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Legacy of Kissinger shouldn't be squandered: China Daily editorial

chinadaily.com.cn | Updated: 2023-11-30 20:45
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FILE PHOTO: Henry Kissinger attends the annual meeting of the World Economic Forum (WEF) in Davos, Switzerland January 24, 2013. [Photo/Agencies]

Former US secretary of state Henry Kissinger, who passed away on Wednesday at the age of 100, will always be remembered for the key role he played in the normalization of Sino-US relations.

The secret trip he made to Beijing in July 1971, at the height of the Cold War, paved the way for the historic visit by then US president Richard Nixon to the Chinese capital in February 1972. "The week that changed the world" helped end more than 20 years of estrangement between China and the United States, and led to the establishment of diplomatic ties in 1979. The following more than four decades of mutually beneficial cooperation between the two countries, although not always smooth sailing, have reshaped the global geopolitical landscape, contributing to peace, stability and the development of the world.

As a seasoned diplomat with scholarly understanding of Chinese history and culture, Kissinger is heralded in China for his visionary and insightful thinking on Sino-US ties. The role he played in bridging the differences between the two countries — as highlighted by the more than 100 trips he paid to China — made him a trusted messenger for successive leaders of both countries. He last visited China in July, when Sino-US ties were mired in extreme difficulties, and was warmly received by President Xi Jinping, who said "the Chinese people never forget their old friends, and Sino-US relations will always be linked with the name of Henry Kissinger".

In his message of condolence on Kissinger's death on Thursday, Xi acclaimed Kissinger's historic contribution to the normalization of Sino-US ties, which has benefited not only the two nations but also the world.

Kissinger, who understood the sensitivity of the Taiwan question, repeatedly warned against any attempt by Washington to change the basic structure that has "preserved peace between China and the US for 50 years". He said he had supported the one-China policy through eight administrations, cautioning whoever was in the White House not to "by subterfuge or by a gradual process develop something of a 'two-China' solution".

He was worried by the many US politicians trying to play the Taiwan card to contain China's rise, a scenario which, in his view, is against the long-term interests of both China and the US. "Keep in mind that if China and America are in conflict, then the whole world will be divided," he said. To minimize the chance of the two countries sliding into a catastrophic conflict, Kissinger advised the US "to refrain from being heedlessly adversarial and pursue dialogue instead". He urged China and the US to cooperate, because "working together, we can achieve great things, not just for our countries, but also for humanity".

The death of Kissinger is a great loss. What he said and did to help foster a sound and healthy US-China relationship should inspire all those who are working for a better relationship between the two countries. His call for dialogue and cooperation, rather than confrontation and zero-sum competition, should shed light on the course for healthy interactions between the two sides.

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