...exhaustively researched and vigorously told ... Mr. Pomfret argues that the contemporary U.S.-China relationship towers above all others in terms of global significance. Less predictably, though, he comes just shy of arguing the case for China’s importance to the United States in a much longer-term sense, linking interest in China with the settlement and development of the American West. The author will surprise many readers with the vigor of his case. Subtly but convincingly The Beautiful Country and the Middle Kingdom places American-Chinese relations in the context of a much older story of Western obsession with forging trade routes to China in order to profit from its immense wealth ... If the new leadership 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.
...vividly chronicles the history of U.S.-China relations ... 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 ... a compelling reminder that even the most anti-American Chinese propagandists looked up to America.
Most of the volume prior to the 1930s is filled with fascinating biographical sketches and vignettes, many of which will be new to even his most diligent predecessors. He is a wonderful storyteller, and his research is impressive, in Chinese as well as American sources ... But the scope of his ambition has liabilities, even with a book that is more than 600 pages. His treatment of government-to-government relations, generally insignificant before the mid-19th century, is relatively thin prior to the 1930s ... When he turns to an analysis of the Chinese communists in the 1940s, Pomfret underestimates the tension between Mao Zedong and Joseph Stalin.