China’s Xi sends condolences to Biden over Kissinger’s death

BEIJING (Reuters) – China’s President Xi Jinping and senior Chinese officials have sent messages of condolence to U.S. President Joe Biden and others after the passing of veteran U.S. diplomat Henry Kissinger, the Chinese foreign ministry said on Thursday.

Kissinger, who visited China more than 100 times and last met with Xi during a surprise trip to Beijing in July, died on Wednesday aged 100, prompting widespread mourning among ordinary Chinese people on social media.

“Dr. Kissinger was a good old friend of the Chinese people. He is a pioneer and builder of Sino-U.S. relations,” ministry spokesperson Wang Wenbin said at a regular news conference.

Kissinger made “historic” contributions to the normalisation of China-U.S. relations, and Chinese people will remember him for his “sincere devotion and important contribution”, Wang added.

Chinese Premier Li Qiang and Foreign Minister Wang Yi also sent messages of condolence to Kissinger’s family and U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken, respectively, Wang told the briefing.

Kissinger believed China-U.S. relations are vital to the peace and prosperity of the two countries and the wider world, Wang Wenbin said.

“China and the U.S. should carry forward Kissinger’s strategic vision, political courage and diplomatic wisdom… and promote the sound, stable and sustainable development of China-U.S. relations,” he said.

Kissinger, who served as secretary of state and national security adviser in the administrations of Presidents Richard Nixon and Gerald Ford, first visited Beijing in 1971, paving the way for the U.S. diplomatic opening to China.

His death was widely mourned by Chinese state media and social media users.

“The overarching impression of Kissinger (in China) was that he was someone in America who understood the Chinese people,” said Brian Wong, an assistant professor and geopolitical strategist at Hong Kong University.

Kissinger was seen as an outsider who understood China’s need to transcend its self-imposed isolation in the 1960s and early 1970s, Wong said.

“So, in short, he was seen as someone who, crucially, stood for a ‘China understander’.”

(Reporting by Liz Lee, Ethan Wang and Nicoco Chan; Editing by Kim Coghill and Gareth Jones)