Top Chinese diplomat Wang Yi said to the former U.S. state secretary in Beijing on Wednesday that the United States needs “Kissinger-style diplomatic wisdom” in its China policy as both nations work to mend their strained ties.
In the Nixon and Ford administrations, Henry Kissinger held the positions of U.S. state secretary and national security advisor. In the 1970s, he was a crucial player in advancing diplomatic efforts to normalize relations between Washington and Beijing.
Washington said it was aware of the trip to China this week by Kissinger, who has visited China regularly since leaving office and is now aged 100, but said he was not acting on behalf of the U.S. government.
Wang, China’s foreign minister until late last year, referred to Kissinger as “an old friend” and commended the former U.S. diplomat for playing “an irreplaceable role” in enhancing mutual understanding between the two countries.
“U.S. policies towards China require Kissinger-style diplomatic wisdom and Nixon-style political courage,” China’s foreign ministry quoted Wang as saying during the meeting.
Kissinger was not the only former state secretary in Beijing hoping to stabilise bilateral ties this week. John Kerry, now a presidential envoy, has held talks in the Chinese capital since Monday on fighting climate change as part of a broader U.S. effort to further restore dialogue between the two estranged nations.
Current U.S. state secretary Antony Blinken was in Beijing last month.
A range of issues have strained China-U.S. ties, including China’s partnership with Russia, its territorial claim on democratically governed Taiwan, and U.S. calls for trade curbs on cutting-edge technologies.
Wang told Kissinger it would be “impossible” to try to reform China, and “even more impossible” to encircle and contain it.
No matter how difficult it is, both sides should treat each other as equals and maintain contact, the foreign ministry cited Kissinger as saying. It is unacceptable to try to isolate the other side, Kissinger added.
On Taiwan, Wang said the U.S. should distance itself from “Taiwan independence separatist activities” if it hopes for stability across the Taiwan Strait.
A day earlier, Kissinger met with China’s defence minister Li Shangfu.
“The United States and China should eliminate misunderstandings, coexist peacefully and avoid confrontation,” Kissinger told Li.
Li, appointed in March, remains under U.S. sanctions over his role in a 2017 weapons purchase from Russia’s largest arms exporter. China has said it wants the sanctions dropped to facilitate discussions.