China Beat Archive


Date of this Version


Document Type



2011 in The China Beat


Copyright 2011. Used by permission.


Henry Kissinger and Robert Bickers don’t have much in common. One is a U.S.-based octogenarian; the other a U.K.-based scholar roughly half as old. Only one, Kissinger, has been characterized by Christopher Hitchens (among others) as a perpetrator of war crimes. And only one, ironically Kissinger again, has won a Nobel Peace Prize. Kissinger spent some time as a professor, but then went on to work as a diplomat and business consultant. Bickers, however, while writing about diplomats and entrepreneurs (along with policemen and other kinds of people), has made his career solely within the academy. This list could be expanded almost indefinitely. And yet, I’ve been thinking a lot lately about something that links Kissinger (whom I’ve never met) to Bickers (an old friend). Namely, their most recent books, Kissinger’s On China and Bickers’ The Scramble for China: Foreign Devils in the Qing Empire, 1832-1914, have some interesting shared traits.