From the clipper ships that ventured to Canton hauling cargos of American ginseng to swap for Chinese tea, to the U.S. 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. —Henry Holt