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

China pledges international pandemic aid

 Producers of medical goods urged to meet demand from affected countries. China has pledged to do its best to offer aid to countries and international organisations affected by COVID-19 to help contain the outbreak, and businesses are being urged to boost production of epidemic prevention materials to meet demand from abroad. The announcement was made at a meeting of the leading group of China’s coronavirus response, chaired by Premier Li Keqiang on Thursday. Relevant departments and local authorities must step up co-ordination to closely monitor and analyse the quick spread of the outbreak outside China and roll out more targeted measures to prevent the import and export of infection, the group said in a statement. It is important to further


By China Daily
March 13, 2020

Diplomacy

Back to work in Beijing, with tough measures in place

 Mandatory quarantine for those coming from overseas; some Wuhan businesses may reopen. As most of China attempts to return to normalcy after an extensive lockdown to curb the spread of the coronavirus, the capital Beijing has been carefully trying to strike a balance between having people restart work while also trying to keep out imported infections, and yesterday ordered a mandatory quarantine for all international arrivals. This comes as the Hubei government announced that some businesses in Wuhan, the outbreak’s epicentre, would gradually be allowed to reopen. On Tuesday, Chinese President Xi Jinping visited Wuhan, his first visit to the city since the outbreak, a sign that the crisis could finally be easing after the government’s toug


By The Straits Times
March 12, 2020

Diplomacy

Xi vows victory over coronavirus in Wuhan

President expresses condolences to families of people who died in epidemic. President Xi Jinping said on Tuesday that prevention and control of the novel coronavirus outbreak remains the top priority and most important task, even amid the recent positive signs. Xi, who is also general secretary of the Communist Party of China Central Committee and chairman of the Central Military Commission, made the remark during his inspection tour in the outbreak’s epicentre, Wuhan, capital of Hubei province. The spread of the novel coronavirus has been basically curbed in Hubei and Wuhan, Xi said, adding that initial success has been made in stabilising the situation and turning the tide in Hubei and Wuhan. Xi encouraged local residents and front-line worke


By China Daily
March 11, 2020

Diplomacy

China sets example in fighting virus

Epidemic reveals inadequacies in global governance; Beijing says it’s ready to help. China’s response to novel coronavirus pneumonia has set an example for the world in coping with the contagion and offered experience in advancing global public health governance, officials and experts said. The COVID-19 outbreak has also raised the alarm about global public health security and reminded countries that co-operation and co-ordination are needed to deal with challenges as infectious diseases can rapidly escalate into global emergencies, they said. There is a growing positive momentum in epidemic control nationwide thanks to the “comprehensive, thorough and rigorous” measures that China has taken to contain the virus, they said, noting that the daily


By China Daily
March 10, 2020

Diplomacy

More than 800,000 people return Beijing under quarantine

“There’s still a risk of an outbreak of the disease with people coming to Beijing from other cities and countries,” Zhang Tongjun, deputy head of a group for prevention and control work in the city’s residential communities, said during an afternoon conference. About 827,000 people who came back to Beijing from outside the city are still in a 14-day quarantine to see if they had been infected with the novel coronavirus, an official said on Friday. “There’s still a risk of an outbreak of the disease with people coming to Beijing from other cities and countries,” Zhang Tongjun, deputy head of a group for prevention and control work in the city’s residential communities, said during an afternoon conference. Z


By China Daily
March 9, 2020

Diplomacy

South Korea declares third city as special care zone as cases spike

President Moon receives letter of support from North Korean leader as infected cases cross 6,000. South Korea has declared a third city a “special care zone” to boost its capability to fight a spike in coronavirus infections, with cases nationwide soaring beyond 6,000. The death toll stands at 42, mostly the elderly with underlying health conditions, while 88 people have recovered, including 47 discharged yesterday. The care zone announcement came as the presidential Blue House revealed that South Korean President Moon Jae-in received a letter on Wednesday from North Korean leader Kim Jong Un expressing support and comfort to the people battling the coronavirus outbreak, adding that he is confident they will “prevail in this fight wit


By The Straits Times
March 6, 2020