Henry Kissinger reshaped relationship between China and US, says Xi Jinping

Former US secretary of state, who died aged 100, was a ‘world-renowned strategist, old friend and good friend of Chinese people’, says Chinese leader

China’s president Xi Jinping has paid tribute to Henry Kissinger’s role in reshaping the relationship between China and the United States half a century ago. In a message of condolence to US president Joe Biden, Mr Xi said Dr Kissinger, who has died aged 100, would be remembered for his “continued sage advice” about relations between the two great powers.

“Dr Henry Kissinger was a world-renowned strategist, as well as an old friend and good friend of the Chinese people,” he said.

“He made it his lifelong pursuit to promote the development of China-US relations and enhance the friendship between the two peoples. Kissinger’s name will forever be associated with China-US relations.”

Dr Kissinger visited China more than 100 times, most recently last May when he met Mr Xi and other senior officials. His secret visit to Beijing in 1971 paved the way for the normalisation of relations that followed Richard Nixon’s visit the following year.


Dr Kissinger remained an advocate of dialogue between Washington and Beijing in recent years as Capitol Hill turned more hostile towards China. His realist approach to foreign policy, which saw issues such as human rights as subordinate to the imperative to maintain peace and stability, chimed with China’s doctrine of non-interference in the internal affairs of other states.

His death comes amid a modest improvement in the tone of the US-China relationship following Mr Xi’s meeting with Mr Biden in San Francisco. In his statement on Thursday, Mr Xi said that China stood ready to work with the US “to carry on the cause of friendship between the Chinese and American people, to promote the healthy and stable development of China-US relations for the benefit of the two peoples, and to make due contributions to world peace and development”.

China’s premier Li Qiang and foreign minister Wang Yi also paid tribute to Dr Kissinger, whose death was widely discussed on Chinese social media. Foreign ministry spokesperson Wang Wenbin described Dr Kissinger as a trailblazer who would be greatly missed and fondly remembered by the people of China.

“Dr Kissinger attached high importance to China-US relations and stated that this bilateral relationship is of vital significance to both China and the US and global peace and prosperity. Both sides in China and the US need to carry forward Dr Kissinger’s strategic vision, political courage and diplomatic wisdom,” he said.

Mr Biden said: “I’ll never forget the first time I met Dr Kissinger. I was a young senator, and he was secretary of state – giving a briefing on the state of the world. Throughout our careers, we often disagreed. And often strongly. But from that first briefing – his fierce intellect and profound strategic focus was evident. Long after retiring from government, he continued to offer his views and ideas to the most important policy discussion across multiple generations.”

US secretary of state Antony Blinken said that not only was Dr Kissinger a student of history and strategy but that “over the course of an extraordinary 100 years, he made both”.

He said few people were better students of history – and even fewer people did more to shape history – than Dr Kissinger.

“As secretary of state and as national security adviser, Henry made countless history-bending decisions. To serve as America’s chief diplomat today is to move through a world that bears Henry’s lasting imprint – from the relationships he forged, to the tools he pioneered, to the architecture he built.

“It was Henry’s enduring capacity to bring his strategic acumen and intellect to bear on the emerging challenges of each passing decade that led presidents, secretaries of state, national security advisers and other leaders from both parties to seek his counsel. Including me – whether I was travelling to China more than 50 years after his transformative trip, or seeking his counsel as we shaped our approach to artificial intelligence, on which he was thinking, writing, and advising prolifically, up to the final weeks of his life.”

Russian president Vladimir Putin said in a telegram to Mr Kissinger’s widow Nancy that he was a “wise and farsighted statesman”.

“The name of Henry Kissinger is inextricably linked with a pragmatic foreign policy line, which at one time made it possible to achieve detente in international tensions and reach the most important Soviet-American agreements that contributed to the strengthening of global security,” Mr Putin said.

“I had the opportunity to personally communicate with this deep, extraordinary man many times, and I will undoubtedly retain the fondest memory of him.”

Former US president George W Bush said he had “long admired” Mr Kissinger and was grateful for his “service and advice” but mostly for his friendship, and that both he and his wife, Laura, would miss his “wisdom, his charm and his humour”.

“America has lost one of the most dependable and distinctive voices on foreign affairs with the passing of Henry Kissinger,” Mr Bush said in a statement issued through his foundation.

– Additional reporting: Agencies

Denis Staunton

Denis Staunton

Denis Staunton is China Correspondent of The Irish Times

Martin Wall

Martin Wall

Martin Wall is the former Washington Correspondent of The Irish Times. He was previously industry correspondent