Chinese leader Xi Jinping met former US secretary of state Henry Kissinger in Beijing on Thursday, state media reported, describing the 100-year-old as a “legendary diplomat”.
Kissinger used the visit to call for a rapprochement between the United States and China, which remain at loggerheads over a range of disputes, from human rights to trade and national security.
It also overlapped with a trip by US climate envoy John Kerry, and follows recent visits by Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen and Secretary of State Antony Blinken.
“On July 20, President Xi Jinping met former US secretary of state Henry Kissinger at the Diaoyutai State Guesthouse,” state broadcaster CCTV said, hailing his role in having opened up relations between China and the United States in the 1970s.
China’s state media did not offer further details on the meeting, which took place at the Diaoyutai State Guesthouse’s building number five — the same location as a historic meeting between Kissinger and then-premier Zhou Enlai in 1971.
A US national security adviser, Kissinger secretly flew to Beijing in July 1971 on a mission to establish relations with communist China.
That trip set the stage for a landmark visit by former US president Richard Nixon, who sought both to shake up the Cold War and enlist help in ending the Vietnam War.
Washington’s overtures to an isolated Beijing contributed to China’s rise to become a manufacturing powerhouse and the world’s second-largest economy.
Since leaving office, Nobel Peace Prize Laureate Kissinger has grown wealthy advising businesses on China — and has warned against a hawkish turn in US policy.
“Since 1971, Dr. Kissinger has visited China more than 100 times,” CCTV said on Thursday.
“On May 27 this year, the legendary diplomat celebrated his 100th birthday, and this visit is also his first trip to China since turning 100,” it added.
State news agency Xinhua reported him as telling defence minister Li Shangfu on Tuesday: “Kissinger said in today’s world, challenges and opportunities coexist, and both the United States and China should eliminate misunderstandings, coexist peacefully, and avoid confrontation.”
Kissinger also met on Wednesday with top diplomat Wang Yi, who praised Kissinger’s “historic contributions to the ice-breaking development of China-US relations”.
“The US policy toward China needs Kissinger-style diplomatic wisdom and Nixon-style political courage,” Wang said.