These are two very fine books written by individuals who were deeply involved in the making of American policy towards China in the 1990s. From 1997 to 2002, Richard C. Bush served as chairman and managing director of the American Institute in Taiwan (AIT), the semi-official body created in 1979 by the Taiwan Relations Act (TRA) to manage relations with the island in the wake of normalization of relations with the People's Republic of China (PRC). In 1994, Robert Suettinger, a career intelligence officer, joined the staff of the National Security Council at the White House as director of Asian Affairs; a position that he held until he moved to the National Intelligence Council in 1997 (coincidentally, as Richard Bush's replacement).
Neither volume is, strictly speaking, a memoir. Bush does draw on his personal experience as a congressional aide during the 1980s and early 1990s and much less so on his years with the AIT. However, the bulk of his study constitutes superbly researched discussions of what he considers to be “relatively unstudied issues” related to the historical evolution of relations between the United States, Taiwan and the People's Republic of China. Suettinger, on the other hand, provides a memoir-like narrative of the years he was in the White House, but relies largely on research, interviews with major participants in the policy process, and his own insights for the remainder of the book. However, although neither author adopts a strictly participant-observer approach, both are clearly drawing on the knowledge acquired during extensive government service to make judgments on the complex issues they address, and it is this wisdom which makes these books essential reading.