Ambassador Freeman’s [Interesting Times] deserves to have an important place in defining our future strategic relationship with China.
The decision that President Richard Nixon took in 1972 to bring to an end Washington’s 23-year-long attempt to isolate and overthrow the Peoples’ Republic of China (PRC) changed the global political balance in deep and lasting ways. When Nixon held his meetings with Chairman Mao in Beijing in February 1972, at his side was a young U.S. diplomat who was serving as his principal interpreter: Chas W. Freeman, Jr. Freeman had started studying Mandarin (and Taiwan’s dialect, Minnan) in Taipei, Taiwan, just three years earlier; and he spent many of the earlier years of his diplomatic career as a specialist in the affairs of all of China, including Taiwan. Freeman undertook many other important missions during his distinguished, 30-year career in the U.S. Foreign Service (and later, as Assistant Secretary of Defense.) But during and after his career in government he returned again and again to matters Chinese. Interesting Times: China, America, and the Shifting Balance of Prestige is his own curation of the best of the analysis he produced on developments in China and in the U.S.-Chinese relationship, over the whole period 1969–2012.
In Interesting Times, Freeman brings a broad and uniquely well-informed historical perspective to his analysis of the issues—including Taiwan, various other strategic issues, and differences over human rights and economic and trade policies—that confronted the world’s two most powerful countries throughout this period. He warns that the historical record suggests that no one can be complacent in assuming that this crucial relationship will always be managed in a sensible manner in the future.
The book contains several trenchant reflections on “What Mr. Nixon Wrought” with his bold decision to meet with Mao in 1972 and an intriguing, granular chapter describing exactly how the two long-estranged countries achieved diplomatic normalization. It contains three crucial chapters examining how, at various points since 1972, the Taiwan Question has interacted with (and on several occasions, complicated) the broader U.S.–China relationship; two chapters on the impact of reforms inside China over a four-decade timespan; and four chapters on China’s role in the world today, including its still very important relationship with the United States.
A web-archive that is being made available as a public service in conjunction with the publication of Interesting Times contains several texts related to the topic of the book. It can be found at http://www.justworldbooks.com/special-content/interesting-times.