China Boys: How U.S. Relations With the PRC Began and Grew

In This Review

CHINA BOYS: How U.S. Relations with the PRC Began and Grew. A Personal Memoir
By Nicholas Platt
VELLUM, 2010
386 pp. $28.00
Purchase

This memoir deserves to be widely read, not just for its insights into diplomacy as a career and its views inside the sausage factory of U.S.-Chinese relations but also for its style and charm. A Chinese-language officer, Platt worked in the U.S. consulate general in Hong Kong, the National Security Council, and the Pentagon. Most dramatically, he served as part of the select team that accompanied President Richard Nixon on his historic February 1972 trip to China and then as part of the small staff that set up the de facto U.S. embassy in Beijing, which was called the Liaison Office. Despite the well-reported bonhomie of Nixon's and Henry Kissinger's exchanges with Mao Zedong and Zhou Enlai, Platt's reminiscences bring out the suspicions between the two sides that still shadow relations today. The memoir contains some tragic passages, such as that describing an accidental traffic death caused by Platt in Beijing, but many that are laugh-out-loud funny. All ring true.