Sino-US ties at a new ‘crossroads’, Xi tells Kissinger

Former US secretary of state Henry Kissinger has visited China more than 100 times since his first, secret trip to the country in 1971, which began the normalisation of China-US relations.


Chinese President Xi Jinping meets with former U.S. Secretary of State Henry Kissinger at the Diaoyutai State Guesthouse in Beijing, capital of China, July 20, 2023. [Photo by Feng Yongbin / China Daily]

July 21, 2023

BEIJING – President Xi Jinping has reiterated the need to follow the principles of “mutual respect, peaceful coexistence and win-win cooperation” in dealing with relations between China and the United States, saying that Beijing is willing to work with Washington to explore the right way for both countries to coexist based on such principles.

Xi made the remarks in a meeting with former US secretary of state Henry Kissinger in Beijing on Thursday.

Kissinger, who celebrated his 100th birthday in May, has visited China more than 100 times since his first, secret trip to the country in 1971, which began the normalization of China-US relations.

His visit came with expectations of a potential shift in the strained China-US relationship amid a series of high-level official engagements between the two countries. US Special Presidential Envoy for Climate John Kerry concluded his visit to China on Wednesday. In recent weeks, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken made his first trip to China in his current capacity, followed by US Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen.

During the meeting, Xi said that 52 years ago, China and the US were at a crucial juncture. At that time, Chairman Mao Zedong and Premier Zhou Enlai, as well as then US president Richard Nixon and Kissinger himself, with their extraordinary strategic vision, made the right decision for China-US cooperation, he said.

“It was also in July in the same place — Villa No 5 of Diaoyutai State Guesthouse — that you and Premier Zhou Enlai had a meeting, starting the normalization process of the two countries’ relations,” Xi said, adding that the 1971 meeting was of far-reaching historic significance.

“The Chinese people value friendship, and they never forget their old friend, nor your historic contributions to promoting the growth of China-US relations and enhancing friendship between the two peoples,” Xi said.

Noting that the world is undergoing major changes unseen in a century and that the international landscape is experiencing significant shifts, the president said, “China and the US have once again come to a crossroads, which requires another decision by the two sides about where to go from here.”

China and the US can help each other succeed and prosper together, Xi said, and “the key is to follow the principles of mutual respect, peaceful coexistence and win-win cooperation”.

Based on these principles, the Chinese side is willing to explore the right way for both countries to coexist and push forward steady progress in China-US relations, he said, adding that this will benefit both sides and the entire world.

“It is hoped that you and wise individuals in the United States will continue to play a constructive role in steering China-US relations back onto the right track,” Xi said.

Kissinger, expressing appreciation to Xi for meeting with him at the historic Villa No 5 venue, said, “The relationship between our two countries is crucial to world peace and the progress of our societies.”

In the current situation, Kissinger said, it is important to abide by the principles set out in the Shanghai Communique and understand the utmost importance of the one-China principle for China.

The Shanghai Communique was an important diplomatic document jointly issued by China and the US on Feb 28, 1972, during Nixon’s visit to China. The document, together with two other joint communiques released by the two countries in December 1978 and August 1982, is considered to be the political foundation of China-US relations.

Su Xiaohui, deputy director and associate research fellow of the Department for American Studies at the China Institute of International Studies, said that Kissinger’s secret visit to China in 1971 was an unforgettable, crucial moment in the development of China-US relations.

Currently, the China-US relationship is going through a difficult phase — perhaps at its lowest point in history, Su said, and it is important for the US to apply the same diplomatic wisdom as Kissinger to make progress in improving bilateral ties.

If the US would adopt a more constructive approach, it would be possible to stabilize the China-US relationship, she added.

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