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Salient: Victoria University Students' Paper. Vol. 30, No. 2. 1967.

Walking around a volcano

page 8

Walking around a volcano

Orbit Of China. Harrison Salisbury (Seeker and Warburg, UK Price 30/-), reviewed by Mark Franklin.

MR. Salisbury believes he has a very important message for his fellow Americans.

Crudely, it is this.

China has too many people and too little food.

This problem will get worse: Already if provides the "inner mechanism" which directs China policy.

Even now "engaged in full-scale preparation for war," the Chinese leaders are forced to look beyond their own borders for relief from these appalling pressures.

Mr. Salisbury is the veteran New York Times correspondent who recently wrote such interesting dispatches from North Vietnam. He gathered the material for this book on a 30,000-mile journey around the periphery of China, but could not get into China itself. Such an operation has its dangers.

It is like walking around a volcano, talking to the villagers who live on its slopes, and once or twice even peering into the crater; a day in the study of a vulcanologist would probably be more profitable if you really want to know how the volcano works.

Mr. Salisbury asked a Russian in eastern Siberia what was going on across the frontier.

"The only thing I think is that they must be crazy," was the answer. Not very helpful.

The book falls between two stools. The description of Sikkim. Mongolia and Burma are very interesting and there is a good section on Japan's equivocal relations with China and Russia and the importance of her investment in Siberia. Here one senses an imaginative grasp of the future.

But the chapters on China are much too short, and by bad luck, somewhat overtaken by the latest events. There is no proper analysis of China's foreign and nuclear policy nor of her legitimate foreign interests. One just ends up with the impression of a new Mongol horde about to spread across the world, riding missiles instead of horses.

But if some of Mr. Salisbury's observations on China are questionable his conclusion seems unchallengeable: America must work for some sort of eventual understanding with China and be ready to help her with her problems.