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HOUSTON - Confrontation between China and the United States would exhaust both countries, but continuing ties between the two create the single most important relationship for both nations, former US Secretary of State Henry Kissinger said Thursday.
"In the present world, a confrontation between China and the United States would exhaust each of us and would prevent the solution of a lot of problems that could only be dealt with on a global basis," said Kissinger, former secretary of state under Presidents Richard Nixon and Gerald Ford.
Speaking before about 300 people at the Asia Society Texas Center, both Kissinger and James A. Baker III, former secretary of state under President George H.W. Bush, talked about the importance for both countries to magnify areas of agreement and continue dialogue in areas of disagreement.
"I believe that the most important geopolitical challenge facing America today is how we manage China's emergence as a world power," said Baker.
"There are a number of places where we agree and we can work together...I don't think there's any more important relationship where the United States has a bilateral relationship than our relationship with China."
Baker said when he thinks about China, he thinks about regional stability, freedom of the seas, regional stability in the Democratic People's Republic of Korea as well as trade and investment.
He also cited areas of contention between the two countries. "But my view is that in order to properly manage the relationship going forward, we're going to have to magnify, if we can, the areas where we can cooperate and simply manage the differences in tensions," he said.
Kissinger said his most significant achievement in office was his eagerness to contribute to the smooth relations in US foreign policy in order to create a legacy of diplomacy other administrations could follow.
"I tried to show a broader perspective by opening China and other measures," he said.
In his book "On China," Kissinger recalled when then Chinese Premier Zhou Enlai and he agreed on the communique that helped to coordinate a secret visit that opened China to the West and vice versa.
Zhou was quoted by Kissinger as saying: "This will shake the world." Kissinger wrote in his book: "What a culmination if, 40 years later, the United States and China could merge their efforts not to shake the world, but to build it."