American Go E-Journal

“Flawed” Use of Go in Kissinger’s New Book?

Sunday June 5, 2011

Henry Kissinger ‘s understanding of go strategy informs his latest book, On China. However, according to a recent review in The Economist, Kissinger’s book “is marred by three related flaws. The first is Mr Kissinger’s insight that Chinese strategists think like players of wei qi or Go, which means that, in the long term, they wish to avoid encirclement. Westerners are chess-players, tacticians aiming to get rid of their opponents’ pieces ‘in a series of head-on clashes’, he writes. ‘Chess produces single-mindedness; wei qi generates strategic flexibility.’” The review, entitled No go points out that “This conceit has been used by other authors. It appears every few pages here like a nervous tic. Even before Mr Kissinger joins the game, the metaphor is pulled into service to analyse, among other things, Chinese policy in the Korean war, the Taiwan Strait crises of the 1950s (where, of course, “both sides were playing by wei qi rules”), the 1962 war with India (“wei qi in the Himalayas”). Later he describes events in Indochina as ‘a quadripartite game of wei qi,’ just at the time when genocide was under way in Cambodia.” Finally, The Economist reviewers say, “the picture of Chinese foreign policy, as formulated by cool, calculating, master strategists playing wei qi, makes it appear more coherent, consistent and effective than it has been. China’s involvement in the Korean war, for example, led, in Mr Kissinger’s phrase, to ‘two years of war and 20 years of isolation,’ hardly a goal for China—or a wei qi triumph.” In a related story, Leonard Lopate recently interviewed Kissinger on NPR’s WYNC and they briefly discussed the game of go; click here to hear the interview; they talk about go  from approximately 13:50 to about 16:20. Click here for our January 24, 2011 report on Kissinger on Go and Chinese Strategic Thinking.
- thanks to Robert A. McCallister, past president of the AGA and former publisher of The American Go Journal, and to Richard Simon, for spotting these reports

“Flawed” Use of Go in Kissinger’s New Book?