U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry stressed the importance of U.S.-China cooperation ahead of his scheduled visit to Beijing for the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation meeting. CGTN’s Wang Guan spoke to former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger about whether the U.S. and China can build a new type of relationship.
Kissinger also spoke about what we can expect from a meeting between President Obama and Chinese President Xi Jinping.
Watch the complete interview here.
CGTN Interview with Henry Kissinger-Full Transcript
Wang Guan: Dr.Kissinger, I’d like to start with President Obama’s upcoming visit to Beijing. You served three U.S.presidents and have done missions for 10 (presidents). Help us understand: What can we expect from a state visit like this and what problems do you expect President Xi and President Obama to solve at this point?
Henry Kissinger: There are two levels to all of these state visits. The first is the kind of philosophical and conceptual level, in which the leaders say to each other, what are we trying to do? What are we trying to accomplish? And then there is a practical level that deals with some specific issues. Now the philosophical level was begun at the meeting in California last year between the two leaders, and the statement of President Xi that his objective was to create a new pattern of relationship between countries that in history might have been adversaries. I am sure at that level it’s going to be discussed even further. But then there are a number of concrete issues in the world, environment, climate, proliferation, and I would say the future of Afghanistan, northeast Asia. And then there are some areas that have been not always been of identical opinions, like East China Sea and South China Sea. I expect all of these issues to be discussed. And having talked to senior members of our government, including those who have prepared the visit, I am very optimistic that the meeting will be positive. And I know, having the privilege of enjoying the Chinese hospitality, the experience for the American delegation will be very memorable.
Wang Guan: On the philosophical level, in your book On China, you went to great lengths to explain the Chinese exceptionalism vs. American exceptionalism (Kissinger: that’s right.). If both countries, as you articulated in the book, believe that they are exceptional, do you genuinely think they can still build the so-called a new type of mayor power relationship?
Henry Kissinger: The Chinese exceptionalism is not missionary. Chinese exceptionalism is cultural. It does not attempt to make the world Chinese. It bases itself on its performance and then expects a level of respect that is appropriate for the occasion. American exceptionlism is more missionary. It is possible that some disagreements can develop on those grounds. But I will say the test of our two leaders will be the ability to understand that there are maybe some different approaches but there is a greater necessity in peace and progress of the world. When you think back to Chairman Mao and Nixon, there were certainly big differences when I first arrived in China. But they will overcome it and a very constructive relationship was developed. This time you already have a constructive relationship, now we need to build on that, and there are things, like you mentioned, that we have to keep in mind. But I believe they will be handled constructively.
Wang Guan: In your book On China, you coined the word “co-evolution” (Kissinger: right.) in a Pacific community. What exactly does that mean?
Henry Kissinger: What it means is we should not require China to act like we do. And China should not expect us to act like China does in all respects. What we should expect from each other or try to achieve is that we each develop our societies in a way we think the most appropriate. But as we do this, we keep in mind that we move towards similar and sometimes identical goals. So we possibly progress side by side, but not necessarily to the same music.
Wang Guan: Now I want to talk about China’s new leader Xi Jinping. He has been in power for almost two years now. You met him. You talked with him. What kind of a leader do you think he is and where is he taking China?
Henry Kissinger: My impression of President Xi is of a very thoughtful and strong personality who has assessed the situation of China when he took over. And he has concluded that to make comparable progress as had been made in the 30 years before he took office,China needs to take significant reforms in key areas and he has specified these areas. He’s starting a process of reform that history will consider as significant as any of the previous.
Wang Guan: We know this year is a big anniversary–35th anniversary of the (U.S.-China) relationship. Can you take us back to those weeks and months in 1971 and 1972, how hard was it for you, President Nixon, and for your Chinese counterparts to rise above domestic politics and establish this very relationship?
Henry Kissinger: I consider myself very lucky to be able to participate with a number of great men in doing something new. One doesn’t often have that opportunity in life. When we started, there had been 162 meetings between Chinese and American diplomats which had no progress whatsoever. (Wang Guan: In Geneva and Warsaw) I think both sides were lucky in the sense that Chairman Mao on the Chinese side and President Nixon on the American side said, let’s put aside the quarrels of technical subjects. Let’s concentrate on talking to each other about where you want to go. That way we can understand what we are trying to achieve. And when you hear the first conversations between the two leaders, they talk almost like philosophers. We had to overcome a number of established principles but it happened, and it happened in a friendly atmosphere. It laid the basis for 40 years of, on the whole, improving relations.
Wang Guan: You are 91 years old. You have been in diplomacy for 60 years. What do you think current and future leaders, and young people, in both countries should remember from those weeks and months in 1971 and 1972 where you engaged in behind-the-room maneuvers and public diplomacy? Those months that proved to have changed the world. What should young people from it these days?
Henry Kissinger: You have to begin with a correct analysis of where you are, where you find yourself. Then you need an agreement or at least an understanding of where you are trying to go. To set yourself objectives, I would say to be at the outer limits of what you are capable of. And that is not easy.
And third, you have to treat each other with mutual respect. Neither side should impose its preference by pressure. Those are the three requirements and I am optimistic.
Wang Guan: In your new book World Order, which I read, you said the search for world order has been “defined almost exclusively by the concepts of western societies and this concept is now in crisis.” What should a new world order look like and what does it take to build it?
Henry Kissinger: I don’t know what exactly it will look like because it is being built. It has to recognize that the system of world order that existed in the 19th and early 20th century was an European invention. China has had its views of world order. Islam has had its views of world order. We now have to find a way of doing one of the two things: making these various concepts compatible with each other. Or when there is one concept, like the caliphate concept that asserts that it wants to dominate the world, that is defeated by joint effort.
Wang Guan: Thank you very much Dr.Kissinger. Thank you for your time.
Henry Kissinger: great pleasure.