HONG KONG — Chinese President Xi Jinping met veteran US diplomat Henry Kissinger in Beijing on Thursday, calling him an “old friend,” Chinese state media reported.
Xi said Kissinger’s visit, who has been to China more than 100 times and recently turned 100, had special significance because of the two “hundreds”.
Kissinger, then President Richard Nixon’s National Security Adviser, made a secret trip to China in 1971 that laid the groundwork for Nixon’s historic trip the following year and the formalization of United States-China relations in 1979.
“It has changed not only the two countries, but also the world,” Xi said, according to state-run CCTV.
Xi said the Chinese people value their country’s friendship with Kissinger and the US
“We will never forget our old friend and your historic contribution to promoting the development of Sino-American relations and strengthening the friendship between the Chinese and American peoples,” he said.
Kissinger said it was a “great honor” to visit China again, noting that his meeting with Xi at the Diaoyutai State Guesthouse, which hosts many important diplomatic events, was the same place where he met Zhou Enlai, then Chinese premier, in 1971.
“The relationship between the two countries is related to world peace and the progress of human society,” Kissinger said, according to CCTV.
The US and China, now the world’s two largest economies, have recently experienced some of their worst relations since diplomatic relations were established amid disputes over trade, human rights and the status of Taiwan, a self-governing island that Beijing claims as its territory.
State Department spokesman Matthew Miller said this week that the Biden administration was aware of Kissinger’s visit to China, but that he acted “of his own accord and not on behalf of the United States government.”
Kissinger’s visit to Beijing coincided with a visit by US climate envoy John Kerry, who met with senior Chinese officials, but not Xi. Kerry, whose trip marked the first formal top-level climate diplomacy between the world’s two biggest carbon emitters since talks were suspended last year, ended his trip Wednesday without the two countries issuing a joint statement on climate cooperation.
Xi also did not meet with Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen when she was in Beijing this month.
He did, however, meet with Secretary of State Antony Blinken last month during Blinken’s long-awaited visit to China, which was postponed from February due to the Chinese espionage balloon incident.
Kissinger also met this week with China’s top diplomat, Wang Yi, and Defense Secretary Li Shangfu, who is under US sanctions and had turned down a Pentagon request to meet with Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin in May on the sidelines of a security forum in Singapore.
“U.S. policy toward China requires Kissinger-style diplomatic wisdom and Nixon-style political courage,” Wang told Kissinger during their meeting on Wednesday, according to the official website of China’s foreign ministry.