Nov 18, 2021 08:36 PM

Kissinger Calls Xi-Biden Summit a Good Start for Avoiding Conflict

Former U.S. Secretary of State Henry Kissinger. Photo: New Economy Forum
Former U.S. Secretary of State Henry Kissinger. Photo: New Economy Forum

China-U.S. relations have reached “a precipice” but the virtual summit between Chinese President Xi Jinping and his U.S. counterpart Joe Biden this week marked a “good beginning” for the world’s two largest economies to avoid a conflict., former U.S. Secretary of State Henry Kissinger told a Singapore forum.

The diplomat, who paved the way for former U.S. president Richard Nixon’s landmark trip to China in 1972 which contributed to rapprochement between the two countries, made the remarks Wednesday via video link. “We’re through the mountain pass, on a precipice from which you can look in both directions. And now it depends which direction is chosen,” he said.

The 98-year-old, who has also previously served as the U.S. national security advisor, shared his views on bilateral relations at the Bloomberg New Economy Forum in a conversation with Bloomberg Editor-in-Chief John Micklethwait.

Kissinger described the two leaders’ video conversation as marking “a good beginning of the statement of a possible mood” and added that “they now have to be followed by concrete discussions that lead in a direction both presidents have affirmed they want to pursue.”

Xi and Biden held their first video summit Tuesday, during which they had “candid, in-depth and extensive strategic” exchange on issues including Taiwan and trade relations, the Chinese state-run Xinhua News Agency reported. During the meeting, the two presidents noted there was consensus on mutual respect and preventing competition from veering into conflict.

Kissinger said Wednesday that China and the U.S. “have to accept that a conflict between major technical powers of comparable capacities must not occur for the preservation of humanity.”

“And therefore they have to decide that they will attempt to compose their differences to a level in which co-existence becomes not only possible, but essential,” he continued.

Noting public opinion in the U.S. that considers China as “a rival,” he said that “it is inherent in the technology and economy of both sides that countries consider each other as competitors.” However, he said the two countries must move to attempt to mitigate disputes.

Kissinger also noted that cooperation between the two countries would be built upon “equivalence.”

Describing himself as “a student of foreign policy,” he said, “Our tasks as Americans and non-Chinese are to understand what we need to do to make sure that there is at least the equivalence and in no case subordination.”

“If we understand that and if the Chinese understand their interests ... then it should be possible to make arrangements by which the level of competition is reduced to a point that makes even cooperative measures possible,” he continued.

Regarding areas of cooperation, Kissinger gave a nod to the countries’ current progress on tackling climate change and said that cooperation on technical issues can bring mutual benefits.

“It is our obligation to work at an equivalent level of capacity and then to ask ourselves whether the world will be better off if we deal with the outstanding issues like climate change, like artificial intelligence, like economic relationships from the point of view that lead to benefit for both sides,” he said.

In separate comments at the same forum, Chinese Vice President Wang Qishan said China and the world must work together to boost economic growth.

“China can not develop in isolation of the world and nor can the world develop without China,” Wang said via a video link.

Bloomberg contributed to the story.

Contact reporter Cai Xuejiao ( and editor Lu Zhenhua (

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