China’s Xi Meets ‘Old Friend’ Kissinger Amid US Tensions

President Xi Jinping has welcomed former US Secretary of State Henry Kissinger to Beijing for their first known meeting in the Chinese capital in more than three years.

(Bloomberg) — President Xi Jinping has welcomed former US Secretary of State Henry Kissinger to Beijing for their first known meeting in the Chinese capital in more than three years. 

The Chinese leader told the former diplomat his country was ready to discuss the “correct way” for their nations to talk on Thursday, according to state broadcaster China Central Television. Xi added that Kissinger had visited the country over 100 times since 1971, when he helped “break the ice” between Washington and Beijing. 

“China and the US are once again at the crossroads of where to go, and the two sides need to make another choice,” Xi said, according to the report. “China and the US can achieve mutual success and common prosperity, the key is to follow the three principles of mutual respect, peaceful coexistence and win-win cooperation.”

Kissinger is visiting the country as the Biden administration is pushing to stabilize diplomatic relations.

US climate envoy John Kerry was in Beijing this week as part of that mission, where he met top officials to restart environmental talks between the world’s two top polluters. US Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen held talks in China earlier this month to help resume dialogue.

Kissinger, who was a top US diplomat and national security adviser at the White House in the 1970s, has regularly met with senior Beijing officials since playing a key role in normalizing US-China ties under former President Richard Nixon. 

“Given Kissinger’s contacts and networks including in and with China, it’s possible that Beijing might look to him as an emissary,” said George Magnus, a research associate at Oxford University’s China Centre.

Magnus cautioned the visit is unlikely to lead to “anything of substance in the US China relationship” because Kissinger is not making the trip in a formal capacity.

Xi met with the former American envoy at the Great Hall of the People in 2019, where he expressed appreciation for Kissinger’s “sincere feelings” and efforts to promote the development of ties with the US. Xie Feng, China’s ambassador to the US, visited Kissinger in May and expressed his best wishes for the former US official’s 100th birthday.

Earlier this week, Kissinger met with Chinese Defense Minister Li Shangfu, who blamed the actions of “some people” in the US for the breakdown of friendly bilateral ties, according to a Chinese government readout. 

Kissinger said that “neither the US or China can afford the price of treating each other as enemy,” the statement said.

China froze high-level military dialogue with the US after the Biden administration refused to lift sanctions imposed on the Chinese general in 2018. Beijing maintains that the curbs prevented a sit-down between Li and US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin at a security forum in Singapore earlier this year. 

Li told Kissinger on Tuesday that China hopes to work with the US for a healthy and stable relationship between the two nations and their militaries, according to the readout. 

Still, the US admiral in charge of the Indo-Pacific Command said Tuesday that his recent attempts to contact Chinese counterparts have been disregarded or declined, including a recent invitation to attend the annual chiefs of defense conference in Fiji next month. 

“Over the decades, he has proved again and again to be accurate, very relevant, and also very wise on major positions that he took on major issues in the world,” Victor Gao, vice president of think tank Center for China and Globalization, said of Kissinger. “He’s very well-tested.”

In June, Kissinger sounded a downbeat tone on the state of ties between Washington and Beijing, days before Secretary of State Antony Blinken traveled to the Asian nation.

Military conflict between China and Taiwan is likely if tensions continue on their current course, Kissinger said in an interview with Bloomberg News Editor-in-Chief John Micklethwait. “But I also think the current trajectory of relations must be altered,” he added.

–With assistance from Colum Murphy and Philip Glamann.

(Updates with new quote from Xi in third paragraph.)

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