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China-US relations

China and US need to ‘accurately assess’ strategic aims, Xi Jinping tells Henry Kissinger

  • Chinese president meets veteran diplomat in Beijing in latest bid to reduce tensions between the two nations
  • Former US secretary of state says China and the US should apply strategic thinking and perspective to better understand each other
PUBLISHED : Thursday, 08 November, 2018, 10:35pm
UPDATED : Friday, 09 November, 2018, 11:42am

Chinese President Xi Jinping says Beijing and Washington should “accurately assess” each other’s strategic intentions as trade tensions rise – his latest message ahead of a face-to-face meeting with US President Donald Trump later this month.

Xi made the remark in a meeting with Henry Kissinger on Thursday, also telling the former US secretary of state that China wants to resolve problems with the US through dialogue – but that Washington must respect its development path and interests.

The discussion between Xi and Kissinger in Beijing was the latest bid to reduce friction between the two nations, months after they began a tit-for-tat trade war and amid confrontation over the South China Sea and Taiwan.

“For some time, there have been negative voices within the US against China, which is worthy of attention,” Xi told the 95-year-old foreign policy guru at the Great Hall of the People.

“China is committed to working with the US to achieve a non-confrontational, without conflict, and mutually respectful cooperation in which both sides win.”

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Kissinger, who was visiting Beijing after the Bloomberg New Economy Forum in Singapore earlier this week, told Xi that China and the US should apply strategic thinking and perspective to better understand each other, expand mutual interests and manage their differences, according to state news agency Xinhua.

In a separate meeting, Foreign Minister Wang Yi told Kissinger that the trade confrontation could be resolved through dialogue, while Kissinger said China should not be seen as a US rival, the Chinese foreign ministry said in a statement.

And on Wednesday, Communist Party Politburo member Yang Jiechi met US National Security Adviser John Bolton in Washington ahead of Friday’s security and diplomatic talks.

The visit by Kissinger – who is known for his role in brokering a meeting between Richard Nixon and Mao Zedong in 1972 that paved the way for formal diplomatic ties between China and the US – comes as preparations are under way for Xi and Trump to meet on the sidelines of the G20 summit in Argentina at the end of the month, which has raised hopes of a truce in the trade war.

Tensions between the two nations have spilled over beyond trade and the South China Sea, with Washington accusing Beijing of infiltrating its domestic affairs and stealing its technology, while there are growing calls in the US to “decouple” from China.

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Momentum is building for Xi and Trump to meet after the two leaders spoke by telephone last week. In another step laying the groundwork for the meeting, Yang and Chinese Defence Minister Wei Fenghe will join US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Defence Secretary James Mattis for the security and diplomatic dialogue on Friday.

Mattis was due to hold talks with Wei in September, but the meeting was cancelled after the US imposed sanctions on China for buying a Russian weapons system.

In a meeting with Bolton at the White House on Wednesday, Yang said both nations should work out an acceptable solution to their trade dispute through negotiation and ensure the Xi-Trump summit yields results. Yang also said strategic trust was a fundamental issue in bilateral ties and warned that Taiwan issues were the “most important and sensitive” to Beijing, according to the Chinese foreign ministry.

Observers said Beijing was keen to hear Kissinger’s advice on how to avoid further escalating tensions, but it was unclear how the veteran diplomat could influence the Trump administration’s China policy.

Yuan Zheng, an expert on China-US affairs at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, did not expect the visit to have much impact.

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“As Kissinger is not at the core of Trump’s power circle – and he’s also a controversial figure because his consultancy firm makes money from China – I don’t think Kissinger’s trip this time will make a significant difference to relations,” Yuan said.

Beijing is aiming to “manage its differences” with Washington, according to Tong Jiadong, a professor of international trade at Nankai University in Tianjin.

“China hopes to … keep the economic disputes from spreading into other areas and worsening China-US relations,” he said. “So at the moment there is a need to understand each other and avoid conflict.”

Additional reporting by Kristin Huang and Keegan Elmer