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James Mann was born in New York. He grew up in New York and graduated from Harvard University with a Bachelor of Arts in Sociology. Mann worked as a journalist for the Philadelphia Inquirer and The Washington Post. From 1984 to 1989, the Los Angeles Times selected James Mann as the Chief of the Beijing bureau. His work frequently appeared in The Atlantic Monthly and The New Republic. In the late 1980s, Mann lived in China where he wrote a well documented book which analyzes and follows the History of American's Curious Relationship with China, from Nixon to Clinton. He critically examines the course of American-Chinese relationship through the twentieth century. Difference in political ideologies divides these two nations. However, they are unavoidably connected in the world of power struggles and international trade. Mann's detailed and colorful narrative is studded with lots of stunning anecdotes. It reveals how ineptly Americans have managed their ties with the most populous nation in the world. He draws his work from several earlier classified documents, his experience and scores of interviews. He presents the appealing story of the existing American-China relations.
President Nixon with the Secretary of State Kissinger started their diplomatic talks with China with an aim of finding a way out of Vietnam. Nixon and Kissinger were the two presidents who remained after the cold war. They had witnessed the bitterness in the hearts of the people. They perceived China as a supporter against the Soviet Union. They suspected China’s violation of the international principles. China continued with human right abuses even after the end of communism. Therefore, America was not at peace with China and was not ready to start a genuine relationship with her. This marks the beginning of the story of contemporary American/China policy. Mann examines an enthralling history of America-China associations from the Nixon period to the present day (Mann, 2000).
According to James Mann, Richard Nixon’s 1972 visits to China brought a logical approach to America dealings with China. Nixon also set the beginning for United States’ China strategy for the subsequent three decades. The journey changed China from an enemy to a friend with an astonishingly short time. The two nations restored their diplomatic relations. Washington armed the People’s Liberation Army and helped China military and political officials with strategies of containing the Soviet Union. America started supporting China’s military and political development. The United States assumed that, China will eventually become an open nation (Mann, 2000).
In 1989, two critical situations happened: The Soviet Union stopped existing and China ordered killing of its nationals in Tiananmen Square. The collapse of the Soviet Union weakened the reasons of supporting China. On the same, the action of shooting citizens angered American public. The US public termed it as unethical and against human rights. Mann argues that, the policies preceding the post-1989 strategy trapped it. Before 1989, the elite and United States administrations portrayed an extremely positive reputation of China. Therefore, the 1989 happenings confused the Congress and the public. It became hard to make a decision on how to deal with China. US feared the growing military power in China. It was unfortunate that China was becoming more powerful than some American States after all, the efforts US made to make it powerful. At last, China was overpowering US. China’s economic strength was too huge to be ignored despite the fact that US had done a lot in creating it. James Mann claims that, American commercial interest with China had pushed Clinton in the direction of reproaching with China. Mann concludes the story with persuasive ideas. He writes a history which skillfully untangles the tied tale of present America China policy.
For the duration of the Reagan and Carter administrations, US leaders took China as allay against their enemies, the Soviet Union. Therefore, America was not ready to subject China community to the principles and standards applied to other nations. The author reveals how consequent administrators were unable to construct a structure of dealing with China (Mann, 2000). James Mann exposes the little-known incidents in the history of the United States- China relations: the secret price behind Kissinger’s visit to China is 1971 sealed the promise that America would never support Taiwan’s independence. The author also reveals how China and the United States worked hand in hand in guerilla operations in Cambodia, and Afghanistan. Mann goes ahead to expose how the movement to put a ceiling on China’s trade profits started. He also proves the reason behind Bill Clinton’s support of these efforts in his 1992 presidential campaign.
In conclusion, the revelation of new information, combined with Mann’s compelling and incisive analysis makes the book, About Face, a well document work which sheds light on the present debate on America’s association with China. Mann exposes how diplomacy, politics, forces and the people shaped the contemporary associations between China and America. Mann starts his book with the consequences of the process by which Henry Kissinger and Richard Nixon fist courted. The two leaders developed China’s government with an aim of winning the war in Vietnam. Initially, the objective was creating flexibility for America in dealing with both China and the Soviet Union. However, Mann’s investigative story reveals the gradual progress in the 1970s when the opening to China’s Communist Government took on momentum and life of its own. He shows how the pressure of the Cold War resulted to a partnership that is “cozy, secretive, and elite-based” (Mann, 2000, p. 65). Unfortunately, the partnership was unable to withstand the public demand after Tiananmen. American presidents have been trying to make diplomatic relations with Chinese without success.