See More on Facebook

Diplomacy

China and US need to adjust to avoid disaster: Henry Kissinger

Henry Kissinger said that US and Chinese trade negotiators should avoid getting bogged down in details and first explain to each other what objectives they are seeking to achieve.


Written by

Updated: November 7, 2018

As the chief architect of the United States’ outreach to communist China more than four decades ago, former diplomat Henry Kissinger could be forgiven for viewing the current tension between the two countries with some dismay.

But the truth is, though Sino-US relations are at the lowest they have been for years, Dr Kissinger remains optimistic that the two will not come to such blows that it would shake the global order.

However, both parties need to rebalance their perspectives, in the same way that their leaders had sought to explain their thinking to each other and find sufficient understanding 40 years ago, said Dr Kissinger, 95, who is widely regarded as one of the top strategic thinkers in the world.

When he knocked on China’s door as Washington’s emissary with his historic trip to Beijing in 1971, his mission was to begin the strategic change in the equation of the Cold War between the US and the then Soviet Union, and bring China into the international order.

“We knew very little of China but they knew a lot about us, because Chinese negotiators had read everything I’d ever written,” said Dr Kissinger to laughter in the ballroom of the Capella Singapore, where he was speaking on Tuesday (Nov 6) at the inaugural Bloomberg’s New Economy Forum.

That secret visit by Dr Kissinger, who was national security adviser, paved the way for President Richard Nixon’s trip the following year, where he met Chinese leader Mao Zedong and subsequently established diplomatic relations.

China’s economic might has grown leaps and bounds since then, and while Nixon and Mao had sought to find common ground despite the wide disparity, Sino-US relations today have soured as the two major powers tussle for dominance.

“The challenge is to maintain a fundamentally cooperative relationship amid inherent differences of approach produced in large part by the changing technology and in some part due to the different philosophical approaches to challenges between the United States and China,” said Dr Kissinger, who was also US Secretary of State from 1973 to 1977.

“I believe that it is essential for China and the United States to explain to each other what the objectives are that they feel they must achieve and what the concessions are that they must not be asked to make, and the concessions each is willing to make, and not to get lost in a lot of detail before you know where you’re trying to go.”

A fundamental difference between US and Chinese thinking, he says, is that if there’s a problem, Americans believe there will be a short-term solution, while the Chinese think problems are never completely solved and every solution is a ticket to a new set of problems.

“I think if the world order becomes defined by continuing conflict between the US and China, sooner or later, it runs the risk of getting out of control,” he said.

“Some disagreements are inevitable. But the objective needs to be that both countries recognise that the fundamental conflict between them will destroy hope for the world order. That objective can be achieved, and I’m fairly optimistic that it will be achieved.”

Adaptation is needed on both sides: Americans have to learn that not every crisis is caused by ill will and that there is a difference between educating people and learning to cooperate with them.

China, which has not had the experience of being in a relationship of balance as it has historically been the dominant country in the region, will have to recognise there is now a balance of power.

Dr Kissinger is among 400 business and government leaders who have gathered in Singapore for the first Bloomberg New Economy Forum, hosted by media mogul and former New York mayor Michael Bloomberg.



Enjoyed this story? Share it.


About the Author: The Straits Times is Singapore's top-selling newspaper.

Eastern Briefings

All you need to know about Asia


Our Eastern Briefings Newsletter presents curated stories from 22 Asian newspapers from South, Southeast and Northeast Asia.

Sign up and stay updated with the latest news.



By providing us with your email address, you agree to our Privacy Policy and Terms of Service.

View Today's Newsletter Here

Diplomacy

South Korea outpaces China with 505 new virus cases

The death toll now stands at 13, while 26 patients have been discharged after recovering fully. South Korea has reported its largest daily spike of 505 new coronavirus infections, outnumbering China for the first time as the government restricted exports of face masks amid a supply shortage. China, where the central city of Wuhan is the epicentre of the country’s outbreak, recorded 450 new cases yesterday. This brings South Korea’s total tally to 1,766, as officials warn that the number will continue to grow until around March 20 – two months after its first case. Experts say South Korea’s numbers are spiking because the authorities are testing people by the thousands each day, with the aim of testing all 210,000 members o


By The Straits Times
February 28, 2020

Diplomacy

China’s coronavirus fight remains challenging

 Key Party meeting calls for full vigilance in control, prevention tasks to avoid risks. The novel coronavirus epidemic in Hubei province is still complicated and challenging, a key Party meeting concluded on Wednesday as it drew attention to the risks of the epidemic rebounding in other areas. Xi Jinping, general secretary of the Communist Party of China Central Committee, presided over the meeting of the Standing Committee of the Political Bureau of the CPC Central Committee in which members listened to a report by the leading group of the CPC Central Committee on coping with the epidemic outbreak and discussed key related tasks. At the meeting, Xi and other members of the Standing Committee of the Political Bureau of the CPC Central Committee donate


By China Daily
February 27, 2020

Diplomacy

UN chief hails China’s efforts to contain outbreak

Official urges all countries to ‘do everything to be prepared’ to contain the epidemic. United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres on Monday praised China’s contribution to the global fight against the novel coronavirus pneumonia outbreak, noting that the Chinese people are making efforts for all of humanity. The UN chief expressed his gratitude to all of the people in China who are sacrificing many aspects of their normal lives to prevent the virus from further spreading, after discussing the outbreak with World Health Organization Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus in Geneva. Guterres said the decline in the number of new cases in China since the beginning of February is a very good sign, and he expressed the hope that this trend


By China Daily
February 26, 2020

Diplomacy

WHO calls China’s anti-virus effort ‘aggressive, agile’

Control measures taken by the country offered experience in improving the global response to the disease. While the substantial recent slowdown in the spread of novel coronavirus in China is real, and it is now reasonable to restore work activities step by step, health experts warned that risks abound of the virus flaring up again and they cautioned against complacency, the WHO-China Joint Mission on COVID-19 said at a news conference after its one-week field investigations in China. “Ambitious, agile and aggressive” control measures taken by China to control the novel coronavirus pneumonia epidemic, bolstered by nationwide solidarity and advanced scientific research, have altered the curve of the outbreak for the better, averted a large number of potentia


By China Daily
February 25, 2020

Diplomacy

Map shows latest tally of Covid-19 cases in Taiwan, Taipei tops list

 After Taiwan reported its first confirmed cases, health authorities finally released on Monday the latest tally of Covid-19 cases in each administrative region, with Taipei being the highest.  More than one month after Taiwan reported its first confirmed cases, health authorities finally released on Monday the latest tally of COVID-19 cases in each administrative region, with Taipei being the highest. An interactive map on the website of Taiwan Centers for Disease Control (CDC) shows the cities and counties where the country’s 28 coronavirus patients currently reside. Marked in red, the capital city has listed sev


By Asia News Network
February 24, 2020

Diplomacy

Asean, China enhance cooperation in response to Covid-19

The Asean Coordinating Council (ACC) and the Asean-China Foreign Ministers met on Thursday in Laos to discuss to how to respond to the coronavirus disease (Covid-19). The ACC’s special meeting, initiated by Vietnam as Chair of ASEAN, was attended by the Foreign Ministers of ASEAN member countries and the ASEAN Secretary-General. Chairing the meeting, Vietnamese Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Pham Binh Minh said the event aimed to implement the ASEAN Chair’s Statement released on February 14 on the bloc’s collective response to COVID-19. Minh said that in the face of the epidemic, ASEAN needed to promote its cohesive and responsive spirit, and intensify co-operation within the bloc and between the bloc and its partners to respond to ch


By Viet Nam News
February 21, 2020