When it comes to writing that amuses, Christopher Buckley makes my top-10 list.
“Thank You For Smoking” should be required reading for anyone contemplating the communications profession. The scene when the PR guy for the tobacco industry turns the table on the senator from Wisconsin by spotlighting artery-clogging cheese is a classic.
Buckley’s review of the book “On China by Henry Kissinger” doesn’t disappoint.
The same gift for language comes through starting with the sardonic lead:
Oh, warm and fuzzy China: torturing and jailing dissidents, hacking into Gmail, cozying up to the worst regimes on earth, refusing to float the renminbi, spewing fluorocarbons into the ozone, building up its navy, and stealing military secrets—all while enabling America’s fiscal incontinence by buying all those T-bills.
I’d say this sets the stage for the conundrum called China.
But here’s the ‘graph worthy of a 3M sticker:
A country that has endured 4,000 years of uncounted wars and upheavals, through the Taiping Rebellion of the 1850s (tens of millions killed), and man-made calamities such as Mao’s Great Leap Forward (an additional 20 million) and the Cultural Revolution, is nothing if not resilient. Sun Tzu coined a term shi, which roughly translates to “the art of understanding matters in flux.” Writes Kissinger: “A turbulent history has taught Chinese leaders that not every problem has a solution.” In other words, shi happens.
If this doesn’t cause you to crack a smile, then you my friend are “smile challenged.”
One final comment –
I expected a photo or two to accompany the review showing Mr. Kissinger in China.
Instead, Businessweek gives us shots of Henry with famous women based on this stretch: “In between talks with Beijing, the eternal diplomat got around.”
It’s downright weird to see this forced glamour contrasted with Buckley’s intelligent narrative.