Xi hails 'old friend' Kissinger in Beijing meeting

Henry Kissinger, the former U.S. Secretary of State, who turned 100 in May this year remained the most influential figure in Beijing since his successful ping-pong diplomacy in 1971 pitting Communist China against its ideological mentor the then Soviet Union tilting the Cold War balance of power at that time.

July 20, 2023 11:28 pm | Updated 11:28 pm IST - Beijing

Chinese President Xi Jinping and Henry Kissinger, former U.S. secretary of state, attend a meeting at the Diaoyutai State Guesthouse in Beijing, China, on July 20, 2023.

Chinese President Xi Jinping and Henry Kissinger, former U.S. secretary of state, attend a meeting at the Diaoyutai State Guesthouse in Beijing, China, on July 20, 2023. | Photo Credit: Reuters

President Xi Jinping on Thursday told Henry Kissinger that China is ready to discuss the “correct way” to halt the slide of its relations with the U.S. and sought the help of veteran American diplomat to fix the ties as he did 50 years ago by establishing diplomatic ties between the two countries.

Mr. Kissinger, the former U.S. Secretary of State, who turned 100 in May this year remained the most influential figure in Beijing since his successful ping-pong diplomacy in 1971 pitting Communist China against its ideological mentor the then Soviet Union tilting the Cold War balance of power at that time.

Successive Chinese Communist Party leaders turned to him for guidance on the trajectory of China’s ties with the U.S. which helped Beijing to expand its economic and diplomatic clout in the world, until in the last 10 years when the American leaders began identifying China as a major threat as it emerged as the world’s second-largest economy and major military power next only to the U.S.

Also Read: China’s top diplomat tells Kissinger ‘impossible to contain’ China

The ties hit rock bottom with tough anti-China policies perused by both Donald Trump and the current Joe Biden Presidencies with a host of trade and tech bans besides the formation of influential strategic groupings like Quad, consisting of the U.S., India, Japan, Australia, and AUKUS comprising Australia, U.S. and U.K., which China says are aimed at containing its rise.

Mr. Kissinger’s current visit to Beijing comes after the trips by U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen this month besides Washington’s top climate envoy John Kerry’s tour to recalibrate the stalled relations.

Mr. Xi, who in stark contrast avoided meeting with the visiting U.S. officials, however, drove to the opulent Diaoyutai state guest house in Beijing to meet Mr. Kissinger and sought his help to repair the China-U.S. ties.

Villa Five of the Diaoyutai guest house where Mr. Xi met Mr. Kissinger was where the centenarian met the Chinese leaders during his first visit to Beijing in 1971 to establish ties with China under Richard Nixon’s Presidency.

Fifty-two years ago, at a crucial turning point in China-U.S. relations, Chairman Mao Zedong, Premier Zhou Enlai, President Richard Nixon and Mr. Kissinger, with remarkable strategic vision, made the right choice to seek cooperation between China and the United States, kicking off the process of normalization of bilateral relations, Mr. Xi said in his meeting with the centenarian who officials say is on a “private trip”.

“This has not only benefited the two countries but also changed the world”, Mr. Xi said.

Looking into the future, China and the U.S. have every reason to complement each other’s success and achieve common prosperity, and the key is to follow the principles of mutual respect, peaceful coexistence and win-win cooperation, Mr. Xi was quoted as saying by the state-run Xinhua news agency.

“On this basis, China is ready to discuss with the United States the correct way for the two countries to get along and promote the steady development of bilateral ties. This will benefit the two sides and the whole world,” Mr. Xi said, expressing the hope that Mr. Kissinger and other leaders in Washington will continue to play a constructive role in bringing China-U.S. relations back on the right track.

Ahead of Mr. Xi’s meeting with Mr. Kissinger, China’s top diplomat Wang Yi and Chinese Defence Minister Gen. Li Shangfu, who is barred from visiting the U.S., also met him.

Gen. Li was sanctioned under Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act (CAATSA) over China’s purchase of 10 SU-35 combat aircraft in 2017 and S-400 surface-to-air missile system-related equipment in 2018 when he headed the Equipment Development Department of the Chinese military.

Mr. Wang said Mr. Kissinger’s historic contributions to the ice-breaking development of China-U.S. relations in 1971 played an irreplaceable role in enhancing mutual understanding between the two countries. “China cherishes its friendship with old friends.” He also told Mr. Kissinger that China’s development has strong internal dynamics and inevitable historical logic and it is impossible to try to transform China, and it is even more impossible to contain China and reiterated Beijing’s claims over the self-ruled Taiwan island.

The U.S. should stop its backing for Taiwan separatists headed by its current President Tsai-Ing-wen, he said.

When asked about Mr. Kissinger’s visit to Beijing on Tuesday, State Department spokesman Matthew Miller said he did not represent the U.S. government. He added that Beijing informed Mr. Blinken of Kissinger’s plans during his own trip to China last month, the Hong Kong-based South China Morning Post reported.

The Chinese foreign ministry in its reaction to Mr. Kissinger’s visit said that although he was not in public office, he cared about U.S.-China ties and supported recent efforts to improve relations.

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