The United States needs “Kissinger-style diplomatic wisdom” in its policies towards China, top Chinese diplomat Wang Yi told the former US state secretary in Beijing on Wednesday, as bilateral ties languished at historic lows.
While Washington said it was aware of the visit by Henry Kissinger, now aged 100, to China, he was not acting on behalf of the US government.
Kissinger served as US state secretary and national security advisor in the administrations of presidents Richard Nixon and Gerald Ford.
He played a key diplomatic role in the normalisation of relations between Washington and Beijing in the 1970s and has visited China regularly since leaving office.
Wang, referring to Kissinger as “an old friend”, commended the former US diplomat for playing “an irreplaceable role” in enhancing mutual understanding between the two countries.
“US policies towards China require Kissinger-style diplomatic wisdom and Nixon-style political courage,” China’s foreign ministry quoted Wang as saying during the meeting.
A range of issues strain China-US ties, including China’s partnership with Russia, its territorial claim on democratically governed Taiwan and US calls for trade curbs on cutting-edge technologies.
Wang told Kissinger it would be “impossible” to try to reform China, and “even more impossible” to encircle and contain China.
On Taiwan, Wang said the US should distance itself from “Taiwan independence separatist activities” if it hopes for stability across the Taiwan Strait.
On Tuesday, Kissinger met with China’s defence minister Li Shangfu.
“The United States and China should eliminate misunderstandings, coexist peacefully and avoid confrontation,” Kissinger told Li.
Li, appointed in March, remains under US sanctions over his role in a 2017 weapons purchase from Russia’s largest arms exporter. China has said it wants the sanctions dropped to facilitate discussions.
Senior US officials, including Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen, have recently visited China with the aim of stabilising ties between the two superpowers.