but it’s a valuable report from the scene of an ongoing train wreck.


The chief White House and Washington correspondent for ABC provides a ringside seat to a disaster-ridden Oval Office.

It is Karl to whom we owe the current popularity of a learned Latin term. Questioning chief of staff Mick Mulvaney, he followed up a perhaps inadvertently honest response on the matter of Ukrainian intervention in the electoral campaign by saying, “What you just described is a quid pro quo.” Mulvaney’s reply: “Get over it.” Karl, who has been covering Trump for decades and knows which buttons to push and which to avoid, is not inclined to get over it: He rightly points out that a reporter today “faces a president who seems to have no appreciation or understanding of the First Amendment and the role of a free press in American democracy.” Yet even against a bellicose, untruthful leader, he adds, the press “is not the opposition party.” The author, who keeps his eye on the subject and not in the mirror, writes of Trump’s ability to stage situations, as when he once called Trump out, at an event, for misrepresenting poll results and Trump waited until the camera was off before exploding, “Fucking nasty guy!”—then finished up the interview as if nothing had happened. Trump and his inner circle are also, by Karl’s account, masters of timing, matching negative news such as the revelation that Russia had interfered in the 2016 election with distractions away from Trump—in this case, by pushing hard on the WikiLeaks emails from the Democratic campaign, news of which arrived at the same time. That isn’t to say that they manage people or the nation well; one of the more damning stories in a book full of them concerns former Homeland Security head Kirstjen Nielsen, cut off at the knees even while trying to do Trump’s bidding.

No one’s mind will be changed by Karl’s book, but it’s a valuable report from the scene of an ongoing train wreck.

Pub Date: March 31, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-5247-4562-2

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Dutton

Review Posted Online: Dec. 22, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2020

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