China hails ‘old friend’ Kissinger, architect of rapprochement

China hails ‘old friend’ Kissinger, architect of rapprochement
China hails ‘old friend’ Kissinger, architect of rapprochement

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Nevin Al Sukari - Sana'a - Former US secretary of state Henry Kissinger, a key figure of American diplomacy in the post-World War II era, died November 29, 2023 at the age of 100, his association said. — AFP pic

BEIJING, Nov 30 — China today hailed the late Henry Kissinger as an “old friend”, paying tribute to a diplomat central to establishing ties between Beijing and Washington.

Kissinger, a former US secretary of state whose unapologetic promotion of raw American power helped shape the post-World War II world, died yesterday, his consulting firm said.

The diplomat, who lived to 100, had a mixed legacy internationally, seen by many as an unindicted war criminal for his roles in conflicts in Southeast Asia and the overthrow of democratically-elected governments.

But in China, he is granted the sobriquet of “old friend of the Chinese people” for his part in establishing ties back in the 1970s and helping bring the country out of its Mao-era isolation.

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And as US-China ties have plummeted in recent years, the elder statesman — who visited the country more than 100 times — became seen by many as emblematic of a more genteel, friendly time in Washington-Beijing relations.

“It is a tremendous loss for both our countries and the world,” Chinese ambassador to the US Xie Feng said in a post on social media platform X.

“History will remember what the centenarian had contributed to China-US relations, and he will always remain alive in the hearts of the Chinese people as a most valued old friend,” he added.

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Kissinger last visited China as recently as July, when he held talks with President Xi Jinping.

In a lengthy obituary today, Beijing’s state broadcaster CCTV hailed his “historic contribution to the opening of the door to US-China relations”.

Kissinger, it said, was “an important witness who experienced the establishment of diplomatic relations between China and the United States and the development of the relationship between the two countries”.

“Kissinger had a deep bond with China,” it said, noting his “many meetings with Chinese leaders”.

As national security advisor to then-US president Richard Nixon, Kissinger secretly flew to Beijing in 1971 on a mission to establish relations with communist China.

The trip set the stage for a landmark visit by 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.

‘Historic contribution’

Since leaving office, Nobel Peace Prize Laureate Kissinger grew wealthy advising businesses on China — and had warned against a hawkish turn in US policy.

Chinese officials have struggled in recent years to hide their nostalgia for the days of rapprochement under Kissinger.

During a meeting with the late secretary of state in Beijing this year, top diplomat Wang Yi said that “US policy toward China needs Kissinger-style diplomatic wisdom”.

And President Xi told him the Chinese people would “never forget our old friend and your historic contribution to promoting the development of China-US relations”.

Online, where the late diplomat’s death was in the top trending topics on both social media platform Weibo and the Google-like Baidu, users said Kissinger had been “still doing his best for difficult US-China relations” in the years leading up to his death.

“He was a very good rival and partner,” one user wrote, adding “his passing is an incalculable loss to both China and the United States”.

Another said his death represented a “watershed moment” at a time of China’s ascension as a world power.

“From now on, it’s the beginning of our rise and for the US to go down.” — AFP

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