From the clipper ships that ventured to Canton hauling cargos of American ginseng to swap for Chinese tea, and 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. 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. A fascinating and thrilling account, The Beautiful Country and the Middle Kingdom is also an indispensable book for understanding the most important relationship between any two countries in the world.
"Exhaustively researched and vigorously told . . . If the new administration in Washington wishes to get a sense of the broad sweep of American history with China, I can think of few better places to start than this book."—Howard W. French, The Wall Street Journal
"[An] absorbing new book . . . [Pomfret] weaves a lively tale, peppered with a cast of adventurers, spies, preachers, communists and McCarthyites who have boosted and sabotaged the relationship in turn over the years."—The Economist
“One thing that John Pomfret does very effectively in The Beautiful Country and the Middle Kingdom is help us appreciate just how long Chinese views of America have been shaped, as they are now, by a mix of feelings including admiration, attraction, disappointment and disdain. Pomfret, a veteran journalist and author of the well-received Chinese Lessons: Five Classmates and the Story of the New China (2006), reminds us that we are dealing with a love-hate relationship that dates back to the years following the American Revolution . . .The Beautiful Country and the Middle Kingdom, though containing clear arguments, including the idea that there is a related love-hate dynamic in American views of China, is ultimately a biographically driven work. Its strength lies in the cumulative effect of seeing recurring patterns revealed via skilfully drawn character sketches.” —Financial Times
"The book is particularly timely because it takes readers on a grand, historic adventure that shows the cyclical love-hate relationship, when current politicians in both countries are sometimes fond of focusing on the hate . . . [it] fleshes out the dual U.S.-China narrative through stories of people, without losing sight of the larger context . . . well-researched."—NPR.org
“The book is sweeping in scope but nonetheless manages to paint a vivid picture of personal interactions, adventures and misadventures… a deeply informative work. Examining the relationship between two countries as vast and complicated as the US and China takes stamina, yet as the world increasingly revolves around the interactions of these two superpowers, it is important to understand how their relationship has developed, succeeded and failed over the past 240 years. Pomfret does a masterful job of presenting the good, the bad and the ugly from generations of interactions.”—South China Morning Post
"Takes the myriad historical milestones of two of the world's most powerful nations and turns them into one fluid, fascinating story, leaving us with a nuanced understanding of where these two nations stand in relation to one another and the rest of the world."—Publishers Weekly
“[F]ormer Washington Post foreign correspondent Pomfret, 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 . . . [an] impressively wide-ranging history demonstrating that the U.S.–China relationship began decades before Richard Nixon arrived on the scene.”—Kirkus Reviews