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Xi Meets With ‘Old Friend’ Henry Kissinger to Discuss Sino-US Engagement in Beijing

Alina Wang
A native of New York, Alina has a Bachelors degree in Corporate Communications from Baruch College and writes about human rights, politics, tech, and society.
Published: July 20, 2023
China's President Xi Jinping (R) speaks with former US secretary of state Henry Kissinger during a meeting in Beijing on July 20, 2023. (Image: CNS/AFP via Getty Images)

In what Chinese Communist Party (CCP) media celebrated as a reunion of “old friends,” China’s leader Xi Jinping and veteran U.S. diplomat Henry Kissinger held a notable meeting in Beijing on July 20.

The regime’s mouthpieces reported that Xi noted a unique symbolism in the occasion, as the Thursday meeting was held during Kissinger’s 100th trip to China, as well as on his 100th birthday.

As Richard Nixon’s national security advisor and Gerald Ford’s secretary of state in the 1970s, he undertook a clandestine trip to Communist China that served as a precursor to Nixon’s visit the subsequent year, the first time a U.S. president did so after the CCP took over the country in 1949.

These diplomatic interactions ultimately led to the establishment of formal diplomatic relations between Washington and Beijing in 1979.


Century marked

Reflecting on the importance of these events, Xi said, “It not only changed the two countries, but also changed the world.”

Xi, who secured a precedent-breaking third term as head of the CCP last year, further acknowledged the “deep respect and affection” the Chinese people hold for their country’s enduring friendship with both Kissinger and the U.S.

“Once again, China and the U.S. are at a crossroads of where to go from here, and once again, both sides need to make a choice,” the People’s Republic of China (PRC) Foreign Ministry quoted Xi as saying. 

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Xi further expressed appreciation for Kissinger’s efforts towards bridging Sino-U.S. relations and strengthening the camaraderie between the Chinese and American peoples. “We will never forget our old friend and your historic contribution,” he told the veteran U.S. diplomat, adding, “China is willing to discuss with the U.S. side the right way for the two countries to get along and promote the steady progress of China-U.S. relations.”

For Kissinger, revisiting China was a “great honor,” state media reported. The former diplomat held his meeting with Xi at the Diaoyutai State Guesthouse — the same location where he met with Zhou Enlai — then-Chinese premier back in 1971. 

According to CCTV, Kissinger emphasized the global implications of the relationship between the two countries. “The relationship between our two countries is a matter of world peace and the progress of human society.” 

“Under the current circumstances, it is imperative to maintain the principles established by the Shanghai Communique, appreciate the utmost importance China attaches to the one-China principle, and move the relationship in a positive direction,” said Kissinger.

Despite being the world’s two most prominent economies, the U.S. and China have weathered some of their rockiest relations recently due to conflicts over trade and tariffs, human rights, and Taiwan’s status.

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On high alert

While the Biden administration confirmed its awareness of Kissinger’s visit, the president’s office made it clear that the veteran diplomat was acting independently, and not as a representative of the U.S. government. This affirmation was voiced by State Department spokesperson, Matthew Miller, who said Kissinger’s visit to China was conducted “under his own volition, not acting on behalf of the United States government.”

Kissinger’s visit coincided with that of U.S. climate envoy John Kerry, who held meetings with top-level Chinese officials, but not with Xi. Kerry concluded his visit without a joint statement on climate cooperation. Notably, President Xi had also chosen not to meet with Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen earlier this month.

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However, Xi agreed to meet with Secretary of State Antony Blinken last month — a meeting that had been postponed since February due to an incident involving a Chinese spy balloon that Washington claims was an “inventive play by Beijing” to spy and surveil the U.S. The Wall Street Journal further noted that the balloon, which was shot down as it flew over Alaska, had been made using American technology, according to U.S. officials. 

Apart from his meeting with Xi, Kissinger’s meetings in China this week included the country’s top diplomat, Wang Yi, and Defense Minister Li Shangfu, who is currently under U.S. sanctions and declined a meeting with Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin earlier this month. 

During his meeting with Kissinger, Wang expressed the need for continued diplomatic efforts in U.S. policy towards China, emphasizing, “U.S. policy towards China requires Kissinger-style diplomatic wisdom and Nixon-style political courage.”